All I Got Out of This Audition Was A Lousy Peppermint Candle And A Small Sense Of Accomplishment

I had a major breakthrough this week, and while I'm not exactly blushing with pride, I do feel a good bit of accomplishment.  Drum roll please... (knowing that after the drumroll you will be thoroughly underwhelmed) Thursday I auditioned for my first musical in New York!

I had two that I was interested in, both of them for possible replacement spots on currently running Broadway (Chicago) and Off-Broadway (Avenue Q) shows.  I had plenty of notice to prepare, and yet... postponed that preparation.  My mind said I needed to get ahold of a pianist and go over my 16-32 bar audition pieces.  My wallet told me I didn't have enough funds, and my chorus of ever present demons chimed in that I didn't really know an available pianist (forget about the fact that I have friends who audition and know pianists and that if I put in some effort I could get ahold of one).  

 A few of their favorite ditties were (are):
  • The "What if it comes out in cracks and croaks, you've had a sore throat lately" Blues
  • The "Are you prepared enough" Samba
  • The "You're Too Fat" Polka.  
  • The "Where the Fuck Are You Going To Practice, You Have Roommates and Thin Walls" Rag
I had a bit of a crisis the night before the first audition, as buried in sheet music, I tried to pull myself together.  I called a couple friends for support, floundered in pages of music, and ultimately let my demons win that particular battle.  At the end of the night I resolved to skip the first audition and focus all my efforts on the second.

Of course, two nights later I was again covered in sheet music.  I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be at that short of a time frame, so I pulled out a book entitled The Enraged Accompanist's Guide To The Perfect Audition.  This was not helpful reading material at that particular moment.  It did help me to see that:

  1. My "book" (the book of sheet music one carries to every audition in case they are asked to sing another selection) wasn't big enough
  2. I didn't have an index of songs- fuck, I didn't really even have a book!  I had four songs, many of which have been over sung and over heard
  3. I didn't have tabs to clearly separate the songs.
  4. I didn't have separate copies of each song in 16 and 32 bar versions.
What was the fucking point?  If you can't do it right...?

I nearly dumped the whole thought of auditioning, and yet, in spite of my nerves, I plugged on.  In these circumstances it helps that I am relatively self-aware and know that I always get these kinds of crazy nerves right before a show opens or an audition, or a first date, or a job interview, and I knew that these would pass and they didn't mean the end of my personal world.  It also helped that my dear friend and roommate was there to coax me through.

As a result of my perseverance, I was up the next morning, book in hand, and out the door bright and early.  I was about thirtieth in the line to audition, which ain't bad, and I remained pretty positive and up-beat for quite a while.  Admittedly, this became a little more difficult as time went on.    Why?  Because an audition room, overflowing with distressed "musical theatre people" and all the over the top antics that term implies, is essentially a theatrical war zone.

The first of us there line up around the perimeter of the room and sit in the seats.  Everyone else has to line up behind us in a kind of snaky indecipherable line.  God help you if you unknowingly enter the room and sit in what you think is a crowd of haphazardly arranged people.  You will undoubtedly be told in no uncertain terms, by a girl with false eyelashes, ankle boots and a panda bear hat, that you are "fucking up the line".  A nasal voiced gay man will then tell you where to go.  He tells you this not because he has any skin in the game, but because he has been jumping into the middle of everyone's conversation and giving "advice" on how to behave.  Amongst the other catty and awful things I hear him say, he freely admits that he is "that guy" at the audition.  I don't disagree.

Of course, there were plenty of sweet people, open faced and slightly hesitant, and had I not been in survival mode myself, I would have taken comfort in them.  Perhaps I would have remembered that everyone was feeling a little insecure and deep down we were all afraid that we did not belong in that room.  But I couldn't think about that because I was too concerned about the red head who came in squealing and knew EVERYONE in the room.  Watching her make the rounds was a bit like watching a playlet entitled I Know All The People In This Audition Room and I Deserve To Be Here by Bitsy Rothschild.  It didn't help that the play she was performing for us all was a musical.  No joke.  She literally sang everything she said.  "I'm so happy to come to auditions so I can see all my frieeeeeeeeeeeends!"  

Eventually it came time to sign up and I signed up for a spot early enough so that I wouldn't have to leave and come back later in the afternoon.  Before I headed out the door for a while, the monitor reminded us all that we had to be back at least ten minutes before our call time or our spot would be given away.  I'd been to other auditions and seen people go home in tears because they came into the room three minutes after their name had been called.  These Equity Monitors mean business.

I headed out to the city, wondered around, had breakfast, and wondered into A Whole Foods Store.  It was my first time in one in six months, as they don't litter the streets in NYC like they do in Austin.  Being there felt like coming into contact with a very welcome piece of home, and I found the perfect holiday candle, on sale, in a mason jar with a silver top and a red bow.   Peppermint Vanilla.  I hadn't been able to decorate my apartment for Christmas and it had left me a little blue.  I had decorated for Christmas every year since I moved out of my folks house.  This year there wasn't a stick of Christmas in our apartment, and I at least wanted it to smell like Christmas in the apartment, even if it wouldn't look like Christmas.  I went away with a little paper bag full of peppermint dreams and headed back up to the audition.  

At this moment my issues with space and directions nearly undid me.   I couldn't remember where the holding room was for the audition, and by now the hallway was abuzz with other auditions.  I finally found what seemed like my room, and yet it turns out that one big wood floored room with a bunch of folding chairs lining the mirrored wall looks a lot like another. As a result I spent ten minutes waiting in the holding room for Shuffle Along before I realized my mistake and raced to the right one just a minute before my spot would have been given away.

After all of that, the audition itself was pretty uneventful.  I wasn't amazing, but I didn't shame myself either.  The pianist and the auditioned were very nice, seemed pleased enough, and before I knew it, it was over.  I was not asked to sing something else, and I don't know if that's a blanket dismissal, and yet, I was proud.  I had broken the seal.  I had tested the waters of musical auditions and not been scalded.  

The realization on the way back to my apartment that I had left my precious Peppermint candle on the 2 Train soured my outlook a little.  But over all, I'm claiming it as a victory against the demons within.  

Can I Get A V?
...You know the rest.
Joe Hartman