Journey with me back to my 20s any time I got an audition appointment. And witness me careen through the 12(?) stages of casting madness.
Stage 1: (212) area code calls. Hello, BroadWAY?
2: What’s the project? When’s it open? Who’s directing? What clever joke will I use for my custom opening night favors?
3: Wait, I have to learn the audition packet.
4: Better call my acting teacher, vocal coach, and numerologist.
5: Wait, look at the sides and the music!
6: Obsess. “What’re the table people looking for?” Examine the character breakdown forty-seven times to unlock the cypher that’ll reveal the perfect acting choices. (The numerologist didn’t come through on this.)
7: Finally, learn the material — enough so that I think that I know it, but not so much that I pour too much heart into it and get disappointed. And not enough to be in-my-body prepared when audition adrenaline kicks in. I can always blame it on self-sabotage.
8: Get to the audition right on time, maybe 90 seconds late depending on subways, humidity, and elevators.
9: Go in, smile, do the thing too quickly, look at my papers too much, and check in for signs of validation from the table folk.
10: Leave. Replay the event. Analyze every comment, question, and yawn for the next three days.
11: Check my phone every seven minutes to see if I missed a call from a (212).
12: The phone rings! It’s another audition. Repeat.
You need a breath? I do.
Last week, I chatted with a grad student who came to Boston from NYC; he was still adjusting to the SLOWER pace in Boston. I said I felt like New York was a neurosis nursery.
Not only were your hangups welcomed, but you could find two or three folks to sit with you at the Renaissance Diner and jib jab about commitment ambivalence for several hours.
The other morning on the train, I saw pieces of the afore-described brain torture show up.
I was batting around a couple book ideas. As I brainstormed, I wrote, “I’m afraid I’ll spin away at these ideas and then have nothing to SHOW for my work.”
Then I wrote down, “Show who?”
Well, I did write “whom,” but I didn’t wanna look like a complete grammar tool.
Isn’t that funny? That expression? “Nothing to show for all my hard work.”
Seriously, to whoM are we showing these outcomes?
The 12 steps of tryout crazy you read above — all of those brain-guish exercises rely on imagining that someone’s looking at you.
Many of us walk around with an imaginary committee opining on our choices, thoughts, and dreams.
Comprised of a junior high bully, the teacher who said the thing that time, a nemesis, and chaired by a composite Disney villain step-parent, this imaginary crew influences our day to day.
You get so used to them that you act (or don’t) anticipating their reactions.
May I offer a suggestion?
Why did you make up this crew in the first place?
They probably started as your safety commission–a benevolent team that helped you navigate your early years: this big person likes it when you smile; this big person prefers you stay quiet; whatever you do, don’t tell this big person how you really feel about body piercings.
We become big people with our little people still running the back-end operations.
So, that’s why we say thank you.
This committee’s been seated to help us steer clear of all manner of life-threatening banishment.
Their continued influence does get us all wiggle waggle when our bodies look like adults, though, doesn’t it?
Rather than our vision resting calmly inside us looking out to the world, we jerk the cables around and lock in to selfie stick mode. Then we’re selfie stuck.
So here’s some help —
👃🫁 Breathe. Through your nose. Small inhale, long exhale. About a minute.
🙏 Say, “Thank you, committee-that-I-made-up-to-keep-me-safe.”
🏞 Face the lens outward.
Repeat as needed.
Then you’ll open-hearted see the outside while you have grace for your inside.
You’ll say things like, “Self, you get to try things out; Self, go ahead feel your feels; Self, it’s cool how you got to show up on the planet with all these other billions of selves.”
It’s a sweet place to be, I’ve found.
Hey, by the way, how’s your singing coming along? Are you enjoying it?
How’re your auditions in this post apocalypse self-tape landscape? (apocalypse in Greek actually means uncovering, and wow have things been uncovered, right?)
If you’ve hit snags, I can help you.
Email me and let me know what’s going on. Let’s talk.
If you’re in NYC or LA and want to meet with a real live human, I can recommend folks.
Or we can always hop on the Zoom and hash it out. Write me and ask me. Hit that reply button. I’m here for you.
Above all, remember that there’s only one you, and folks do indeed need to hear the story only you can sing.
ps Happened upon this Tim Minchin feature on YouTube (You may know him as the composer for MATILDA). He talks about the fame experience as well as the camera-turned-toward-you phenomenon. Interesting journey.
pps Have you ever read the Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle? I did yesterday, and one of the things encapsulates this dual-vision thing I’m talking about: “If I’m not for me, who am I? Nobody. Yet, if I’m only for me, what am I? Nothing. If not now, when?” He uses a lot more exclamation marks, though.
ppps And remember if you’re struggling with roadblocks vocal, creative, or career path, email me. Your singing can be free, your creativity flowy, and your work satisfying and clear. Tell me what’s going on. I’ll help you.