I just got back from auditioning for a part in the ensemble for Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol. I was number 38 of 39 people auditioning tonight and it felt like a whirlwind, and not just because the staff was trying to wrap up an undoubtedly long day.
I had just arrived at the theatre after visiting the Titanic exhibit at the Museum of Natural Sciences with my family. We spent an hour wandering through the exhibit, learning about the various passengers who would soon die horrible, drowning deaths. In hindsight it wasn’t the, uh, best way to put me in a jovial mood to sing my upbeat song.
I decided to audition a few weeks ago when a friend forwarded me an email with the details. Yes, I’m crazy busy: holding down a job with ever-increasing demands, chairing two city boards, occasionally helping out with campaigns, and trying to save some time for the wife and kids. It is nuts that I even considered it.
But you know what? Acting is something that’s been on my bucket list for many, many years. My life may be busy now, but I intend for it to one day get a lot busier. If I don’t take the opportunities that come my way, I might not ever get a chance again. You’re damn straight I was going to show up.
Outside of a small circle of family and close friends, few people know I can sing (and my family and friends prefer that I sing outside and in a circle, but I digress). I was once memorably busted at the office while singing show tunes in the server room at the top of my lungs. Those servers only sound loud when you’re right next to them: they don’t muffle much else, I sheepishly discovered.
Still, I took chorus in middle school and greatly enjoyed it, I hop onstage with local bands on occasion, and I’m quite used to speaking in front of crowds with the experience gained from my volunteer duties, sales background, and training background. I also occasionally belt out songs during my commute. Almost all of my singing, though, has been for my ears only.
I picked out an upbeat song that I particularly like, Somebody’s Baby by Jackson Browne. I know the song well but still practiced it every day for a few weeks. The song is catchy and I hoped I could do it justice.
Ready as I’ll ever be, I thought, though I felt nervous. There was no kidding myself that this was new territory.
As I walked in, a man behind the counter called over. “You must be Mark,” he said as he handed me a paper label with a large number 38 on it. “Have a seat and we’ll call you shortly.”
I didn’t like the idea of being called Shortly (rimshot) but I did what I was told, admiring the Christmas decorations and theater pamphlets. A few other auditoners were waiting in the lobby with me. A grandmother cradled a a sweet, sleeping baby next to a Christmas Tree. I texted out a fumbled Tweet saying that my first audition was about to begin. In my haste it came out as “addition,” drawing quizzical responses from my friends.
Soon a man called my name and walked me to the stage door. I walked into the stage area to find a busy table full of 8 to 10 people, heads down and looking important. Mr. Wood walked up, introduced himself, and asked if I was nervous. I smiled, admitted I was nervous, and confessed to it being my first audition.
Stupid!, I thought. What happened to “fake it ’til you make it?” I recollected my thoughts and tried to focus. I had to fool at least myself that this wasn’t any big deal to me.
I quickly handed my sheet music to the piano player. I was walked over to a yellow X on the floor, asked to state my name and what I was singing. A video camera taped my performance.
My accompaniment wasn’t familiar with the song and I wasn’t familiar with what he was playing. After a clumsy start, I simply launched into the vocals and hoped he would keep up.
I looked somewhere in the distance ahead, seeing a few heads bouncing as I sang the first few verses. Mr. Wood’s head soon began bouncing and his foot was tapping. The crew at the table were smiling. I opened up and sang as strongly and clearly as I could muster.
Somewhere after the first verse I realized I was standing stiff as a board. I must have had all the stage presence of David Crosby with my total lack of movement. I realized that the years of “media training” I’d done for interviewing on camera had conditioned me not to move when I’m talking. There’s nothing worse than bobbing and weaving when you’re being interviewed on TV. On a big stage, on the other hand, movement is what you need to amplify the dialogue. I decided to follow Mr. Wood’s lead and sway a bit as I sang but I still worried that I was coming across as a motionless doofus.
After the first chorus I lost the beat from the piano again but not before the applause kicked in. My vocal performance was done. I was cheerfully thanked for my song and, with that, I turned to wait for the dance movement portion.
There was only one auditioner after me, so before I could take a seat in the lobby they called everyone back inside. The choreographer gave some rapid-fire dance instructions us that quickly went over my head. A few practice rounds followed which I completely flubbed. Out of the four women and three men I was plainly the New Guy with two left feet.
I cursed myself for not being prepared for this part. Sure, I could sing a song that I’d been singing for years but learn four dance movements that are completely new to me and do so in two minutes? Fat chance. I was regretting not keeping my ballroom dancing skills sharp from the lessons I had ten years ago.
After a few minutes of my Excruciating Left Feet of Doom performance we were all released for the night. It was only minutes for both auditions but it seemed so much more. I walked out a bit dazed after thanking Mr. Wood and the rest of the crew for the audition.
Back home, Kelly was proud and supportive of me as always. With just the right touch, she also gently and wisely pointed out that A Christmas Carol is a Big Deal.
She’s right, too. It is a big deal. I guess it may be pretty bold of me to jump right into it for my very first play. I’m just thankful she waited until after my audition to point this out!
The cast list is released next week so we’ll see what happens. I’m about as rough as they come right now but I decided weeks ago that I am putting things aside to focus on this and I am all in. What I don’t know I will learn and I will work at it like there’s no tomorrow. I might not get the chance again.
You have to make the most of the opportunities you’re given. If you can do that there’s never anything to regret.