WARNING: This post is not mostly about writing. If you’ve come here expecting a big ol’ post about writing, sorry. I’ve had an adventure further afield.

Yesterday I went on my first audition for a musical in a long time. Why in the world would I do this? Why the sudden urge to put myself through something as nerve-wracking as a singing audition if I didn’t have to? Was someone holding a Nine to my head and counting back from five? No.

One reason is Tom (husband) is now Mr. Theatre (yes, with the pretentious “re” ending), and that was all my fault because I gave him acting lessons for his birthday and the rest is history. He has been making chicken noises around the house to shame me into auditioning for something. So the short answer as to why I auditioned is, I had to shut up the chicken.

But the other answer is, I wanted to. And I’ve finally accumulated enough self-confidence and courage to do it. I was a theater major, but I never auditioned for anything after graduating (and precious little while in college, truth be told) because I was in New York and never thought I was anywhere near good enough. Since I never auditioned, we’ll never know if I was right.

After a certain theater person nudged me to audition for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which the Vintage Theatre is doing this spring, I started taking voice lessons. Then the audition announcement came out and I took a deep breath, figuratively closed my eyes, and signed up. I was committed. The chicken lost a few decibels.

As the audition date neared, I grasped for analogies, as I am wont to do. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I can’t help myself. I decided it was like riding in a dressage show. I am a complete newbie to the performance side of the theater scene in general, and the Denver theater scene in particular. I equate this with having a dressage horse who is serviceable, but not what anyone would call spectacular. My lovely mare, Brooke, is a thoroughbred who is built downhill (NOT good for dressage); in dressage shows, we would have to compete against warmbloods who were imported from Europe because that’s where you go if you want a truly spectacular dressage horse. In a dressage show, you have to ride a “test,” or a pattern of movements that you memorize. In a musical audition, you prepare a song. In dressage, you can’t control who rides against you, all you can control is your ride. You practice and practice and prepare and prepare; you bathe your horse and braid her mane; you polish your good boots; you get to the show early and warm up appropriately. You go into the ring on time and ride your test as accurately as you can. That’s the part you can control. You hope that the riders with the European warmbloods will not ride as accurately as you, and then you have a shot at beating them.

Same with singing. In my analogy the European warmbloods are the established Denver theater actors, the cadre of performers who know each other and who the directors know, too. To compete against them, all I could do was practice my song until I knew it backward and forward. I chose a dress to wear that was close to what the character I wanted to play would wear. I got a mani/pedi with deep red polish, again because the character would have done the same. I drank lots of water and warmed up in the car on the way in. I told myself I could do it.

And then I did it. I rode an accurate test. I did everything my voice teacher told me to do, I took my time, I “owned” the stage, and I sang my song. I was on key, I was in character, I was loud, I belted the high note I used to fear. As far as I could tell, I did exactly what I wanted to do. I was nervous, yes, but it was the same kind of nervous I’d get at a horse show—not debilitating, but I shook a little. But I rode through the nerves, as it were. And as Tom pointed out, I wouldn’t have to worry about my voice careening out of control, jumping off the stage and galloping out of the theater, throwing me to the sidewalk in the process.

Now it’s up to the theater gods. This is where it’s helpful that I’m trying to get a book published, because if you’re going through the traditional route to get your book published, the pace is glacial. Grass in winter grows much faster. Children can be conceived and born in less time. You wait MONTHS for someone to read your query/partial/manuscript. It’s the nature of the beast. In this audition process, there’s another audition next week, for dance. Callbacks are two weeks after that. Then, presumably, they announce the cast within the following week. That’s what, four weeks, tops? Four weeks? CHILD’S PLAY! That’s would be a lightning round in publishing. I can do that standing on my head.

So now the audition is in the history books. Almost three months and hundreds of dollars later, my five minutes are over. But I did it. I did it and I’m proud of myself. It was scary and I did it anyway. Sure it took a few years of horse showing to properly prepare me (who knew?), but that’s okay too.

Oh, and the chicken has been silenced.

  • Scary cloud, like the ones that were making me all worried and stuff.

    This post is a violent act of procrastination. Yep, I’m entirely and completely avoiding working on my manuscript because…well, because I have to go on a flight from Nashville to Denver and there are thunderstorms en route and I’m sure it’ll be bumpy and I’ve developed an annoying turbulence phobia. Me. Someone who works in the aviation industry, with pilots, and has had them explain turbulence and how the planes are built to fly through it and pilots do their best to avoid it and of all the zillions of flights every year that experience turbulence there are precious few incidents and…blah blah blah. Doesn’t matter. I’m a turbulence wimp. It’s pathetic.

    So what I’m hoping is, I’ll get so involved in revising THROWN during the flight, I won’t be bothered so much. This has happened before, so I have reason to believe it could happen again.

    I’ve had a bit of a discouraging email since my last post. An agent I was hoping would like my writing (let’s face it, I hope every agent likes my writing, but I had met this one and thought she was more likely to like my writing than your average bear), alas and alack, did not. I did not float her boat, nor did I knock her socks off. She was not wowed or gobsmacked. She was nonplussed and maybe even bored and/or annoyed.

    Oh well. Now I know. And seriously, I’ve hardly been out there in the trenches getting buffeted by dozens and dozens of brutal rejections. I have little right to complain.

    It makes me both less and more determined to get published. Right after I read it, I thought, “Yes, I am a terrible writer!” The agent never said anything like that, but that’s how I interpreted it. Then, after telling Tom and his friend Cindy what the agent wrote, and emailing with Joanne Kennedy (who I’ve dubbed my “publishing shrink” and whose latest book, Tall, Dark and Cowboy is my reading material for those times in flight when I can’t use electronic devices), I decided that it’s just one person’s opinion and someone else out there will love it and want to represent me. I just have to work really hard at rewriting it and make it sparkle even more brightly.

    I know this all builds character, but really. Do I need THAT much more character? I went to a Catholic girls’ school, for heaven’s sake! Apparently so.

    If I let this come full circle, my fear of turbulence may echo my fear of writing. Not a fear of writing exactly, but fear of making revisions that don’t sparkle enough. What if I spend hours and hours and hours rewriting to deepen my characters, and I send THROWN off to that agent who asked me to revise it, and she doesn’t think it’s all that great? What if I get a big “Meh”??!

    As I often do with myself when I worry, I go to the next logical step. Okay, what if I DO get a big meh? What if the agent doesn’t like it? I’ll have an arguably better book and I can cross another agent off my list. I’ll send it to other agents until I find someone who loves it. And if I run out of agents, then I’ll figure something else out. Self-publishing, maybe. Or not. But whatever the case, a meh isn’t the end of the world.

    Update: On my flight back to Denver, there were a few mild bumps, but nothing that made my stomach drop or made me clutch the armrests in abject terror. That’ll learn me to worry about some stupid low-pressure system! In other words, the turbulence turned out to be a big meh.