My friends were already at the theater when I arrived. At each exit on the highway, I had felt my hands wanting to turn the wheel, pull off, turn around, go home. I sang my song to drown out the monster whispering in my ear: Turn around. I've done it before and I'll do it again. You will fail tonight. You will fucking fail and I will win.
I just sang the stupid song again and told myself all I needed to do was get through it. I didn't need to get a part. Just getting through it would be enough. Just showing up. That's what I told myself.
At the same time, I believed every word the monster told me .... but I didn't turn around. I didn't take the easy exits that would lead to home and safety. I drove to the theater, pulled into the lot, parked, sat for a while. Finally I turned off my van and walked in.
And then came the dancing. Did I say I was out of my league? I was so out of my fucking league! Fortunately I wasn't the only one.
The choreographer did just what I expected. She taught us a dance and then expected us to perform it up to speed with music from the play. A reasonable expectation.
She was good. She broke it down by beats of 4, then 8. Then she put it together with the previous 8 beats until we had a short routine. A fun, Fosse-like routine that I wish I could do just for fun.
We went over and over it. I could only sort of do the steps even at slow speed. My brain knew what I should be doing; my body didn't respond though. It was like I was telling my feet to cross over, heel out, sink down .... I was watching Annette do it in front of me ..... and yet my feet took seconds to respond so I was thinking about the next step before my feet had done the last one .... and I kept running into my friend who was on my left because she really was dancing.
I apologized to her a couple of days later. She blew it off. I insisted. I said if that had been anybody but me, we both would have been complaining over a game of pool about what a fucking clumsy ass bitch I was and wondering why the fuck I thought I belonged at those auditions in the first place .... It's true.I felt like the donkey in donkey basketball.
In all, the dance probably took 20 seconds at full speed. It was the hardest workout I've done in years. It was like riding 30 miles on my bike in the space of 20 minutes.
I can dance, but I'm not a dancer. Yes, I've danced on stage, but this was some kind of Fosse shit -- that shit that looks so easy until you try to do it? It was that kind of dancing. I had every opportunity to learn that dance. She taught it to us in the big group as we collided and laughed and sweated and grunted. She broke the big group into 2 groups and taught it to us again while the other half rested. Then she called us up in groups of 5, went over it a couple more times, and then sat to watch us do it alone for her.
Did I say this shit was exhausting? People decades younger than me were holding their knees and crying. OK, maybe not crying. But they wanted to; I could tell. They'd already sweat their tears out.
Annette danced with every group, every time, except the 5 or 6 times she sat to watch. She worked harder than any of us and I'm not sure she was even sweating. I'd chalk it up to youth, but I think she's about my age.
Anyway, I got through the dance audition and felt pretty proud satisfied that I learned as much of it as I did, in spite of looking like a donkey. It was hard. Anybody who watched from the sidelines and judged should have gotten their asses out there and tried it. (Get it? Donkeys? Asses? Nevermind.)
Some of the younger girls really did get it, and by the time they auditioned in their small groups, they looked so graceful and confident doing that bitch of a dance, I wanted to cheer for them.
Am I starting to sound lighthearted about the audition? The dancing helped take my mind off the earlier disaster for a while. Learning the choreography was grueling and took total concentration. The hard workout burned off some of the adrenaline. I felt like an idiot, but I wasn't alone out there stomping and stumbling through the routine.
Finally it was over. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed wrapped in my failure. I didn't. I went with my friends across the street to a smoky little dive that has a couple of pool tables. We drank and played pool, laughed and got a little rowdy for a couple of hours.Written on a bar napkin that night.
Finally I went home to face the monster's ridicule. Yeah. It was almost as bad as the fucking audition.
Nobody bullies me like I do -- though some try.
The next morning a friend who is one of the most -- maybe the most -- respected directors in community theater here texted to ask how the audition went. I wanted to tell him I kicked ass, but all I said was that I got through it. The next day he texted to see if I'd been called back. I said I didn't expect to and no, I wasn't called back. He said at least it was a good experience. I said I was trying to believe that. I was so glad he hadn't seen it.
As far as I was concerned the monster won. Again. Maybe not such a resounding defeat as when I was 14, but I didn't even do well enough to call it a draw.
Sometimes when I face this phobia down, I feel successful, invigorated, ready to go back for more; I know I've landed a heavy blow. Other times, even getting through is still a failure. I know next time it will be just as bad. Sometimes -- like the Chicago audition -- success is as imperceptible to me as it is to others.
So why do it? Why go through it? I don't fucking know. I'm not Liza and I'm not Barbra and I'm not Meryl. It doesn't take much for me to get in over my head -- which I do regularly. And it's not like I'm saving lives. I'm not repairing cleft palates, or rescuing children from burning buildings, or designing the next Google.
Nothing in the world would change if I took a permanent seat in the audience.
I can't explain it. I just keep battering away at that fucking phobia.
The reason I didn't write this last week right after the audition is simply because I was depressed. I couldn't sleep; I was teary. I kept replaying the audition over and over and over, and feeling the same shame and humiliation. I gave up. Oh, I was pitiful, I was.
If you had asked me last week, I would have said I was done with theater. I would have said I'd never audition again -- not even a cold reading, which I love. And I would have meant it. I'm sick of being a fucking failure.
I ask the question again: Why do I that to myself? Why set myself up to fail again ... and again. I don't have to put myself in a position to be a loser. Plenty of people didn't have the nerve to stand up there and audition that night. People came just to watch. I don't have to be one of the few who gets up there and takes the risk. Why would I, when I know I'm just going to humiliate myself? I'm not a masochist. Why would I do that?
I don't like being in the phobia funk and I wanted out of it. I went over to Elvira's and played with Coraline. Baby smiles heal like nothing else. I went out with various friends, although I didn't take the mic at karaoke. Chicken Grrl and I booked a couple of paying gigs over the weekend. I kissed a cowboy. Plays end, but life goes on.
This week I went to a rehearsal for a reading and discussion of The Laramie Project a group of us are doing Friday. Yeah, I know. I said no more theater for me .... but I'd already made a commitment. I mean .... I couldn't let down my friends, right?
And I started thinking about what went wrong at that audition. What I didn't know going in that led to my failure. What I could have done different, better. Not that I'd ever do it again, of course. I'm finished with theater .... well, maybe not all theater. Maybe just musical theater. But what if I'd sung a different song ....chosen a lower key .... asked someone with more experience to coach me .....
to be continued ....
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