Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Awful Audition Incident

The transition from high school to college is a rough one.

Probably not as bad as my impending doom transition to the real world, but as I have a few more months left in college I would like to feign blissful ignorance (or I've been looking at Rep companies and MFA auditions while eating a tub of buttercream icing instead of doing my homework and am now teetering on the brink of despair.) As my post-grad paranoia ever increases, I am reminded of my second-to-worst audition experience ever.

At least I've already lived through possibly the worst.

I used to get super nervous before auditions. Nowadays, I psyche myself up into thinking I am not dopey, clumsy, R. Grace, but her sexy superstar hot evil twin. And for 20 minutes or so, I am not lame, worrying R. Grace but totally-kickass-all-the-confident-parts R. Grace. Also I can buy myself a drink after. But back in the day, even in high school auditions where the drama teacher had clearly precast the entire show: BLOOD FREEZING PANIC. I would have nightmares for a week leading up to auditions.  I would prepare and overprepare and second-guess myself and overanalyze every second of the audition. I bit my nails. My stomach churned. I am surprised I don't have a stomach ulcer the size of Vermont.

Ironically, I don't get actual stage fright. At all. Ever. Put me in front of 300 people with a decent director, a well rehearsed show, and a cast I love? No big deal. Myself against three or so people (director, SM, casting director)? Sudden death.

I steeled myself for the first round of auditions my freshman year at college. We don't have a particularly notable undergrad program, but our MFA and Rep program is totally kickass. No big deal, right? I had my monologue from Wit forever embedded in my heart. I read the summary and snippets of the plays for which I was auditioning (three shows auditioning at the same time in separate rooms- eep!) I happily realized that my first audition was for a production directed by one of my professors. Sure, it was a big lecture class of a theater survey, but I'd answered two questions earlier in the week and talked to him after class - maybe he'd recognize me. That's a good thing, right?


I go in for auditions, fill out my forms, ask the students running auditions if there's anything special I need to know (of course not, you'll do fine, you're totally prepared sweetheart blah blah blah). I present my audition piece, a little nervous but hopefully directed and focused and poised. I smile, thank them, turn to leave and -

"So what are you going to sing?"

Um, what?

"What piece are you going to sing? This is a musical."

I am going to die.

I have a terrible phobia of my singing voice. It's probably the positive side of mediocre, and I was even in elementary glee club for two years. I don't sing along to the radio when friends are in my car. I had a round of really poor quality voice lessons in high school that made me feel like an idiot and a braying goat, and I've never really recovered. In some weird Freudian way, this probably explains why I dated a slew of musicians. I don't sing. Ever. No.

Also, how in the HELL had I missed that this show was a musical? I'd read probably four sources, and nothing mentioned songs. I felt foolishly underprepared, and decided to save face, explain my screw up, and bail.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize this show was a musical when I read it so I don't have anything prepared. I apologize, sorry for wasting your time. I'm just going to go-"
"You're in my class, aren't you?"
"Me? Um, yes. I am." Cue five seconds of me pleading in my head: Please just say "oh you don't need to sing, it happens, go about your merry way." Instead, I heard:

"It's not actually a musical; were turning it into one. Since you're in my class, just sing something off the top of your head."

Off the top of my - what? I don't even hardly listen to the radio. A song? What song? What time of musical is this? Tomorrow... no, I'm not 10. Phantom of the - oh bullshit, like I could hit those notes. How much do they expect me to sing? I don't know that much musical theater. Oh god they're all staring at me. FIGHT OR FLIGHT. Run awayyyyy-

"Y'know, I don't really sing, I'm sorry for the confusion but I'm just going to leave-"
"Don't leave. Sing something. Now."

In retrospect, he was just trying to give me a chance to redeem myself by encouraging me. His requesting me to stay wasn't done out of malice, but trying to get me to confront my fears. But this wasn't a case of the freshman jitters, this was full-on panic. Even cool swagger alter-ego R. Grace would be reduced to tears at this point. I was probably visibly trembling.

My mind went completely blank except for one song. The song we used to audition for 5th grade glee club. Well, shit.

You Are My Sunshine.

My first audition for college theater and I was 1) unprepared 2) uninformed and 3) singing a nursery song. My voice was shaking so much I actually stopped in the middle of the song and apologized, but they waved me to just keep going. So, to recap the past minute:

1) I sang a kiddie song (all of it, what does this "16 bars" mean? It will take washing my mouth with 16 bars of soap to remove the taste of shame?).
2) I pleaded to be released from the audition instead of following through.
3) I stopped MID-SONG to apologize.

Finally, the torture was over and I ran out of the room in the midst of their "thank you for auditioning" closure. The cool college kids audition sitting looked at me in horror when I came out, completely pale and trembling.

"Are you okay? You look sick."
"Why did nobody tell me, when I asked if there was anything special about this audition, THAT I HAD TO SING?"
"Oh yeah, about that..."

On the plus side, I made it to the bathroom before I started crying.

My next two auditions were a blur of disappointment, shakiness, and failure. I was so hung up on my first audition that I barely stumbled through my monologue, zombie-like. No callbacks for me. My dream was crushed. Back to being a hard-hitting investigative journalist. That's what I came to college for, anyway. Theater was just a stupid dream. Despair.

The next day I received an email from my professor, explaining they couldn't offer me a callback because my astronomy lab conflicted too much with rehearsals and performances.

My astronomy lab. After all that, it was my schedule, not my complete ineptitude at life, that disabled me from continuing on. Well then.

I was still traumatized enough to not be involved with theater in any way whatsoever until the next year, in which I was forced by a friend of an ex-boyfriend and my fantastic floridian friend. And since then, I acted (and toured!) with a show that involved multiple southern/gospel songs. This time, I was more prepared. I didn't fall back to "you are my sunshine."

I sang Amazing Grace.

It seemed only fitting.


Joanne said...

Ugh that sounds AWFUL! The anxiety sounds palpable...I would absolutely hate being put on the spot like that.

Barbara said...

Because you ARE amazing :)

kyleen said...

I'm not a very good performer/I get really nervous when I have to speak in front of crowds or people I don't know, so I like to be really prepared too.

LOL "We're turning it into a musical."

Couture Carrie said...

You are an amazing storyteller, darling!


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