Ba-dum-pum (sigh.)

These days, my singing gigs outnumber my acting gigs. But I still have a finger in the pot... is that what they say? Hm, ew.
In any case, I look back every once in a while and remember the old slog of auditioning. Not that I ever really auditioned as much and as consistently as some of my very talented, constantly-working colleagues. After a particularly gruelling audition, I'd look at myself and think, who the hell would choose to be an actor?! You spend your waking hours praying to the gods of paycheques to help you book a Mr. Clean ad so you can pay your rent, only to be told you're too tall, or too short, or too young, or too old, or not blond enough (Mr. Clean is bald, not blond!) You spend what paltry wage you make waiting tables on over-priced acting classes and hair dye.... not to mention the money you dropped in College or University or both to earn your arts degree.

So what's in it for the actor? Who would put themselves through that? Actors are some of the most thoughtful, creative, vivacious people on the planet. We live on inspiration and affirmation, on passion and understanding, on knowledge and discovery. We may live on all those things, and though we may be resilient, we also die a little inside upon every humiliation.

When it comes to auditioning, I've certainly had my share of humiliation. But mostly of my own fault. Something happens sometimes within me. A wild impulse. A crazy voice that, in a time of stress, says "this will be funny..." I suppose it's like that little devil that appears on a character's shoulder in a old Warner Brothers cartoon. However, it seems my opposing angel is a mute. Or just stoned.

Let me illustrate this point: in one instance I was called in to audition for a local show in Toronto, produced by young, hip go-getters. The audition requirements asked actors to prepare a contemporary monologue and a song. I waltzed into the room, confident and happy, secure with who I was and what I was doing. I performed my monologue to a quiet but focused panel of auditioners, some of whom I had already met before. They beamed, affirming my sense that I had rocked the shit out of my monologue.

As they got up to walk me to the door, I reminded them that they hadn't heard me sing yet. "Oh, yes, right," they said as they happily sat back down behind their wobbly table, ready to receive the gift of song that I was about to bestow upon them.

As I started in with my old standby all sultry and smooth, "My Funny Valentine." They seemed suitably impressed, smiling, enchanted, like cooing babies and in my confidence a completely ridiculous thought process happened. The conversation with my self went like this:

"You make me smiiiiile with my hearrrrrt. (Hey they like it. Look at them. They love me.That guy loves me.) Your looks are laughable, (yeah, yeah, this is great. I'm so in... And the Dora  award for best actress goes to...) Unphotographable, (hey, you know what they'd love? They would think you were the funniest person, nay... a really well rounded performer if you started to sing off key on purpose. Naaawwwww, they'd LOVE it!) Yet you're my fave'rite work of AAaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrt." And I let the note fall in tuning, rolling my eyes back in my head and screeching.

The dream was over. Instead of the delightful 'ba-dum-pum' one might hear on the drums upon uttering a fantastically hilarious joke... imagine the sound of a drummer and his kit being thrown down a metal staircase.

The peace and happiness on the auditioners faces fell into confusion, pain and offence.

I stopped singing. Smiled a slapstick smile. Swallowed. Hard. Stunned silence. One of the panel coughed a choking cough. Another sprung up from his chair.

"Well, thank you Whitney. That was great. We'll be in touch."

And before I could explain how funny I was being, I was ushered out the door of the audition room and was soon alone. Alone and not very funny at all... ba-dum-pum (sigh.)

You see, it's all about choice in this life. The choice to do something safe or something impulsive. I hope you appreciate that for the sake of this humourous story, I sacrificed my chance at a small part, in a small play, put up in a small theatre with the yeah-yeah go-getter, young producers. I hope you're happy.

In any case, I have an interesting history and ongoing love-hate relationship with auditioning. Every actor has to endure the audition.

And in the end if what doesn't kill us doesn't make us stronger, at least it makes for a good story a few years down the line.

(At the end of my blogs, I want to have a closing thought as I firmly believe that in everything, good or bad, there is a lesson to be learned.)

What I Learned From This: You're not as funny as you think. There's a time and place for singing off key. Though humiliating at the time, some awful experiences and choices make for good stories. My Grandfather Alex always said: "Go for the joke." And sometimes to my own detriment, I do.

2 comments

  • twisty
    twisty
    it does make a good story. thanks for writing about it, as painful as it might have been at the time, and, now, to relive it (maybe just a bit?)

    it does make a good story. thanks for writing about
    it, as painful as it might have been at the time,
    and, now, to relive it (maybe just a bit?)

  • eve
    eve
    whitney, you are too good an actor, that's what the problem is. no one knows when you're just pretending to be bad! (like woyzeck--falling over chairs on purpose and everyone thought you'd injured yourself) hold out for us folks who get your sense of humour--they'll be rewarded with multiple abdomina-vayu spasms :)

    whitney, you are too good an actor, that's what the problem is. no one knows when you're just pretending to be bad! (like woyzeck--falling over chairs on purpose and everyone thought you'd injured yourself) hold out for us folks who get your sense of humour--they'll be rewarded with multiple abdomina-vayu spasms smile

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