Tuesday, December 06, 2011

And How Ironic Is It That I Sang "Nothing?"

I don't like bad feelings. Nope, never have. And will go to any lengths to avoid them. Just not a fan.

I'm having a bad feeling right now that I'd like to get over. It's disturbing my sleep, in fact. Bolted awake just now, at 3 a.m., with the bad feeling taking center stage. What is it? Embarrassment? Sort of. Regret? Disbelief? Sadness? It seems to keep morphing into something slightly different about every thirty minutes, but so far I don't like any of them.

Tonight I had my first musical audition. I was really prepared, which is rare for me. I'd done my homework. Practiced like crazy. Hired the pianist, which was a blast. Concentrated on the acting, the held notes, the breath, the pacing. I had it down. My one concern were the factors that manifest with terror: would I lose the timing? Blank entirely? Get off key? Crack on the high notes?

I talked to myself on the way over. I told myself to stay out of my own way. I said--I felt honestly--I said "Self, this is how it is. You have this. You can do it. But only if you let them see the BEST of what you can do. So let them. See it. Go in there and do everything you would do if you WEREN'T terrified." Seemed like good advice, if I say so myself.

I had spoken to my friend John, who had decided to go over nearly 90 minutes early, was now done and in possession of a call back. Easy peasy. Early, why hadn't I thought of that? Who wanted to wait until 9:30 anyway? He did warn me that the waiting area was outside--kind of unusual, that. For people about to sing, a frosty night is not their friend.

I went early. Checked in. And then I waited. And waited. People went in. I heard them warbling, beautifully, through the door. When they came out, the check-in girl would hand them a slip of paper, which each time would seem to trigger a Snoopy happy-dance of glee. I deduced that these were the callbacks.

I wasn't nearly as nervous as I could be, doing all that waiting. And freezing. And blowing my nose, desperate to keep my sinuses clear. I sung under my breath. Tried to stay focused. As the minutes ticked away, the whole thing started to seem a bit hilarious. Eventually, I was out there nearly an hour. An HOUR, Readers. With bare feet.

And into the room I went. Same room where I took my acting class in spring. Smiling blonde director. Smiling mustached pianist. I approached him, since no one was talking. Nervously, I explained my music. All seemed well until I repeated what my coach had suggested, "Just chords are okay." His smile turned frosty: "I know the song." Oops. My bad.

"Will you be doing your song or your monologue first?" he asked. "No, she's doing them all together, isn't that right?" the director spoke up. "You're Liz's friend, aren't you?" She smiled. So she was expecting me. I had an in. Nice.

I took my place in the middle of the room. Smiled at him. He began. And right away I knew that my fears about losing the piano were ridiculous. He was soooo good. He wouldn't have lost me in a blizzard. And I was off and running. No problem. Oh. This is just like I practiced it. Talk here. Breathe here. Belt here. No problem.

As the song went on, I actually relaxed. I've got this. I've really got it. Just like I practiced. When it came time for the final fermata preceding the big, slow finish, I actually enjoyed myself. I opened my mouth and the sounds flowed out sweet and clear. I brought it home with what I hoped was quiet power and then turned my attention to them.

They were smiling. Sort of. Maybe not. And what was that on the director's face? Could it be...disappointment? She smiled in a practiced sort of way. Uh-oh. "Thank you." I thanked them both, grabbed my gear and scurried out.

Outside, I wasn't sure what to do. I took my time putting my coat on. Should I just leave? Just then, the check-in girl approached and triumphantly presented my slip of paper. There was my name. And two columns. One said "Thank You!" There was an "X" next to that one.

The other said "Congratulations!"

Oh. Thank you. Thank you. Just like that. No triumphant victory dance to the car. Thank you. You're all done. Thanks for playing. We don't have some lovely parting gifts for you.

Many years ago, I auditioned for Chess at UCSD. I knew the director. I belted out the first verse of Patsy Cline's "Too Many Secrets" while she beamed from ear to ear. Then I nearly fell over gasping for breath. She actually looked crushed for me. I ended up in the chorus. About five years ago, I auditioned for a new musical at Diversionary and had no clue I needed sheet music. Despite having prepared two acapella songs, I was consigned to "Happy Birthday" and was out on the sidewalk before I could blink.

