Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

OMG, I can't believe I'm starting a blog post "OMG." I just don't have the words, unless they are: I think my head is going to explode.

A while back, I wrote this post about my existential crisis: is I is or is I ain't an actor? I had been to a couple auditions with only a blank "thank you" for my troubles, and wasn't really sure what that was about.

Though I am busy rehearsing my current show, I couldn't help noticing three upcoming auditions that piqued my interest. All of them had something that appealed to me personally. There was:

1. The Vagina Monologues. I'd seen it a few times, and thought I wanted to be in it someday.
2. The Crucible. High school classic, great literature, juicy roles.
3. Last of the Red-Hot Lovers. I've never seen it, but it's Neil Simon, and I really dig that New York angsty thing.

Based on my previous experience, I figured these would all be practice, practice, practice, and I worked on making my peace with that. Only the second one required a prepared monologue, so that was good, too.

Last Wednesday I went to the VM auditions with my friend Jessica. I was offered a choice of two monologues, but knew right away I would do the funny one. It just so happened to be a sort of rant about a naughty, naughty word I never use. That's all I'm saying about that, because I don't have to audition for YOU, Dear Readers. I figured I'd just go for it. There were two women and one man in the room, very friendly. I launched into my reading, surprised to find my voice quavering a bit, but I didn't stumble over the 87 repetitions of the naughty word. Then I got this stage direction: (long high-pitched 'n.') I was in the middle of that when one of the directors raised her hand and said "Thank you."

Tears almost sprang to my eyes. I'd never been interrupted before. It must have really been wretched if they couldn't bear to hear another word. I thought I was leaving, but then they asked me what I knew about V-Day. All my audition books tell me not to babble in auditions, under any circumstances. Answer questions with "yes" and "no" whenever possible. But I had already blown it, so I decided to whip out a little of the 'ol Sam Sparkle. I told them I'd been involved with V-Day before, but:

"Not acting. Selling chocolate vaginas." They nodded and smiled. "You know, doing the Lord's work."

They laughed. I mean, really laughed. Like that kind of surprised laugh when you really weren't expecting something to be funny. Score! And then I left.

I was hot and embarrassed on the way to the car, and told Jessica it did NOT go well. She didn't feel good about hers, either. When I got home, I was just starting to tell David the details, when an e-mail popped up with the subject "V-Day Callbacks." Silly me, I didn't think anything of it. I figured it was the usual e-mail that would say something like "As in, you didn't get one. But thanks for coming out!'' But they were asking me to come for a callback. OMG. OMG. OMG.

The callback was the next night. When I had rehearsal. I was in agony. I don't lie. Was I going to have to turn it down? I asked around. Finally, I got my answer: I would tell my director the truth and ask for the time off. And she said yes!

I raced downtown for my rehearsal, singing and dancing and sweating, then raced back across town for the callback. The place was packed. Everyone seemed to know each other. I tried to just smile and drink in the moment. I'm here because someone asked me to be. That's never happened before.

The directors talked to us about the show, and then called our names for pre-assigned groups. We gathered around tables with butcher paper, turned the paper over and found a writing prompt. We had 30 minutes to write a play about the prompt, then perform it for the group. It was intense. I can write under pressure, but I can't write by committee under pressure. I have no idea how I was behaving. Our little play was pretty funny, though not as emotional as some of the others. Overall, it was a pretty cool activity. They told us they'd let us know about casting by Saturday.

Saturday came and went. No e-mail. I checked it obsessively. Meanwhile, I had to rehearse five hours on Saturday. Even my skin was tired. Sunday I was still checking, in increasing desperation. And now a new problem was brewing. I had an appointment to audition for The Crucible the next night--Monday. I needed something memorized for that one. Two weeks before, I'd chosen a monologue from Harold Pinter's Old Times. I was chatting with my friend Grace and told her I was having trouble with it: "I sound fake." "Everyone sounds fake when they recite Pinter," she said, and she knows these things--she's a playwright.

I had been second-guessing my choice all week. I'd been to the library a half-dozen times, checking out everything from Chekhov to John Patrick Shanley. Now it was Monday, and distracted by my VM experience, I hadn't learned anything. I hadn't even CHOSEN anything. After all, if I got VM, I couldn't do any other auditions for a while, right? (It never even occurred to me that they might have meant NEXT Saturday.)

