I love to audition.
That sounds insane but it’s true, and it’s always been true. If it involves speaking and/or singing I’m in heaven. If it involves dancing…well…I might be busy that day. My point is; it takes no special bravery, or any bravery at all, for me to show up for an audition. I think it’s a pretty jolly time.
I know this is not true for everyone and I admire those performers who persist in auditioning in the face of dread. That’s bravery. The bravest audition I ever witnessed was one evening in 1987 in the Guignol Theatre at the University of Kentucky.
Eric is a great friend of mine. He is a fine illustrator/water-colorist and a fine actor. He can also carry a tune, but in his mind at the time, as a singer…he was a fine illustrator/water-colorist and a fine actor.
One afternoon we were chatting and I mentioned that I would be auditioning that night for Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. I urged him to join me. He dismissed the suggestion summarily; “I’m no singer!” He looked a little pale at the suggestion. Always sympathetic (not), I made a mental note that if I ever had to express utter dread on the stage his reaction to the thought of a singing audition would be a good reference memory (an actor prepares, right?).
That evening, about an hour into the auditions, I was sitting in the last row of the theatre watching the efforts of others. I had already sung and read a few scenes and was foolishly longing to be asked to read another 20-30 scenes – did I mention I love to audition?
The door to the theatre flew open and Grimness and Ferocity entered, personified by my friend Eric. He commandeered (commandeered – yes – le mot juste) an audition form from the stage manager, and slouched into a seat as far from humanity as the Guignol allows. All evidence suggested to me that it would be prudent to leave him the hell alone.
He was called upon to read a couple of scenes.
Then he was called upon to sing.
He marched on the stage and waved the provided accompanist away with; “I won’t be needing you.” He then announced; “This is my favorite Christmas carol.” He proceeded to sing/declaim an acapella rendition of “Good King Wenceslas” that was loud, in tune, and capable of being marched to by any competent armed forces unit.
It was stunning and strange and perfect for the part of Carl-Magnus in the show.
I understood what it had cost him and I was proud to know him…and maybe a little relieved to know he was not a concealed-carry type of guy.
His reward for his valor?
He was cast.
He and I shared a duet in the second act. It was singled out by the local reviewer as one of the highlights of that year’s theatre season in Lexington.
My reward for his valor?
I now have a new favorite Christmas carol in loud 4/4 time.