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Published on January 8th, 2019 | by Sarah Kirsch

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Taking on Chicago

 

I think most of us can remember what it felt like to be 15. Those few, crystal clear memories that haunt us right before we fall asleep…you know the ones. A particularly vivid one for me is standing on the stage in the main theater at Dothan High (in 1996 mind you), an insecure teenager, heart pounding out of my chest…auditioning for a part. I sang my little heart out that day, did my best to fake the tap number and nailed the lines. Long story short, it was all for nothing. The majority of the parts had already been promised to a few seniors who didn’t audition but sat in the last row not-so-silently judging the 50 plus underclassmen who bothered to try. 15-year-old me was DEVASTATED.

I never attempted theatre again, I opted for show choir instead. I took so many choir classes it counted as my physical education credit…I LOVED it. Then, in 1999, shortly before prom, one of my very best friends was hit by
a car on the Circle and killed. We sang at her funeral. We sang again at graduation, but I barely held on. After that, I refused to sing on stage anymore. I turned down scholarship opportunities because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. 

Fast forward 19 years. I have a daughter who has the most precious voice and gets sparkly eyes for musicals (fun fact: I have seen Shrek the Musical right at 100 billion times). She landed her first speaking role in our church Christmas play and memorized the lines in a week. She’s found a passion for the first time in her short 10 years on this planet, but that element of FEAR turned her into a ball of nerves. The “what ifs” started sneaking in.

At our monthly Local meeting, I was telling them about the whole situation, and Justin, being the instigator that he is, looks at me and says: “I think SEACT is having auditions for Chicago soon. Dude, you should audition and write about it.” We had a good laugh, but on the way home, it was all I could think about. Not because I really felt the need to prove anything, but if I could just show Lilie that I was willing to do the hard things, to put myself out there and prove that fear only has the power you allow it, then it would be worth it to do. BONUS: I’d also get a really good story out of it. Win-win. So, I went onto the SEACT website and registered myself to audition.

Day one of auditions arrived and believe me when I say that it felt like the walls of the Cultural Art Center were slowly closing in around me. I walked in and sat down, and though I am sure I spoke to people, I could only hear the blood rushing in my ears. I sincerely thought I might vomit. Margo Wright is such a sweet spirit though, and introduced herself, along with the others there to assist, and we warmed up with “Razzle Dazzle.” Then we split up, men went to learn a bit of dance, and the ladies sang for main character roles, first as a group and then individually. A group of girls got up to sing for “Velma,” and then they called for “Roxie”. Just a few girls stayed on stage, and we all looked around like, “…Who else is going to get up there, guys?” In my head I heard “Cassie would be PISSED if she knew that you held back because of any feelings you had attached to her”, so I got up out of my chair and climbed what felt like 763 stairs up to the stage.  All together, then one by one, ” Roxie” was belted out over the panel and through the auditorium. It finally came down to my turn, the piano started, and I… did…not. I missed the entrance! But instead of flaking out, I simply asked for a restart. I took a deep breath and just went for it…all in. I didn’t really have a dog in the fight anyway, so I just put it all out there, hand motions and all, I even did a little cupped-hand-boob-squeeze you guys…and didn’t think twice about it. That Band-Aid had been ripped off now, no going back. 

The entire rest of the auditions went off without too much more pain. I stood next to Ron Devane, who choreographed every show choir performance I ever did, and short of a posture adjustment, I hit that Fosse and laughed with those girls like we were all old friends. The next two days we sang again, and then read for parts. After we released on Tuesday night, I asked Margo if I could sing one more time, for her. It wasn’t because I thought it would sway her, it was just for me. When I finished and walked out to the car, the entire weight of the 3 days hit me. I sat in the car and squalled. I mean, I ugly cried right there. When the tears passed, I drove home. I pulled up to the house, and Lilie came bounding down the garage steps and ran across the yard before I could even turn the car off. “How did it go, Mom? What did you do tonight? Are you in it?” I just squeezed her tight and smiled. My plan worked perfectly. I told her everything; all the good and the bad.  “And that’s showbiz, kid.” 

If you are thinking about auditioning for SEACT in any upcoming shows, I suggest doing a few things.

  1. Go ahead and commit to ALL 3 DAYS of auditions if you possibly can. The more they see your face, the better.
  2. Put yourself in for as many parts as possible, even if they are not ones you particularly want. The more they see your face, the better.
  3. Look up and listen to stage production material if it’s available. Don’t count on a movie version. Lines and songs can vary.
  4. Have FUN! It’s not that serious.

Come and see the SEACT production of Chicago on March 12-16th2019!             

For tickets and more information, visit www.seact.com.

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