Today I had to cancel and then postpone my performance at Miller School, Charlottesville, VA. I will tell you this is the worst case scenario for me - cancellation on the day of performance. I think this has happened (not including weather related) only two other times in my life. Now I don't count my Worldstrides evening programs, because I have wonderful performers and we just trade positions and they get to perform.
But to cancel on the date of performance is for me breaking the cardinal rule of performance. Right now I just feel bad and yet, it could not be helped.....and yet, I feel bad....and yet....do you see the circle?
So how do we as performers make a cancellation "right"? First, immediate contact and as much disclosure as possible about circumstances. Call the moment you know things are falling apart, even if it's early in the morning or late at night. Second, a date offered immediately. Never call without another date available. Third, return any and all money, or, if it's a free show - give above and beyond the the next time. Instead of one show, give two. Do something special by visiting classrooms, etc. Fourth, and this is my hardest, work out the problem, the reason for the cancellation, fix it if possible, and forgive myself and move on. As I said the hardest.
Sometimes "the show must go on" and sometimes you have to close the curtain, apologize to the audience, return the money and invite them back for a different night at no cost. Then go back behind the curtain, quietly or loudly scream, fix the problem, get a good stiff drink (lemonade or Southern Comfort - pick your poison :), and go to sleep. The next day wake up and live life.