Monday, March 15, 2010

O How a Rose 'Er Blooming...

Auditions this Thursday for Praying Small. I'll be going in to read opposite people. I've always thought auditions to be a necessary evil in this business. I dislike them. On both sides of the table. And yet, like democracy itself, they are the best way to do it when compared to other ways.

I don't think we'll be seeing monologues like in a cattle call or anything. The scripts have been sent out to the company members, some 60 strong. Sides will be available at the audition (a "side" is a small portion of the script for the actor to read from). The director has some people in mind for certain roles, I believe, but he's open to changing that, I think, if someone really wows him.

I"m sure as the playwright I'll have some input, especially since I'm also playing the leading role, but ultimately it's up to the director. I suspect he'll have a great deal from which to choose.

Like most actors, I've had approximately ten thousand auditions, it seems. One in particular comes to mind.

I remember auditioning for 1940's Radio Hour years ago for a production in Connecticut. I had already done the show four times by then (eventually ended up doing six different versions of it). I knew the producers were interested in having me do Clifton Feddington in it. That's the sort of M.C. lead role, the character holding the whole thing together. I had just finished doing the role at Mill Mountain Theatre in Virginia. So, understandably, we were all asked to bring in sixteen bars of swing music. I think I brought in Under My Skin. Anyway, it was one of those auditions where they bring in ten actors at a time and then call us up to the stage one by one, the other nine sitting in the audience listening. Not uncommon. So one by one we would get up and sing our best sixteen. About five or six actors into the audition, a kind of frumpy girl got up, never seen her before, she had on a sun dress, no make-up, really very out of place. She was nervous beyond belief. Her hands and legs were visibly shaking. Her voice, when she introduced herself and her song, had a tremble to it. I was a little concerned for her. But that was just the beginning. Her song choice was "O' How a Rose 'Er Blooming," a nineteenth century parlor song. The kind you might hear accompanied by a harpsichord. She sang it with trembling voice, trembling arms and legs, nervous to the point of collapse. Unbelievably, no one cut her off. They let her finish. We, in the audience, were very uncomfortable. Clearly she was out of her league. And then, even more unbelievably, the music director said to her, "Listen, everyone's nervous today. Don't be. We want to hear the best you can do. We're on your side. Start from the beginning again, please, move a little closer to the mike, shut your eyes and pretend we're not here, and sing it again." What? What the Hell?

So she gratefully began again. (Stop reading right now if you have a weak heart.) Same thing. Trembling, embarrassingly nervous. This time they didn't even cut her off after sixteen bars. The let her sing the WHOLE SONG!

She finished, they thanked her from the dim audience seats and we all moved singer up.

I thought it was tremendously odd, but in time I sort of forgot about it. I got the role of Clifton Feddington, went into rehearsals and after four weeks or so opening night came around. We had a really good show. Killed 'em on opening night. Standing ovations, the works. Big opening night party planned at one of the producer's homes in Connecticut.

So there I am standing in the kitchen, drinking my beer, talking to someone, it's about two in the morning, everyone is kinda tipsy, both from drink and our success, when all of a sudden, VERY loud over the stereo speakers, comes "O, How a Rose 'Er Blooming" in all its nervous majesty. THEY HAD ASKED HER TO DO IT AGAIN SO THEY COULD TAPE IT FOR THE OPENING NIGHT PARTY!

Okay, okay, okay, really cruel. Really mean. Just a terrible thing to do.

God help me, I was laughing so hard I had to sit down.

See you tomorrow.