Monday, August 28, 2006

Princess Mia goes Broadway

In attempt to survive the droning of my Oceanography professor, I've decided to bring my laptop to his 2-hour class. Hopefully, this will make my posting more frequent and consistent although I would love to actually feel like my tuition money is going to good use. We shall see.

A few people knew that last Thursday night I auditioned for the Theater department's Chicago. I figured that as an opera singer, I needed to gain more audition experience as well as learn how to adjust to Broadway. My career options include both, so I should try to familiarize myself with both. The title of my post relates to a relatively recent Disney movie (before the company killed animation) about an awkward girl who finds out that she is a princess. Ok, cheesy, I know, but cheese done well and if you've seen the movie, you can see where my story is going.

I signed up a few days before auditions began and felt that I had a firm grasp on what was expected of me. The list included about 16-32 bars of a song and a group dance audition. There was also some suggestion of reading a part with one of the professors, but materials would be provided that night. With that in mind, I jotted down an 8:30pm dance audition and a 9pm vocal audition. I would have liked to space the two a bit more, but work and class didn't allow for it. Besides, auditions are short; I could go from one right to the next.

Arriving early for once in my life, I checked in with the students at a check-in table wearing my sweatpant capris, short t-shirt top and jazz shoes. Yes, I own jazz shoes, but they were from our production of The Crucible - not from a dance class. The girls in charge asked me about my audition schedule to which they responded with, "Um, you can't do that."

"What do you mean?"
"Well, the dance audition is an hour and a half long. You won't make it to your vocal audition."
"Are you kidding!?"
"Keep your voice down! The theater doors aren't soundproofed well."
I attempted my version of a whisper. "Ok, so what do...."
"ok, so what do i need to do?"
"Go, talk to Ms. ---. She's really nice and maybe she'll let you come in for the second half of the dance audition."

So, I sought out the dance instructor and described my dilemma. She was extremely kind and told me to just join in late. There were multiple routines and I should be able to catch the all lady "Cell-block Tango."

Now, I had a half-hour to kill. Venturing outside, I ran into a friend of mine and began chatting. He was preparing for the role of Billy Flynn and asked me what I was preparing. I explained that I was originally going to audition for Mary Sunshine, a very easily snowed-over reporter who always believed Flynn's lies if they made the murderess sound innocent. She's also the only role sung operatically while everyone else performs in an early jazz/ vaudeville style. I say originally because I had discovered that the department was considering casting a man for that role. Needless to say, a guy in drag singing mezzo-soprano will always beat out the funniest female soprano. I had brought "Green finch and linnet bird" from Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. I figured that most people wouldn't be reading for a lead anyway and if they liked me, they would place me where they wanted me after callbacks.

"So, who's monologue are you reading?"
"You're supposed to prepare a monologue."
"Wait, that wasn't posted on the sign-up board! It sounded like they would just have improv with a professor...."
"Don't worry. There's copies inside - just grab one of them."

So I did and I'm proud to say that I learned Velma's monologue from "Cell Block Tango" in less than 30 minutes. I figured since I was already ticked off, it would be just a small step to murderous bitch.

My audition drew nearer and I decided to sing a little just to make sure I was still vocally warm. There were quite a few others singing outside, so I didn't figure this would be a problem. I sang all of about 6 bars full voice when a side door flew open.

"Who's singing out hear?!"
I sheepishly raised my hand, " Uh, me. Sorry."
"We're trying to work in here, so could you find somewhere else?"

After apologizing again, I figured if my voice could carry inside the building, I was warm enough. I thought that guy was a teacher and was just annoyed because audition chaos was invading the school. Oh, well. I scampered inside to get in line. The same check-in girls were lining up 9 o'clock people and I waited for my name to be called. It wasn't. I questioned and got the response of, "Oh, so you are here?"

Nope, I showed up about an hour early only to leave just before I'm supposed to sing. Gosh.

"Ok, well do you have your paperwork?"
"What paperwork?" I answered suddenly feeling exhausted.
"Well, we'll move you to 9:30 and have to fill it out."

Can I just say that I could have filled out that stupid half-sheet of paper when I checked-in originally or even in line? All that was needed was my contact information, emergency contact information, spouse/boyfriend/best friend contact information and schedule conflicts. Then, I was told to wait for my turn to get in line ("Please don't go anywhere this time.").

I should now mention the massive amount of costumes surrounding me. Girls in full flapper outfits with push-up bras, wigs and stage make-up stared at me. Personally, that didn't bother me - you're supposed to go into an audition dressed neutrally, not as a character. Granted, I wished I had dressed more professionally or at least decided to forego the flattening sports bra, but whatever. I could sing and act and that's all I cared about.

My turn finally came up and I strolled into the studio confident and effervescent. I greeted everyone and stopped dead in my tracks. The teacher who was so annoyed with my singing was sitting right in front of me. Directly in front of me. After a mental Fuck!, I prepared myself to sing.

Startled and worn-down as I was, I believe that I sang well. My monologue sounded good, but unless they took the shaking for unbridled rage, I think I sunk it. I left the room with a smile on my face and made my way to the dance studio. As I watched the routine, I prepared myself to jump in at the next chance. Considering the short length of the audition routine, this wasn't too bad. Just as I was about to jump in, the instructor turned off the radio and announced that the callback list would be posted tomorrow.

The ridiculous thing is that I was certain that I could have danced that routine and danced it well. Go figure. Needless to say, I did not receive a callback, but so far, several people have really enjoyed the story. They don't call it "getting experience" for nothing. Now, if I only thought that this experience would help me in the real world....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Alright Already!

