Thursday, September 07, 2006

force majeure

i had carefully laid everything out neatly in my head: where i would go at this hour and where i would be by this time and where i was expected to go for that interview; what i would wear for this and what i would not wear for that; and how things would end up at the end of the day. then, once i was sure of it all, i wrote it all down and went over it again and again, fine tuning my busy day before it even arrived. there were escape hatches and plan b scenarios a go-go -- not that i'd need them. what could go wrong?

in a word, everything.

by noon i knew that i would miss my first audition at 1pm and that, even if i fought the powers that be PE style, i'd probably miss my second one at 2:10pm -- the bmi lehman engel musical theater workshop, the one i really wanted but at the same time was somewhat afraid that i'd get. you see, the problem is that although i'm out there auditioning and hustling for work like every other actor i know, as an artist i'm not a replicator -- i'm an originator. there's not a lot of work out there for me to originate, so sometimes i have to create/develop it myself. this works especially well with solo performance (because it's just me and a chair onstage) and with music (because i've taken the d.i.y. indie approach). more often than not, it's the fact that i originate things that keeps me working -- not that i auditioned for someone, and then they saw the light and gave me a job. sure, that's happened to me. but that's not what usually happens.

so for me, it's all about developing ideas and originating things. the bmi workshop would allow me to be a part of a team that develops a musical. the thing that's so scary is that its a 2 year program with an initial 9 month commitment. in my world, that's a massively long time for me to sit still in one place. no going out on the road for weeks or months on end, no quickie weekend jaunts to perform here or there. no, no, no. oh, and here's the kicker: you have to be invited back for the 2nd year.

as i trudged through the day, my appointment time came and went and i lost heart. somewhere around 4:30pm, i began to see a light at the end of the tunnel and raced to midtown. i got there right at 5pm and was graciously allowed to perform my 2 songs -- a capella. i can't even begin to tell you what a stultifying experience this was. i thought i sounded awful. i didn't want to let the opportunity pass me by but as i left the building, i began to wonder if perhaps i should have. i consoled myself with the fact that at least i had enough follow-through and gumption to show up. and then i let it go. they'll let everyone know something in a week.

of course, i was early for my very last appointment: a reception for the 12 finalists in the jazzmobile vocal competition, at their headquarters in harlem. sometimes i forget that when black folks say "refreshments will be served" they mean real food, not hor d'ouerves. this was no exception. and not that i drink (because to me, it all tastes wierd when there's alcohol in it) but there was champagne! suddenly, the enormity of what it meant to be a finalist hit me and it was all so very exciting and humbling. and strange. strange, to be in a competition with so many people that i didn't necessarily know per se, but that i liked and genuinely respected. how would they choose? we were all so good...

as i left the building with one of the finalists, frank senior, on my arm, i saw a gigantic moon looming before us -- low slung, jaundiced and swollen. so that's why my day went straight to hell. the moon shifted in the sky and yanked the proverbial rug right out from under me. was it a full moon? i can never tell. "look at the moon!" i squealed to frank, who is completely and utterly blind. thankfully, frank is a real gentleman. as i realized what i'd said, he squeezed my arm good-naturedly. then i paused and began to describe what i was seeing. oh, if only his seeing-eye dog could have talked. he probably would have chewed me out.

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