Let Me Entertain You

I put myself out there again, to the theatre world anyway.

This past Friday, I auditioned for a local professional theatre company. It was a general audition for their entire season coming up, so we’re talking about shows that will run through next June. One of them is Gypsy, which is what the blog title references.  That phrase, “Let me entertain you,” most certainly changes meaning through the course of the show!

I’ve been working with a really, really awesome and dynamic vocal coach. He’s a professional actor and musician, and he takes his career and teaching very seriously. Oh, it was just what I needed! He’s wonderful and says nice things about me, AND he’s quick to tell me when I am doing something wrong and how to fix it.

I was growing really tired of folks telling me how great I am — I know, poor me — but weren’t telling me what I could do to be where I want to be — that is, audition successfully for a show.  I needed honest feedback about what I was doing wrong and learn about what areas to address so I could concrete work on them.  Just like with any sport a serious athlete would pursue, I needed to know what skills I was lacking and I needed to master new skills I didn’t even know about.

I felt like, to continue with the athlete metaphor, I was a tennis player with good form and so-so technique, but that everyone said was great, even though I’d never won a match. Ever. Any serious tennis player — and coach, for that matter — would address what areas to improve and what behaviors to change to reach the best outcomes.

On Monday, I had my last lesson with my coach before the Friday evening audition.  I was really pumped that he said great things about me and he said they’d be stupid not to cast me in something. He said some other really nice things. The best part of our lessons is that they are recorded, so I can listen to the exercises and corrections and feedback. As much as I pride myself on being a visual person, it was important and so very useful to have audio proof that I am good and my coach says I am ready. That made all the difference in the world. I’ve worked very hard on perfecting the exercises he has me doing, I listen in my car all the time and sing along, and I have a much better outlook on auditioning now.

I maintained a level of excitement all week for my audition. While I was nervous and thought about it a lot, I wasn’t to the point of obsession I’ve been in the past. This is because I was equally confident as well as way more prepared than I have been in the past.  Midweek I went out and got a dress to wear based on what my coach’s guidelines recommended, and kept my cool as the big day approached. Feeling prepared helped me relax into the mood that the task was at hand and I was ready.

Friday came along and I still just felt really calm and prepared. I left work a little early so I could see Josef (he was working a half day) and pet the doggie before I headed out to the audition. I had a little difficulty finding it because the directions were wrong AND the instructions failed to mention that the facility was part of a greater facility. No worries, though, as I was plenty early and Josef helped me find it when I called him.

I ran into a girl I actually know (she’s a real-deal professional actress, which is fun) and was able to get in the line pretty close the front (sweet!) right at 5:00 to get my number (#14). I knew the actual audition didn’t start until 6:00, so I came in street clothes and planned to change, knowing I’d have time.

Which I did. I had plenty of time. I was dressed and ready to go by 5:45, and went to sit and wait, thinking we’d start at 6:00. I kept my ipod on the recording of my last vocal session and kept listening to myself sing my song over and over. I had warmed up in the car and kept humming scales.

If you’re into people watching at all, you MUST go to an audition sometime. It’s such an interesting cross section of people.

There’s the group of really pretty girls, all gussied up. You’re supposed to be intimidated by them if you are not one of them.  They are roughly 18-22 years old. They have glossy long hair, the perfect (not too much) amount of makeup, perfect skin and teeth. And yet there’s still something a little unrefined about them; either they sit a little too much unladylike out of ignorance, or they have the ashen pallor of someone about to walk across coals or get a major tattoo, or they are freaking out because their nerves are so spent from worrying. Or, they spend the entire waiting time socializing, singing loudly and dancing around, which is almost like they are “auditioning” for you, the waiting audience, and you should see how great they are and just send yourself on home.

Then there are girls who want to be “different.” They wear loud print dresses with varying levels of skin revealed, loud and very tall shoes, and big hair. They are usually orange from too much tanning.

Then there are the girls who show up in shorts and a t-shirt, thinking this opportunity to be one not to take too seriously. They spend the entire waiting period freaking out because they realize just how underdressed they really are.

There’s a smattering of really cute kids auditioning for the show. Some are more savvy about the business, have been in past shows, and are quite precocious. I met one such young girl, I’ll call Starla, as I stood in line to sign in. She turned out to be #12.  She was extremely friendly in that way that makes you feel like, even though she’s a kid, she’s sizing you up.   All the same, it’s always nice to have pleasant conversation with folks, and since I like kids (I’m an aunt and I work in a school) I enjoyed chatting with her.  Through the course of the wait, Starla befriended tons of the other people auditioning.

