i had an audition today for "the buddy holly story" at nola studios, a few doors down from studio 54. it's going up at the merry go round, upstate. my manager wanted me to do it because he thinks its broadway bound. that makes sense, especially after the elvis musical "all shook up" -- and wow, i think miramax produced that, too. actually, after the success of "chicago" all the movie production companies opened musical theater divisions to develop their movies into musicals. i've got an audition for a california workshop of "sister act" on wednesday morning. "the buddy holly story" is probably one of those feel-good musicals that's filled with songs that absolutely everyone knows, whether they're crazy about buddy holly or not. it'll be a real sing-along hit parade.
they wanted me for an r&b singer character, a la aretha franklin. of course the last thing i wanted to do was go in there and sing any aretha franklin because i figured that's what everyone else was going to do -- and how many times can you stand to hear "respect" in one day, even if it does sound great? (and let's face it, it probably doesn't.)
making my way up the street in the bright sunlight and the snow and the filthy slush, i had a flashback to a buzzcocks show that i saw there for free a million years ago when i first came to the city. i had a friend who worked for a rock concert promoter and she would give me tickets from time to time. it was a fun night and a good strong memory of my early time in the city. free tickets to rock shows?! how could i not be a happy girl with that in my life?
weird, the way the past can creep up on you out of nowhere.
so i went to the 11th floor and crash landed in musical theater hell. there was four or five studios in a section that shared a small hallway lined with what looked like church pews, and of course the overpriced junk food machines and the water cooler, with offices at the other end of the hall and a blackboard, clearly stating who was on first. the spillage was horrendous. nothing but "the young caucasians" as far as the eye could see -- most of whom were early twentysomething and visually tweaked to perfection, with their pumps and their audition outfits and their "books" of sheet music, arranged and notated just so. it was like i'd walked into the whitest place on earth -- seriously. i looked around and took it all in and i thought, i can remember when i wanted this. it sickened me, to imagine myself going to one epa after another and singing my face off, thinking that it mattered because i was talented. what a lie.
it was painful, watching them throw shade: the blondes, a little too friendly and eyeing each other on the sly. the brunettes with their pantene hairdos, just friendly enough. the chubby redhead, sitting alone, looking sideways at all of them. i was the only black girl there. and none of them were looking at me. nothing that i'm not used to. just a funny thing that keeps happening. and sometimes it gets to me.
i had to change my clothes. i had to do my make-up. i wrapped my hair in cloth because i was straightening it and i didn't want the dampness to undo my hard work. just a little black dress and some black pumps. nothing spectacular. i mean, hey -- i want to look nice when i present myself, but i know better than to think that my outfit will get me the job. it takes a little more than that to make it happen -- at least, that's the way it works in theater. film and tv (and video, too) i suppose, is another ordeal. people get put in movies for the way they look all the time. no one seems to care that they can't act. but i digress.
an older actress sat next to me. pretty and slim, with a short clipped jean seberg salt and pepper look, and a long dramatic black dress and jacket. her book was a nice and tidy zip up three ring binder in black leatherette. and her sheet music, like most of the girls there, was in plastic and color coded, and tagged with plastic labels. i looked at her sideways and leaned away from her, murmuring, you're scary. she laughed. i wasn' t kidding. we chatted for awhile. nice lady. somewhere in there, we talked about auditioning and working and i was like, it's not about getting the job -- it's about getting the audition in the first place. i can't audition for a show that doesn't have any parts for me. and she quietly agreed.
and then i went in.
what a warm sunny room, filled with warm sunny people whose names escape me. all i remember is that they totally loved me, for real. it was like a really great first date. i could do no wrong.they sat at the other end of a huge baby grand and a sullen looking pianist managed a friendly face when i plopped my book on the piano and didn't open it. after introductions were made all around, i impulsively asked the pianist to play a 12 bar blues in d. he actually looked a little confused at first. (wow.) i sang "stormy monday" -- why not? all they needed was to hear that i could sing that gritty old school r&b. i sang through it once, they loved what i did and then one of them said, you've got a callback! neat-o. then another one said, were you in "harlem song" and i was like, yeah and he gushed, i loved you soooo much in that show and i thought, why can' t anyone ever recognize me? why do they have to ask if it was me? i was the lead, for cryin' out loud. but hey, what am i saying. it's nice to be loved. (sigh.)
i went back to my things and the lady said, so how'd it go and i was like, i got a callback and she said, wow, that's great. and i went, well, like i said before -- getting the job isn't the problem. getting the audition is. her friend overheard me and congratulated me and i laughed and said, congratulate me when i get the job. i mean, wow. a callback is nice, but it's not going to pay my rent. all i could think as i left was, if i get this, i have to work 20 weeks for a year of health insurance and 2 weeks to get vested for my aea pension plan.
let's see if i get it.