Over Thanksgiving, I'd run a monologue by David from Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession. At the time, he'd found it a bit cold. Now I realized that cold might be right for The Crucible, and that it was sensible enough to memorize easily, and that...well, that I didn't have any more time to agonize. I spent a large chunk of Monday at Jarrah's school, but when I wasn't there, I was feverishly repeating Vivie's denouncement of her mother over and over. Wait a moment: I'm not done. No. I am my mother's daughter. I am like you.

My audition wasn't until 8:10, so I was able to eat dinner with the fam and do my monologue for them a couple times before I left. I could tell a few things very clearly. I could tell that I hadn't done justice to the character yet. I could tell that I didn't have just the right tone. But most of all, I could tell that my memorization was the kind of tenuous that would dissolve like cotton candy under a hot toddler tongue as soon as any pressure was applied. Like the kind of pressure that comes of standing in a strange place having to recite something for strangers. That kind of pressure.

The place was packed, and they were running a half-hour behind. Plenty of time to stew about how I was going to forget my lines. I walked to the bathroom and ran them in there. I walked back and muttered them under my breath. Finally, they were sending me down the stairs. I'm going to forget my lines, I knew with certainty. I was mad at myself.

The three directors seemed incredibly nice. I launched into Vivie's monologue, and yup, there it was, barely three sentences in: To tell the truth, I rather admire him for...(what do I admire him for? damn, damn, damn, something...I struggled on finally getting to) not the usual hunting, shooting, dining out, tailoring, loafing (here's where I should have said "life of his set" and got on with it. Instead, I was in an endless loop, "swimming, fishing, golfing, fencing, kayaking...") Stop listing random activities! my brain screamed. Stop it, stop it, stop it! But I was determined not to have any silence. If I had to list recreational options of the 19th century upper class all night, by gum, I was going to do it.

I pulled it together by that powerful last paragraph. I really sold it. I figured I had to sell something. The rest I'd already given away. I bit into it lustily, savoring the moment, that final moment before I was getting the "thank you" and the boot.

"Very nice," the middle director said. Very nice? Really? So polite! There was some talk about my upcoming show, and I volunteered, "a little singing, a little dancing, you know, just like this one." He laughed and said, "Oh, you haven't seen my interpretation. Jazz hands and everything. "I've got mine ready!" I yelped, demonstrating. Great. Shut up, Sam.

I left cheerfully, striding out of the church into the cold night. I couldn't wait to get home and into my pajamas and forget about the whole sorry business. And that's what I did. David met me at the door. "How was it?" he asked. "A trainwreck," I replied, flipping off my heels and making a beeline for my mukluks.

This morning, I was working at Jarrah's school when Jessica texted me: "So hard to wait!" For what? I wondered briefly. Oh, right. Today's the day. Whatever. An hour later another text: "I got a callback!" I was squee-ing for her. She suggested I might have one, too. I was getting my hair done and wouldn't have e-mail access for a couple hours. I wondered a bit. Just a bit.

I got home, and there was the e-mail: Callbacks! Saturday from 10-2, bring snacks. (I thought that was so sweet.) I have rehearsal from 9-3. I cant, can't, CANNOT ask for any time off. It's our last rehearsal before cue-to-cue tech. There is no way I can even ask. No way. Not this time.

I savored the few minutes of being someone who'd gotten two callbacks in one week, and then I sadly wrote a beautiful and touching e-mail to the producer, expressing my regret. With the tiny hopeful addition of requesting an alternative callback time. But it ain't gonna happen. It's a big cast; it will be a big callback with lots to do. No time for some unknown entity like me. Soon, an e-mail will arrive, no doubt friendly, saying thanks and maybe next time.

And I will be sad. Because this audition business? It's a freakin' rollercoaster. The kind where you totally get hit by waves when you least expect it.

7 comments:

Myrnie said...

Good luck!!

Laural Out Loud said...

How very cool! And I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get another call back time.

Jennifer said...

Wow! How exciting! It just all sounds so fun. I know it's also stressful, but to a teacher it sounds really exciting. :)
Good luck!

EWR2SAN said...

Congrats Sam! Great work.. Where are you doing VM?

Sam said...

@Mark: Thanks for believing in me, but it was a callback and nothing further. If any developments arise, I'll keep you guys posted. :)

Jen said...

Congrats on all of this wonderful success! How do you manage it all? You amaze me!

Michelle said...

You are the man, woman.

"But most of all, I could tell that my memorization was the kind of tenuous that would dissolve like cotton candy under a hot toddler tongue as soon as any pressure was applied. Like the kind of pressure that comes of standing in a strange place having to recite something for strangers. That kind of pressure." So brilliantly expressed. Really!!!