In addition to Starla are some wide-eyed kids who clearly had little experience with this sort of thing. I felt badly for them, because they probably truly wanted to be there, but seeing kids like Starla and seeing lots of people who seemed to know what they were doing probably freaked them out.  A lot.  These less experienced kids cling to their mothers like baby livestock.

There were also some men, but not very many.

And there were Equity actors and actresses who showed up and got to go at the beginning of the line.

6:00 p.m. came and went. Everyone waited. Noise levels increased as the 100 or so people waited. The line kept growing of folks arriving to audition. They were the ones who looked the most perplexed, as they realized how late they were. (“I’m number 117. What number are they on? Oh, they haven’t even started???”)

6:30 p.m. came and went. See above. Change that quote in parenthesis to 149.

Folks are definitely antsy and getting upset, a captive bunch. The Pretty girls make snarky comments about the “different” girls. Teenagers bundle together to gossip, and a mixture of the pretty girls, different girls, and three teenage boys forms a clique. Interesting.

7:00 p.m. came. Finally, they called some high numbers, and folks realized these were the Equity actors. The really, really good people that will get all the leads. But that’s okay.

Starla gives one of the pretty girls a stick of gum. She winks at me as she flits by.

7:15 p.m. – not much movement, so I made my way to the front desk to stand and wait.  That’s when I find out the first group of 10 has already gone back to audition. None of us who had been less than 15 feet away had heard that announcement, so I was grateful I had moved closer to hear.

7:25 p.m. – I see my friend come of of the first group of auditions (she was number 4 I think). She tells me it went well and I am happy for her.

7:35 p.m. – They called my group!! They called my group!!!  Starla was in my group, so we gave each other reassuring smiles as our group gathered.

The ten of us march up lots of stairs. (This facility was awesome, by the way! Lots of practice rooms for everything music or dance related.)

I waited just a little while longer to sing, as they let all the kids in the group go first and then let some Equity Actors go. Then they got to going back to the sequence.

A man who was #11 came back from singing and said they were not allowing anyone to go over 16 bars, so if you were planning to sing more, we better make new plans.  Luckily, I was fine in my selection, as my vocal coach, who has worked with this company, told me my selection was fine.

Finally, it was my turn!

I went in, smiled, did everything I was told. I had decided earlier to really play up the comedy of my song snippet, and it paid off big time as the panel of 8 people really cracked up.  I know I had some timing issues with the accompanist, but it was because he played it differently than my vocal coach did. I didn’t react at all, just kept rolling and did the song on automatic, with some in-the-moment staging that just seemed to come about, which really worked out for the acting part. At one point, I heard my voice giving way to nerves but for once I was able to address it and hunker down to control it. I was going to do my best, no matter what!

I made them laugh!! That is so awesome that I got a reaction!! Usually, I’ve gone in there and they blandly say “thank you” to me so I’ll go away. But I know I nailed my high note and had a strong ending. And making them laugh means that I successfully conveyed my character’s emotions, so that felt like another form of success in and of itself.

I stayed for the dance audition just to further my chances of getting something. I am “more of a mover than a dancer” according to my voice coach, and he said that by not changing into dancewear I would indicate that I am not a serious dancer.

Starla, clearly a talented dancer at her tender young age, got to go in the adult group. She changed for her dance audition, too.  As we were stretching, she said that she had heard my song and that I had done great! It was incredibly sweet of her to say that, and I told her how sorry I was that I hadn’t heard her, as I was sure she was great, too.

“What did you sing?” I asked her.

“I sang ‘Let Me Entertain You’ from ‘Gypsy,'” she said, a confident twinkle in her eyes.  She knew she had rocked it.

I wondered to myself if she had any clue what the show is about, like in the second half.

The dance routine was challenging for me, but I would have picked it up with a little more time. Also, I didn’t realize we were auditioning the whole time we were learning it. I thought the dance teacher was going to make us go one by one. But then she got all our numbers (I was doing minimized motions of the routine, thinking we’d be going again) and sent us on our way. So, I was finally done!!

I have no idea what kind of impression I made. They had two more days of auditions to get through and I might not be right for any roles they need to fill, so I am choosing to be happy that I kept my cool, stayed focused, stayed confident, and gave my absolute best.  This would not have been possible without finding the best coach to address my issues.

That’s my most recent accomplishment, and I have to say, it feels great.

I feel great.

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One thought on “Let Me Entertain You

  1. Congrats on doing the audition. I never had the guts for any of that, beyond high school. Thanks for the description of the process; very interesting. And let us know how it all turns out. Good luck!

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