Tuesday, September 13, 2005

they are mine

i spent all afternoon running lines and learning music for an audition that my manager mercifully pushed back to 4pm. i got the script last week and i read most of it but i fell off somewhere in there because i didn't want to dwell on it anymore. i can't feign indifference anymore when i go into auditions. i have to truly not care. anything else carries the possibility of being misconstrued as some kind of high strung or worse yet, desperate -- and they can smell that on you like a dog smells fear. don't get me wrong. i care. i want the job. but at the core of me, i know that my creative life isn't riding on whether or not i get the audition. i'm not waiting for the phone to tell me i have an opportunity. i'm always doing my own thing. i've got plenty of ideas to develop. i can take it or leave it. i care -- but not really.

it was a play called "the seven" -- an adaptation of "seven against thebes" -- written by will power, developed and soon-to-be directed by jo bonney. the audition was on the third floor of the new york theater workshop in the lower east side. the last time i was there, i did a workshop for a rock 'n roll musical in the theater on the first floor for the producers of "rent." they paid everyone in subway tokens. no money. subway tokens! we were there everyday, all day long, slugging it out over that script and at the end of the program, everyone got an envelope that had a thank you letter in it and two tokens for each day that we worked. those producers are sitting on a jillion dollars. (that's right. a jillion.) they couldn't part with a c note for each of us? i was probably the only one that wasn't surprised to get nothing when i opened my envelope. i'd worked with them before, as a member of the original cast of the first national tour of "rent." i knew that was coming.

that's fine when you're a working actor and you can go to your four-figure-a-week steady broadway gig in the evening. it's a whole other world when you're broke and scrounging your way through it. but i digress.

i had met the casting director in passing when i showed up the week before the audition to pick up the script. i ran up the stairs to the administrative offices on the 2nd floor and thanks to some sort of deconstructed entryway and no sign that said "watch your step," i practically fell into the room -- and onto him. he introduced himself warmly and eyed me as we chatted momentarily and then i was gone. terrific, i thought as i left, he thinks i'm a klutz. can i make a great first impression or what? and then i promptly forgot about it.

so there i was, making yet another grand entry into the kitchen on the third floor to sign in and wait my turn. i was still running lines and reviewing music so all of it was swimming in my head for dear life. and yes, i was 15 minutes late. and no, it wasn't my fault. there was some skinny pimply faced white guy at the computer that wouldn't stop staring at me after he pointed me toward the sign-in sheet. he finally stopped when i turned to face him and stared back. all i could think was, squirrel. he behaved like he heard me.

the monitor was nice enough to let me sit there until i felt comfortable enough to go in. as luck would have it, i was last. would you like to sing first, she asked as she led me into the room. i didn't know that i was supposed to sing anything. as everyone stood to introduce themselves and the accompanist readjusted to greet me, my mind whipped through a quicklist of standards in my head. they were warm and receptive and genuinely interested in me -- though it helps that in the worst case scenario for theater auditions, they've heard of me at least or they've seen something i've done. i'm no longer a complete stranger. that interest is really curiousity: am i going to see or experience something in this audition that will show me why this woman is supposed to be so special? and me, well -- i'm just going to be myself. at this point, that's about all i can do. luckily, that's what i do best.

when everyone settled back in and awaited my response, i asked if they liked hoagy carmichael. immediately, the casting director said yes and jo bonney nodded but will power looked a little puzzled. this is a song that you like very much, i said to him, you just don't know it yet. and then i sang "stardust" with no music at all. the song came out of me effortlessly, as though it were some kind of an afterthought. my voice was strong and as clear and as a bell. all i could think was, thank God i stopped eating at night and got a grip on my laryngeal reflux! clearly, whatever sacrifices i was making personally -- sleeping on my left side, no more spicy food (this is so hard for me), eating half portions, no more sodas, no caffeine -- were well worth it.

as i sang the very first note, a hush fell over the room. i knew that they were mine.

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