This was the first time I knew what I was doing. I thought. I did my homework. Lovingly prepared my sheet music. Practiced like I was going to Carnegie Hall. And each time I performed my song for a friend, I checked their faces for pity or amusement and didn't find it. Maybe I can do this, I started to believe. Maybe now is the time. I just needed to do it right, and now the world of musical theater will swing open like a velvet curtain, and I will walk through, blowing kisses to the crowd. Now is my moment.

But it's not, and I don't know why. When I feverishly review that three minutes in my head, I can't find the moment when it all went to hell. And that worries me. Why can't I find it? I told David that seems to point to a simple-minded delusion on my part. I simply can't hear that I'm lousy. That is the yuckiest ingredient of the bad feeling. That I might just be a clueless simpleton. A clueless, can't-sing simpleton who can't hear herself.

I want to acknowledge myself, I do. For taking the time to prepare. For doing it carefully and thoroughly. For getting feedback, even though it embarrassed me. For braving the elements. For getting out of my own way and giving the best performance I could in that moment. And I guess I do feel proud of myself for those things.

But I'm still wondering about the other stuff. And it feels powerful bad.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Sam! Please don't be so hard on yourself. You are a wonderful singer.

Musical theater is not about validating whether you can or cannot sing/dance/act. It's about whether you can sing/act/dance to fit the directors' often *very* specific (just like Fosse) vision, much more so than regular theater, where they can change show aspects much more easily if they see someone unexpected. Musical theater is about types, and you are not a type. You, my darling, are an individual, and individuals are hard to cast in musical theater precisely because they don't fit the types. There's a certain amount of shorthand required to make musical theater work, because the songs and dances require you to lose a lot of story (which is why people like me don't like it).

Not getting a callback to a few shows doesn't mean you can't do musical theater. It means you haven't found the right show. You would kill the hell out of American Idiot, because it's full of individuals who can sing really well.

They put you in the chorus because you can sing really well, dearest.


Anonymous said...

Sam, my heart is crushed for you, while simultaneously being 100% sure IT WAS NOT YOU.

I agree with Gina - you are an individual, and one with star quality. You are mesmerizing. You personify IT.

So maybe there wasn't a part for IT this time, in this show. Or maybe there was a part that would have worked for you, but it had already been promised to somebody the director was friends with or owed a favor. We all know that happens. Directors aren't perfect and sometimes make dumb choices. :-)

I'm sorry you don't get that feedback to know exactly what happened. It's just human nature to want that, perfectly understandable. I always want it too! Because if you can find out why something disappointing happened, you can make it not happen again, right? At least that's what we all want to think.

But in this case it just so clearly had nothing to do with you personally, which is hard because you put so much of yourself into this audition. So look how uber-prepared you are going to be for the next audition. That work will pay off. And when there is a role for the one and only fabulous star Samantha Goldstein, you will nail it!

Keep auditioning!


Stephanie said...

What they said....also, I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself and are recognizing all you did. Take all that good stuff with you to the next one.

Oh, and yes, you can sing.

Samantha said...

You gals are so wonderful to me! Your kindness is a balm to my wounded ego. Thank you for taking the time to share these thoughtful and caring words with me. Makes me feel better already!

Jen said...

You have some very smart friends. :-) Sam, you are a force of nature, and extremely talented. You rock! And don't you forget it!

Logical Libby said...

Sam, you know that there is no rhyme or reason to the audition process. Do NOT be so hard on yourself! And I bet you sang it wonderfully.

Also, little pieces of paper at the end? LAME!!!!

Anonymous said...

Aw, I bet you actually did great! Just speaking as someone who's been on the other side of that audition table -- I've heard *amazing* auditions from super-talented people who were not cast for myriad reasons that were just out of everyone's control. I know - it's heartbreaking!
p.s. "Nothing" sounds like it was a terrific choice!