This past week was a hard one for me, and not because of the SAHM thing. Not because Chicago was undergoing a heatwave and outside, it was, to quote a line from the defunct HBO series, Rome, “as hot as Vulcan’s d—k.” It was because I went to an audition. Yes, I dared to take my one-class-a-week, chasing-after-toddlers, sleep-depraved ass to an audition for the Chicago Lyric Opera’s production of Show Boat.
And I rocked it. I made it all the way to the end, along with five other African-American women. They took my measurements for costumes for the love of God. They let us know that four women, three company members and a swing, would be needed, and the other two would be cut.
Everyone was congratulating me, telling me how well I'd danced. No one could believe I had two little kids and was pushing, ummm, rhymes with shorty. I was sure I had it. Finally it would be my turn. Avenged for The Color Purple, when I flew to NYC, made it to the end and no cigar. It couldn’t happen again. IT COULD NOT. That would be grossly unjust. I had a family to help support, not to mention a kid in preschool and one in daycare. Surely I’d get the job.
I did not get the job.
The following day, at almost 4 p.m., I got the phone call. The kids were asleep. I was still hopeful when I raced to the phone, and answered. I suspected something was not good when I was waiting all day, but, hey, I’ve been called all times of day to be rejected and accepted. But the voice on the other end of the line was halting, not sunny. She asked me how I was doing. Why ask how someone is feeling if you’re going to tell her they’ve won? It’s if you’re about to tell someone a loved one’s just driven off a cliff, that’s when you’re concerned. Maybe your news is going to make them swallow a bottle of pills or fall on a carving knife. When she told me “Unfortunately, we're not going to be needing you this time,” my voice got really small. I wanted to ask why. Was it my height? My dancing? What? But what was the point? They didn’t want me. I got the audition rejection equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me.” She said, “We were very impressed with your audition. We will keep you on file if anyone backs out.” I thanked her, said good-bye and hung up. Shocked and stung.
I didn’t tell anyone about going. I know a few close friends are reading this and going, “Huh?” It was kind of like the first trimester of pregnancy when you keep your news to yourself so if it doesn’t work out you have no explaining to do. I was hoping to spring the good news on everyone. Now, in need of comfort, I called my best friend, Tara, a former ballerina who had danced for Suzanne Farrell and Christopher Wheeldon. She was surprised and proud of me for going, and made me see what a coup it was for the mother of two little kids, a woman who does so little for herself, who rarely takes class, to make it so far. “But why is it never me?” I blubbered to her like a child. “How come it’s never me?” Tara made me realize that I had a decent career, and that if I wanted to audition I should keep going.
That’s the thing. Can I keep going? That job was perfect for me. They needed three black females proficient in musical theater. Not ballerinas, not contemporary divas, but old school, musical theater jazz babies. Do I have the energy and the self-esteem to keep putting myself through this? Do I have the wherewithal to compete with twenty-somethings who are in fabulous shape? To lose jobs to people with less training, less experience around whom I danced circles? And to know that that’s just the business, that’s just the way things are?
I know it’s beyond my control, and I have to believe what Tara said. I have started to heal. The big difference this time is my children. When I looked at Riley and Aria’s little smiling faces the morning of the audition, I thought no matter what happens, I still come home to this. Disappointed or not, I have to be there for them. Before kids, I would have spent the day wallowing, bawling to everyone who’d listen. I would have seriously considered setting fire to my dancewear and running to the nearest Taco Bell to put in an application. I would have been two steps short of needing either medication or an intervention. (Yes, I take these things pretty hard.) Now I have no choice but to be Mommy. It’s a pretty powerful distraction -- an amazing way to stay out of my head. (Except when I started weeping openly at what a failure my life had become when Aria removed half-chewed food from her mouth, tossed it cavalierly to the floor, dumped out her bowl and I had to crawl around on the floor to clean up). When I told Riley that they didn’t want me to do the show, he said, “Probably then I will have to do it.” Not sure what he was thinking, but it was super cute. He continues to give me hugs whenever I look sad.
So will I keep going? I think I have to for as long as I can. Dance is too much a part of me. Maybe I’ll get another show by the time I’m 50. And talk about a coup! As long as a show is right for me, why not try? Also, auditions are somewhat fun outside of the rejection factor, which is very tough on your ego. You see old friends and make new ones. You sweat, learn some new choreography and perform. It’s a huge personal challenge – emotional and physical. Then there’s the fact that I’d love to show my kids tenacity (but not stupidity, as in staying too long at the fair) as well as how to deal with setbacks. (Say what you will about my taking spiritual guidance from a lululemon bag) And boy did that audition give me some good material for this blog. I may not have gotten the show, but I still have a new stage! Ba-dum-bum Bum!
MOM'S NEW STAGE would love to hear your most memorable audition story - be it good, bad or particularly ugly! For non-performing artists - any submission/application process will do. Please include your story in the comments to this post or in an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions are eligible for inclusion in a future post. Please include your name, city and state, as well as your e-mail address so that I can contact you with any questions. Thanks!