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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reminiscing: The Audition Story

One of my more popular blog entries and a story that I am often asked to share at parties is my rather unfortunate audition in 2006 for Town Hall Arts Center's production of 1776.
As there are a number of auditions coming up in town over the next week or so, it seemed an appropriate time to share the horrific story once again.
Rest assured, I do not plan to make a habit out of blog re-runs, lest this become like a later episode of The Golden Girls where Blanche, Rose, Sophia, and Dorothy sit at the kitchen table eating cheesecake and reminiscing through flashbacks of previous episodes. (God, I loved that show!)
Enjoy my misery, piglets:

So do I get the part?

I recently had an audition experience that I thought would be worth sharing simply for entertainment value.
Preferring to direct, it's been a while since I've been to an audition on the other side of the table. Recently, however, I heard that Littleton Town Hall Arts Center was holding auditions for one of my favorite musicals, 1776. I decided that I would dust off the old vocal chords and give it a shot. I went to a vocal coach, hired out a rehearsal session with an accompanist, picked out a favorite monologue, and basically "got my act together" for the audition.
On the day of auditions, I was feeling pretty confident. My voice was in pretty good shape, song and monologue were memorized thoroughly, and I was relaxed.
When my name was called, I strode confidently into the audition room, introduced myself, went over my music with the lovely and talented Amanda Farnsworth (music director for the show and accompanist for the audition), walked to the little yellow "X" that marked the audition spot, and turned around to face the auditing table.
Now, on that 70's TV show, "Wonder Woman," when Lynda Carter turned around a half-dozen or so times she would turn into a butt-kicking Amazon Princess. Evidently, I should have kept turning, because my half-turn transformed me into a blithering idiot.
I really think that I felt the room shift, and for a moment, I didn't know where I was. The director said, "Give me just a moment" as he scribbled something down.
I said, "Take your time," because I honestly couldn't figure out how I'd gotten into this room. After a moment, I became very aware of the fact that the very pretty girl at the piano was looking at me. I smiled. She smiled back. Then I realized that everyone was looking at me. I smiled, and the director said, "Whenever you're ready."
Ready? Ready for what? Why do they keep looking at me? That girl at the piano is really cute. Piano? Music? Sing! Sing, you idiot! You're in an audition!
Amanda nodded at me. I nodded back. Then she started to play. Oh nuts! What's my song? What's my song?
Miraculously, I remembered the first word of the song just as it came time to sing it. And when I say sing, I do so because I cannot accurately describe the sound that actually came out of my mouth on that first note. It is a sound that I recall hearing only once before in my childhood on a Mutual of Omaha wildlife special. I don't recall what creature made the terrible sound, but I do recall that Marlon Perkins looked scared, very scared. By the second note, my voice had become almost human again, and I proceeded, mildly shaken, into the rest of the song. I was almost to full vocal power by about the tenth bar, and I thought, we may pull this one out yet, when inexplicably, the next word of the song disappeared from my brain. I stopped, and, for some reason, grabbed my throat. (Did I think that I had swallowed the word?)
At that moment, I remembered a quote from Winston Churchill: "When you're going through hell, keep going."
I backed up a couple of bars and got a "running start" at the missing word, thinking, it's in my brain somewhere. It'll find it's way out.
Nope. I stopped again. Evidently, the word had been frightened away by the horrible screeching animal that had appeared at the beginning of the song.
(The word, by the way, was exception'ly. Not exceptionally. Exception'ly. Frackin' Lerner and Lowe.)
I backed up again and took another run at it. When I got to the offending (and absent) word, I mumbled like it was a secret (it certainly was to me) and finished the song. Then, partly as a release and partly just because the whole thing had been so comical, I started to laugh. Amanda then started to laugh. Then the rest of the panel started to laugh. Whether the correct preposition was with or at, I may never know, but it gave me a second to regroup.
Then I began my monologue: one of my favorite pieces by Oscar Wilde.
I got about five seconds in when suddenly, the missing word -- exception'ly -- jumped back into my head like a wayward croquet ball. Relieved as I was at finally remembering the word, I became painfully aware of the fact that, with its re-entry, it had knocked the rest of my monologue right out of my head.
Now what?
Well, knowing the basic theme and story of the monologue, as well as Oscar Wilde's fondness for alliteration, I decided to fake my way through until the monologue came back to me. I don't think it ever did. I started out alright, but as I became increasingly aware of the fact that the monologue was seemingly gone for good, both my concentration and my British accent deteriorated. The panel was then subjected to an oddly-gesticulated amalgamation of Long John Silver in an Irish Spring commercial. As I forged through, unable to understand my own ramblings over the loud hum of Oscar Wilde spinning in his grave at 400 rpms, I thought I heard the voice of Winston Churchill saying to me, "Dude! Let it go!"
I somehow managed to find a stopping point in my tirade/audition, and then smiled and left the room. (I don't know if I stopped to open the door or just kept walking.) Not my best work.
Luckily, the folks at Town Hall are fond of me, and even offered to write in the part of a shrieking, sheep-herding pirate, just for me. I graciously declined as I felt that it would diminish the integrity of the show.
Now, I've had bad auditions before (though never this bad), but I am pleased that I was able to find the humor in this one. Laughing at this experience has proven a far more effective way of dealing with a bad audition than my usual coping strategy. (Sitting alone in the dark listening to Laura Branigan albums.)

There you have it, folks. So, to you veteran and novice actors trying to calm your butterflies before your upcoming auditions, rest easy in the knowledge that, short of accidentally setting yourself, the director, and the accompanist on fire, you can not possibly screw up your audition worse than I did.

1 comment:

davidk said...

And even if we did, we probably couldn't tell it as well.