It is a well-known fact that non-Music Dance Theatre majors never really get into the BYU musicals. Course that’s what they said about non-drama people in high school, and the male lead of every musical of my high school career was a random unknown, never-did-theatre guy who just showed up out of nowhere. It is nonetheless generally acknowledged that acting or theatre students haven’t a prayer of getting in, so most don’t even try. As I asked around to see if anyone I knew was trying out for White Christmas, this fall’s musical, I got identical smirks and ranty, uninvited explanations about how rigged the whole thing is anyway.
Knowing then, that I had a snowball’s chance, I decided to go to the audition anyway and perform with confidence absolute. I did my little bit from Here Comes the Groom (little known Bing Crosby film) and sang a little section of good ole Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, which I am contractually obligated as a German major to tell you does not represent correct German pronunciation.
I walked out of that audition feeling exactly fine about it. I would not be surprised if I was completely overlooked by the director and nor would I be surprised if I got called back on the spot. You can’t imagine the comfort of coming out of a thing like that feeling exactly fine. As vanilla as it may sound to you, it is crisp satisfaction to me. In my recent history, particularly upon leaving musical auditions, I either feel like vomiting or cursing like a sailor (don’t worry, I resist both impulses).
The part that eats me up about a bad audition is that I am really good at making a personal connection from the moment I enter the room. I make a really clever, off-the-wall comment and the director and the choreographer are equally sold on my being someone they’d like to work with. We get so involved in chatting that we forget that we have a relationship of the judge and the judged. The giggling subsides and I present the (generally poorly prepared) material I’ve brought along and faces fall and awkwardness ensues.
It’s ok to fail if you’re just a blur of unmemorable face in a crowd of other forgettable persons, but once you got ‘em sold on your personality, it’s just embarrassing to have them rethink after seeing your performance. It’s like watching someone you know say something silly in a group setting or seeing a grown man get knocked over in a game of dodge-ball with a bunch of teenagers.
To know them and begin to respect what they’ve got to offer is shattered by vulnerability (and not the good kind) and it’s uncomfortable for all. I’ve developed this nervous tick reaction to these experiences, a little something I like to call the broken record. Out loud to myself in the car, it’s not pretty, not worth explaining, not pretty, not worth explaining, NOT PRETTY, NOT WORTH EXPLAIN—you get the idea.
But I walked out of this audition feeling exactly fine.
Not wanting to lose this feeling of fineness, I went into the mandatory dance call the next evening with just as much confidence. I have no delusions about my ability to dance (in this case tap dance—even worse), but I decided to think of it as a free tap lesson and an opportunity to get inspired by a bunch of really talented people. I walked in and it was like something out of some ridiculous movie. The director turned the time over to the choreographer and without any small and certainly no pep talk, she yelled “5-6-7-8!” and the dancing commenced.
Despite feeling as silly and incapable as I’ve ever felt (with my slippers completely inaudible as everyone else’s taps echoed around me), I decided to keep on a smile on and figure things to smile about as I went along. This seems a rather elementary experiment, but you can only learn from a thing like this if it’s in measured timeframe. You can’t just say “I’m going to smile more,” the air is already leaking out of that tube, you have to say “I’m going to smile through this one group project or this one audition” and then you learn on a small scale what that could do for you on a large scale.
And it worked. I botched every bit of the thing, but genuinely smiled at the realization that the waltz is a dance that is preprogrammed into my soul. It was an epic fail in every sense of the word, but a boy I barely know came up to me during the audition and said, “Can I just say, you are absolutely adorable. No matter what, you’ve got the most pleasant look on your face.” Now there’s a reason for my decisive smile to have meaning. The choreographer was giving people dance scores on a scale of 1 to 10 and I couldn’t have gotten more than a 2, but I left that audition feeling the way I felt about the audition—exactly fine.
I want to learn to replicate this kind of audition experience. I didn’t even get the call back—surprise, surprise—but I want to live in such a way that I feel content to be where I am and not somewhere in the past or future (or the parallel ‘if only’). On my way out to the car from the dance call, the car nose to nose with mine honked and this beautiful man walked up behind me and said “Ha—sorry, just couldn’t find my car.” I giggled and said something foolish about “ain’t that always the way,” but having this random dimpled blond in slacks and a dress shirt talk to me seemed like someone handing me a crisp hundred dollar bill because I was already basking in contentedness so any experience from there could only be some delicious topping.
I don’t plan to be satisfied with doing poorly, but White Christmas reminded me that in addition to the tumult and the inner struggle that I’m so fond of perceiving in myself, I have a well of strength, which can validate me from within without looking for outer gratification. If I can learn to draw from that well freely, I can grow to be the person that not only gets the callback, but the person that plays the part.