A happy mouse once said to me,
"Dear lady, won’t you set me free?"
"But are you trapped, my little one?
You look just like you’re having fun!”
"I am," he said. "But I’m not free."
And now the one who’s trapped is me.
What’s wrong with me?
What’s wrong with me?
Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with me.
I just need something good to do.
Perhaps that’s also wrong with you.
There’s nothing like making it to the final round in an audition to temporarily lift your spirits. Not being 5’6” was a big problem, but they still kept me to the end, down to the final three. So does that mean I have a 33% chance of booking the job?
Phantom had its 25th anniversary party in NYC last night. My sister worked the party. Combine that with the movie release of Les Mis and it’s pretty much the season of the ancient past coming back to haunt our family. I was six when this all began, and it’s not over, obviously, if people are still being nominated for awards for doing it, and spending millions of dollars on parties to celebrate it.
But it is definitely “a bygone era” by now. The Les Mis tour will barely make it two years, already slated to close. And we’ve got money on when Phantom Broadway gets their closing notice, now that the 25th feather is in their cap. Take a look at Broadway, otherwise. It’s a pretty sad scene. We’re so good at making shows look right. But that’s about all we’re good at, anymore.
Easy for me to say.
I got invited to a closed audition being held tomorrow night. Applying for the invation I sent them my materials, my resume blatantly stating, “Height: 5’2”, Weight: 100lbs, Hair/Eyes/Skin: Br/Br/Cauc.”
The invitation warns us that we’ll be dancing on sand and that there are no positions for anyone under 5’6”.
So do I go on the assumption that they wouldn’t have invited me if they weren’t interested in seeing me, for some reason, or do I heed their warning about my puniness being an automatic out?
Well duh of course I go.
Now, everything needs to come with a picture.
My mother sent me a teacup. My father has disowned me.
One of my dogs has a hot spot that won’t heal. My cat has a deformed foot. My stepdaughter is testing out life as a liar. My stepson has discovered how to say the word “shit” without getting in trouble.
I don’t have a job. I try to dance.
The other dog has chewing gum stuck in her beard.
I miss my sisters. I love when they send me pictures of things in their lives.
Remember when we used to go to the movies? Remember how we used to laugh. How we used to fight. How we used to dress, in any old thing. It would be night when we were walking home, and we’d eat too much.
I don’t have any pictures of that. I was going to take a picture of the dog with the chewing gum in her hair, but while I was typing she must have eaten it, because it’s gone. I could take a picture of the teacup, but it’s prettier in words. It’s gray-white porcelain with a pink English rose surrounded by a modest number of small green leaves.
Pretending I’m on vacation. Obsessing about what I eat and how I feel. I’m now the primary childcare source of our household because my husband is earning money at church and school. I’ve somehow accumulated four kids, three dogs, and a cat. So far they’re all fed and we’ve only had two episodes involving pee and one involving poop, and nobody has died. Success!
Today I applied for:
Show up too early and if they go by number you’re in the first group. That’s bad. Show up too late and you’re rushing to put on your shoes and there’s no time for a last minute pee. That’s bad.
Fishnets or bare legs? Fresh face or vamp makeup? Hair down is a must unless you’re going for something throw-back showgirl but hair down doesn’t mean unstyled. You want to look stage-ready, except for the fact that stage-ready, in a studio, looks whorish. Tired girls don’t get hired. Perfect a studio version of your stage-ready look. It’s gotta survive florescent light.
They’ll tell you what shoes to wear. No matter what the audition announcement says, bring everything: character heel, latin heel, jazz sneaker, flat jazz, ballet flat, pointe, tap. Invest in the best. Cheap shoes might look just like their Italian cousins but they don’t handle slippery floors at all and you’ll struggle to find your balance in a turn. Make sure you have a bottle of water in the room with you; if the floor is especially vicious dampening the soles of your shoes can usually buy you a bit of grip.
On your bod should be something that flatters your figure while also having a little personality of its own. Do not waste energy trying to disguise your flaws. Ignore them and focus on looking good. As with performance, where you put your focus is where they put their focus. You can’t hide from what you are, but you can advertise what’s great about it. It’s also important to note that, when talking amongst themselves, they’ll probably refer to you by the most unique thing you were wearing. “Green shoes was good, a little chesty, but good. Sunshine shirt has the look but no technique. Feather earrings was all over the place, the dance captain would probably quit if we hired her.”
Put your resume together professionally but don’t invest too much money or energy in it. A good resume cannot improve what they think of your dancing, although a bad resume CAN detract from what they think of YOU. Don’t lie but do inflate things to their full potential. Be concise. They’ll only focus on the details of your past if they’re seriously considering you for a hire, so write your resume from that perspective. “This is the foundation upon which I’m going to deliver for your show.”
Do invest in a good headshot. Use as accessible a photo as possible to show that you’re a canvas for any look. Do invest in quality printing but do not blow the bank on this, as 90% of the photos you hand out will be thrown away. Aim to feel confident in how you look on paper, but never forget that these things can’t keep you from getting the job if you’re perfect for it, and won’t help you get the job if you don’t make it on their list by virtue of performance.
Once you’re in the room, execute tasks as though you’ve already been hired (provided you’re a thorough and diligent worker). Find things to like about the steps and the choreography, and find moments in it that you love dancing. Find “your way” of doing the steps that feel awkward or present a real challenge. DO listen to notes they give about details and make a conscious effort to show you are thinking about them, but do not sacrifice an overall good performance to nailing each of those things. They want to see you can think about something and work on it while still being awesome.
Don’t be fake, not to other auditioners, and not to the panel. Let yourself be as nervous as you are. Nine times out of ten if you say, “Ok I’m nervous” you immediately start to see how this doesn’t matter as much as your nerves are pretending. If something disappointing happens that’s when most people overreact. Acknowledge that that wasn’t awesome, then redirect to finding the awesome again. This includes getting cut. Getting cut sucks and you feel like crap when it happens. Every successful person has been asked to grab their bag and leave the room while others stayed and danced on. That is disappointing but if you think about it, it’s also part of the awesome. Leave it there, and move on.
Be kind to people who aren’t able to control their reactions and disappointments. If they’re crying give them space. If they’re too uptight with nerves to respond to a smile or a greeting, don’t hold it against them. If they’re posturing and snarking in a loud obnoxious voice, see the insecurity that amplifies their vapid comments and be glad that’s not you.
Be happy when good things happen. To you and to others. Enjoy watching the dancers you admire. Enjoy watching them succeed. Enjoy it when you do well, whether or not you end up with the gig. Tell others when you like their dancing, and enjoy it when things happen that validate your abilities. Enjoy it when you’re perfect for the job. Enjoy the whole process. It’s so much more exciting than whatever you’d do if you decided it’s too hard.
How beautiful my hands and arms look in the diffuse stage light, cutting through shadows, floating, musical.
How exciting it is to step out of the wings into the spotlight, to look right out into it, totally blinded.
How powerful it is, the sound of 1800 people clapping, cheering, on their feet shouting, and how special it feels, to stand inside of that noise on a bright-flooded stage and take your bow.