Ok, people...after reading many emails/comments that I need to post, I'm going to post. And I've discovered that there's more than one person reading my blog. Seriously, I thought it was just Rai.

So here goes a couple of weeks worth of updates:

Kim's wedding was beautiful and very amusing for those of us who know her well. Her nephew was the ringbearer and was given a large bell along with instructions to yell "The bride is coming!" Considering the hyperactivity of this 4 year-old, I think this was far better than entrusting the actual rings to his small hands. No Wagner was allowed, so instead she entered during "The Great Gate of Kiev" from Pictures at an Exhibition. The boisterous opening bars played on a loud organ in a small stone church startled a good portion of the guests. I was informed beforehand and therefore was allowed to make observations and giggle. The groom's father sang a beautiful song - he might have written it, too, but I'm sure on that.

The humorous part of the service for me came at communion. I'm Catholic just so we're all on the same page and the wedding took place in a Protestant church. I am not supposed to receive communion - its a simple difference in beliefs about the meaning of it all and a whole other post. Anyway, a small group of people get up and grab these trays of tiny pieces of bread and little cups of wine or grape juice or would have stained my outfit either way. The way this apparently works is that the tray carriers pass the trays down the row and then they get passed back. On to the next row. I had thought about this and even mentioned it to Kim, so I wouldn't cause problems at her wedding. It seemed simple enough - I just pass the tray on.

No. I wasn't counting on the persistence of these people. The girl handling the trays passed it to me and I passed it along. Then, I tried to give it back to her and she took it. And held it right in front of me. I whispered a "No, thank you," but she didn't seem to hear me. So, I repeated myself. She still didn't get it. By this time, the other handlers were way past her and I could sense an impending scene should I have to talk louder in that echo-y church. I don't know - maybe she was deaf? So, I shot her a Look and waved my hand to suggest she move on. With a glare, she raised her trays indignantly and proceeded to the next row. This wouldn't have been all that embarrassing if my friends weren't unsuccessfully stifling laughter next to me.

A week later, to satisfy my need for impossible arguments and swollen eyes, I trekked back to my parents' house. By the time I had gotten there, I was exhausted. I had sat in a doctor's office, spent several hours conversing with the Residency people and driven over 2 hours. At precisely 11pm, my father cut off the TV and said, "We need to talk." I now understand the dread men feel over this phrase. To sum up our 2 hour discussion, I'm self-centered, overly naive and lack motivation. By the way, I didn't get in-state residency and was told that I needed to show proof of a student loan without a family co-signer. Translation: I'm screwed. This is what set my father off. This situation was my fault; I should have come home for the summer and worked at a friend's restaurant. Ledo's was the direct result of my selfish desire to screw my family and stay in my apartment.

The grad school discussion is what set me off - I'm used to the other shit. How am I going to pay for it? How do I know I'll get in? Couldn't I go for some other degree because I can sing and the degree makes no difference in auditions for opera companies or Broadway? And speaking of, didn't I always want to set up my own business right around here and sing in church? Wouldn't I be happy just singing in church? And the voice problems I've had, aren't they my fault for stressing too much and, if I stress so much, isn't that a sign that I'm going into the wrong career? Etc, etc, etc. I am proud to say that my father raised his voice and I snapped right back, "Don't talk to me that way!" Um, maybe not smart, but still a step for me. Since then, things have settled back down, but I know it won't last.

Speaking of grad schools, I'm planning on going up to Manhattan during Fall Break. Aaron is going to try to travel with me, but he's staying at one of his friend's places. I'll stay with someone else - I'm not sure who yet, but there's the possibility of one of Tony's friends letting me stay. Don't worry, I do know these people and I completely trust Tony not to stick me with a crazy person. I've got a few ideas about teachers and I'll contact a few this week about setting up a lesson. Its so exciting! Oh, and my parents don't know........ :)

I've gotten several messages about that last post, so I should explain that. My best friend in elementary and middle school was a guy named John. About halfway through 6th grade, his family was transferred to Florida and we were serious pen pals until a received a particular letter. He said that he had shot his sister. Not badly but enough to get arrested for it. His letter was written quickly and sloppily with a distinct note of desperation. He kept asking me to pray for him. Three days later, I received another short letter in about the same style.

I don't remember if I ever wrote back. Actually, I didn't remember those letters until I found a box recently of his letters and little things he gave me. I was reminiscing fondly when I came across those two letters. Suddenly, I felt cold and guilty - he was begging for my help and the person he trusted most, loved, confided in and routinely stuck up for was never there when he needed her the most. I just have this strong feeling that I didn't. The horrible thing is I can't remember why. Did I get freaked out or did my mother (who made a point to read my letters) forbid me to write? Both are possible, but after much brain-racking I still don't know. I had one letter two years after those others written in his normal style. Quite frankly, I sobbed that night. Not the I'm-in-trouble-with-my-parents-again cry, it was an odd, immensely painful episode.

I waited a day to settle my nerves and composed a letter apologizing for not keeping in touch. I didn't mention why I felt the strong need to contact him, just asked about him and updated a little about my life. I sent it to the last address I have for him. I have yet to receive a reply. I'm not terribly optimistic, but I wanted to try. I had to try. And I can think of several people who would laugh at me for such an attempt. He may have gotten the letter and torn it up. I may never know, but at least I tried. And that, in itself, has made me feel a little bit better.