Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chicago or Bust: Part 1

When I don't write here for a week or more, it's usually because I'm avoiding the next post I want need to write. I've been avoiding this one since Monday night when I auditioned for Chicago at a local community theater.

I've been avoiding it because I would like to write here only about my successes. I want to shine a light on my wonderfulness and self worship at the feet of my own grandiosity ..... or something like that. So let me try it out, just for a second. I auditioned for Chicago and I kicked ass, baby. I sang like Barbra and danced like Liza. The director cast me in every fucking part and now it's a one-woman show all about me. I mean all that jazz is all about ME.

Yeah. It's too late to start lying here now. The real story ..... 

I decided to go to the audition for a four reasons:

1. Peer pressure: several friends wanted me to go and audition with them.

2. The director: I thought the director would be looking for younger actors, so I didn't even expect to get a part, but I would love to work with him sometime.

3. The choreographer: a couple of people who had worked with the choreographer, Annette, said it would be worth doing the audition just to get a chance to do that much of her choreography. I've seen plays she's choreographed and she's impressive. I'm still a newbie to the theatre world, but even I can tell she's earned her rep.

4. Performance phobia: I've sung on stage many times, a couple for theatre. I've worked through it until I'm pretty comfortable up there. But the singing audition .... my heart is starting to race just writing about it .... the singing audition is the tyrannosaurus rex .... the King Kong .... the monster under the fucking bed of this phobia. Just the thought of doing it makes my stomach clench, my throat close, my brain search frantically for a place to run, to hide. I've been battling the monster for years, and the only way to beat it is to do the thing that feeds it. To try to go back and remake history .... not that I can. This is one of the last things that can fully awaken the monster now, because the singing/dancing audition ... that is where it all began.

I was fourteen, about to enter my freshman year of high school, and the one thing I wanted to do in high school more than anything else -- even basketball, even dating! -- was swing choir. I wanted to sing and dance and compete and OMG it was the coolest thing I could imagine being in swing choir. I just had to get past the auditions. Easy peasy.

Toward the end of summer the high school music teacher held a couple of practice sessions to teach us the music and choreography for the two songs we would sing in front of a panel of judges: several choir directors from other schools and our music teacher. I went to the rehearsals, learned the songs from the older girls who were already in swing choir (girls I'd admired from afar), practiced at home in front of my mirror. I loved the songs and I loved the dances and I felt so cool doing them. I was ready. I was going to be in swing choir!

On that hot Sunday afternoon in late August I put on my best dress and walked across the street to the high school, certain I had both the songs and the dancing nailed

I found the choir room and waited in a dark hallway with the other kids who were auditioning. I don't remember much about that. I'd never been in that part of the school before. We didn't watch each other audition, just waited for our turns to go in when we were called. Finally I was told to go in.

Each audition had 4 participants: SATB. I was an alto then (because I could read music), so I danced with a bass, a guy who had graduated already, but was in swing choir when he was in high school. The intimidation started. This guy would never even have talked to me and here he was waiting to dance with me in this audition. A senior soprano danced with some other younger boy. I don't remember who. I wish I didn't remember any of it.

The judges sat on the choir risers with clipboards on their laps. The accompanist started playing ..... the dancing started .... and it was nothing like what we'd practiced. I mean, the steps were the same, but it was much faster, much snappier .... it was terrifying. I felt like I was being dragged behind a car. I think I did the dancing though -- not well, but I did it. I think.

What I didn't do was sing. My mouth shaped the words, but nothing came out. Not during the first song. Not during the second song. Not one fucking note came out of my mouth. I kept trying to force air through my throat, but it felt like it was closed. Not even a squeak came out. My partner sang and danced like he was a Solid Gold dancer. I ..... I just failed.

I don't even want to describe how humiliated I was when I left. I went home. Nobody asked me how it went and I didn't say anything. I'm not sure I ever told anybody until I was an adult, years later. I never tried out for swing choir again. I was never in the annual school play, because they were all musicals. I hid in the alto section of the choir and even dropped that when I was a senior.

And that is how a phobia is born.

I've already written about how I've forced myself to come back from that day, so I'll fast forward to Monday night. I almost chickened out about 450 times. By Saturday I was telling people I probably wasn't going to audition after all. My friends encouraged me to just go. They said I'd be fine. They said I could do it. They couldn't feel the cold, paralyzing terror I was carrying in my stomach, in my ears, in my throat. They couldn't hear the voice that said I could do it, but only in the shower, only where nobody could hear. They couldn't hear the voice of the monster that said it was just waiting to send me back to high school to learn my lesson again.

But I practiced a couple of songs anyway. Ones I've known for years. I practiced even though I was pretty sure I wasn't going to go. Even though I was sure I would get up there and .... you know. But I practiced. I've been at this a lot of years. I could either face the monster down .... again .... or retreat. I wasn't sure I could do it this time.

The day before the audition, in an act of what seems like extreme hypocrisy, I listened to new friend who had never auditioned for a play before sing her song, and I even gave her a few pointers. I confessed that I was very nervous and had never done this kind of audition before. She's seen me perform in other venues though; I don't think she believed how serious I was.

I didn't tell her I was already going into it with a big, fat L on my forehead. I knew though. I knew and the fucking monster knew.

To be continued.....

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