This week, I had my first singing audition in thirty years, and it was not like any singing audition I can remember. It was for a musical, and we had to learn songs as a group on the spot—including one in three part harmony—and then sing each solo or with a group. This was interspersed with cold readings from the play, “The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee.” I felt grateful for the cold readings because I’ve worked a lot on those, on taking my time, controlling the time, and really using cold readings as an opportunity to play and to act, so that was the fun part. The singing, however, was like walking through fire. The first song was for a soprano and I’m a mezzo, and I was so nervous the paper was shaking in my hand. But I did it and I hit all the notes—albeit the high ones at a belt, even though earlier that day I’d sung much higher during my voice lesson. Any anxiety or nerves tightens up the muscles and my well-warmed up voice has gone out the window.
By the second song, I have enough courage to make some acting choices, which I hope will show something of what I can offer, even if it turns out they don’t get to see my vocal chops tonight because I’m just not used to the heightened nerves of the situation, and, admittedly, I’m just now coming into my full voice after three years of voice lessons—three years crammed into a very busy life.
Now, I had several gigs singing with a band during this time, and was rarely nervous then, but that’s because I was too busy concentrating on the bass I was playing at the time and the bass was this big beautiful thing I could hold up between me and the lovely audience. And I wasn’t auditioning. I was there. The audience was going to give me something afterwards, except for the occasional “good job” or thumbs up.
Mainly, when I’m acting, I’m righted from head to toe and toe to head. Everything straightens out in me. Sure, it’s nervewracking, but once I’m in the performance space, it’s like coming home, and there’s a buzz in my fingers and toes. I think acting was always in my bones, though this right feeling didn’t come until I performed in New York City at the Atlantic Theater as part of the 24 Hour Plays in May of 2005. It was like a dream come true to perform at David Mamet’s off-Broadway theater space on a dark night. The 24 Hour Plays are kind of a nightmare that always end like a dream come true. Essentially, 6 short plays are written, rehearsed, and performed (off-book) in a 24 hour period. I’d participated as a producer in the past, but I never had the experience of acting in the plays. In New York, around 5:30 or 6 PM, as I was running lines with one of my scene partners, I thought, this is a stupid idea, and acting is really stupid. What am I thinking? I never want to do it again.
However, that feeling completely disappeared the moment I stepped under the stagelights and started sweeping the floor, and then, when I got my first laugh from the 200 audience members, I was won, forever, to the acting.
I haven’t had as much time to act as I’d like. Illness and other distractions (such as living in small towns without much opportunity) has kept me from it for spells, but I never feel like myself when I don’t incorporate into my weekly routine. This means, that for the past several months, I’ve been a half-person, so I was grateful for one evening playing on stage.
Writing this, I wonder, what would it take to make it my life. Could I really make a leap of faith, quit my job, and move to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, and do what my body is meant to do? Stay posted. . .