Well, I did it. I auditioned, and although I am tired today, both physically and emotionally, it was worth it after all. I showed up … and that always counts for something!
At 6:00PM I signed in, handing over an amateur head shot along with the required paperwork and we (my fiancé came with) headed to the waiting room, where we were greeted by what looked like the cast of “A Chorus Line.” Actresses in tights with leg warmers and fish net stockings, leotards and black strapped shoes with heels. Some were practicing lines, some sang quietly to themselves, others were stretching beyond any stretch I’ve ever learned, but most of all they were staying pumped up. You could feel it. I turned around, to run I think, but when I saw my fiancé smile at me I smiled back and went to find us seats. We giggled as we watched how different everyone was, how they all were using different strategies to assuage their nervousness. But behind my giggle I knew that this was what it took and that next time, if there was going to be a next time I would be more prepared. I would know what to expect. I sincerely felt that I didn’t have a shot, but I was there and it was in the trying that I could gain something.
At 6:45 I was called into the theater and walked up on stage. When empty, a theater is an intimidating place and this was no exception. My voice echoed as I said hello to the directors in the second to last row and nodded to the pianist nearby. It was play or pass time and I knew it as I tried to ignore the beads of perspiration dripping down my sides. I stood waiting for direction, doing my best to remember to breathe when one of the directors yelled out, “If you were categorizing yourself which would come first, Singer, Actor or Dancer?” I answered honestly “Well, I haven’t done anything for over 30 years but I would have to say an actress. I can sing though am a bit rusty, but I’m not afraid to put my feelings out there.”
I could see papers in her hands and assumed they were mine as she asked me about Breezy Point which I’d listed on my resume as my hometown. And then God came into the picture. She stood up from her seat and told me she was from Rockaway, 3 miles away. She asked what grammar school I’d gone to and I told her PS 114. “No way, I went there too!,” and we quickly learned that her brother was in my class.
And there it was, the moment of Grace during which I stepped out of the frightened all too aware of myself place and entered the “in my skin performer one,” that I’d had glimpses of way back when. Ice breaking grace, absolute and utter, and as she sat back down saying, “OK, show us what you’ve got!”
And, as I belted out my version of the song there was a feeling of OK, of relief that I had come, that I had a right to be there. When the song was over the pianist acknowledged, “OK, she can sing.” And the director yelled from the back, “How’s your dancing? Can you move?” I wanted to tell her to ask my fiance, but instead said, “I have no formal training but I can move and can definitely follow and learn.” “Perfect!, you’ll stay for the dance auditions at 8:15. Head into the studio to stretch and warm up and we’ll see you in a little bit.” And as I got down from the stage to leave, she called out as she got up and walked towards me. She shook my hand and smiled, “PS 114, how cool is that?”
Pabs was waiting in the lobby with a toothy grin, looking proud. I told him I was asked to stay for dance and we headed to find the warm up studio. There were several other dancers there and on walking in I was sure I was in over my head. The quality of leotards alone told me that. These were real dancers, it was obvious. I took off my flip flops, becoming barefoot and bare legged alongside tap shoes and tights. That really said it all, but I followed their leads. I stretched alongside these women in the mirrored studio and although I couldn’t get my leg anywhere near my eyebrows as they did when they stretched, I did my best. Everyone chatted politely while they stared at their reflections from every angle. Though underneath the banter lived an awkward tension which said without saying, “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get this role over you,” but let’s play nice for now. I felt OK though because I’d gotten this far.
The choreographer came in and the energy around me blatantly became, “buckle up bitches and watch out.” She put out about 20 black curve backed chairs, the kind that Cabaret dancers use up on stage of course. “Folks, you will own these for the next hour. Convince me that they are part of you got it?” “Now Let’s go!” she yelled as she pushed play and Cabaret’s “Mein Herr” came through the speakers. She was on her own chair facing us as she counted with the music and on “4” swung her right leg over the chair’s curved back into 5–up, 6-down, 7-up, 8-wiggle, 9-shake, 10-wiggle. By now she had fallen across the chair in a draped position with her calves touching the ground and I tried to follow because I had realized by about count “6” that we were all supposed to. “Quickly jump back up,” she was yelling. “Feet on floor, then jump and feet on chair, crouch, stand,crouch, stand, crouch, rock chair back and forth (trying not to fall off since you are standing on it of course). And on and on. As we continued I occasionally had a pretty good kick or jump or hip shake but she went so quickly that by the time she asked us to do 4 pirouettes into a “swooping fall with hands on floor, backs on chair, legs pointing skyward into bend, flex, bend, flex times 8 beats,” I was ready to cry.
But, no time for that. Next move: “Jump up, off chair, bend down, elbows on seat, lunge cat-like but don’t let go of that chair (that friggin chair). “Up again, bend, straighten right arm, rock chair on 2 legs, fall down, lay back, jump up, back up on chair with all fours, rock” (while we were on it again no less) and from there I was lost…utterly lost. It all moved so quickly. and I kept trying to follow, but as soon as I thought I had a sequence down she added another and it all just became a blur, a jumble of moves. A jumble which I simply could not make sense of in an hour. I was capable no doubt, but that capability would be after weeks or months of daily practice and there was no time for that. The trigger had been pulled the way I pull it: “ready, fire, aim” and it was crunch time. Play or pass. Learn it or Leave. My head was throbbing along with my back but I kept trying.
A few times when I thought I was getting close I’d miss a move and not be able to catch up and since I was in the back of the room I could see all the others nailing moves 67, 68, 69, while I was stuck on move 2.
And suddenly the observer mentality crept in and fear started to take over. My legs wouldn’t cooperate or kick nearly high enough and I began to shrink into the back wall. Literally. But holding on still to the notion that my honey, bless him, was somewhere out there probably thinking that because I was in this room at all, I was really a dancer, I was determined to stay. Uggh.
Finally, after over an hour, with every muscle in my body aching, the directors came in and said, “OK break into 3 groups and show us what you’ve got. We’ll be done in a few minutes. And when the choreographer turned to start the music again I headed for the exit. I left, almost running, definitely not looking back, and walking right past my fiance to the building exit. I was awkward and shut down, and wished upon wishes that I had been better. “He followed me asking why I was leaving and told me that he had been watching the whole time (I hadn’t noticed the windows in the door of the studio) and that “No, I wasn’t the best, but I was by no means the worst and that I had definitely fit in and could have practiced.” I felt like I was going to throw up but couldn’t explain it and all of a sudden out in the fresh air I wanted to crawl into a hole. I hadn’t really thought through leaving, but at the moment I opened the door I’d had to go. I had allowed fear, after all the triumphs within this experience, to take over after all. I became so aware of how professional the others were and how obviously they’d worked with choreographers and I hadn’t and I let that get in the way.
I could have at least stayed to watch till the very end. But fear won out. And so this morning, as I sat at the computer and found about 50 Cabaret dance teaching videos I wish I would have watched before the audition, if I’d only known, I am torn between being really proud of myself for walking through my fear and going in the first place and being really disappointed in myself for leaving.
I came to hear the music play. And you know what? I did. And damn it, I have GOT to remember…that counts for something.