Viewing entries tagged
music

Fear and Loathing (and Love)

This was going to be a letter to a pen pal, but the ideas got away from me as they sometimes do. So here is a musing in two parts, written before and after an audition this evening.

This letter finds me on a B train leaving Brooklyn, bound for an audition for a "folk musical" going up at the fringe this summer. I haven't auditioned for a musical in close to a decade, and I have never accompanied myself on guitar, or even played guitar in front of strangers before. I just started learning (read: teaching myself) guitar five months ago. I have not had a voice lesson in  years. I'm not quite sure what got into my head with this opportunity, or what on earth led these people to give me an appointment while in the meantime I've been ignored by a dozen outdoor Shakespeare productions to which I would be far more well-suited. (There's only YEARS of stage combat and experience improvising in Elizabethan language OUTSIDE, oh ALL DAY on my resume. I digress.) But the opportunity presented itself, and now the hour that was once two weeks away is minutes away instead. 

 
This face sums up how I felt before the audition, although I think I'm hiding the slight sense of nausea quite well. (A good haircut works wonders.)

This face sums up how I felt before the audition, although I think I'm hiding the slight sense of nausea quite well. (A good haircut works wonders.)

 

I guess I try to challenge myself to do scary things. For a while that was going to any audition, period, because I felt so out of practice. Now I've been to a few, and I've gotten some audition-free work that always boosts my confidence, so auditions don't seem like such a big deal. But this one, tonight, is a silly and terrifying endeavor. I'm excited to do something new and very far outside my comfort zone, and trying to focus on the positive growth this will engender rather than how utterly unqualified I feel for the gig. Honestly what I'm most excited to bring into the room is my rocker vibe, which gives me far more aesthetic confidence than I ever feel emotionally. But hey, the outside-in method works for my acting, so why not for my life?

It's funny how rock music and rock style have a carefully cultivated ease about them. Jam bands, like Zeppelin and the Dead, can play such tightly-rehearsed, intricate pieces and then let the middle of that become a long improvisation that comes out of a deep knowledge of music, an innate sense of rhythm and tempo, and a willingness to trust and at times follow their fellow musicians. That same mentality of focus and release is echoed in the clothes of the culture - an eye on aesthetic, but ultimately a prevailing sense of "I just threw this on because it's comfortable and I like it and fuck you." Or at least that's what I go for. Of course it's never that simple, but I've reached a point where I can throw on any combination of most of the clothes I own and still achieve the same general attitude. 

I'm quite proud of the look and accompanying attitude I've cultivated for myself over the years.  In the business of theatre you are constantly marketing yourself, and while everyone is "unique" and their own little snowflake, none of that matters if you suppress it all in the the audition room in hopes of fitting some mold you think in your mind the director wants. No. You want *me* in all my rock n roll weirdness, coolness, nerdy-ness. (Yes I have tattoos but one of them is dedicated to a children's book series I've loved since I was eight.)

I'm out of the audition now. The director had me do the monologue directly to her (and the three others in the room). It was way more fun that way. And then I played the song I'd practiced on the little toy guitar they had if you, like me, didn't want to schlep a guitar without a backpack case from Brooklyn to Columbia. The song went surprisingly well, for never having touched that guitar before and in spite of my insane nerves about playing at an audition in the first place. 

I was thinking, before I went into the room, about how massive the wall of anxiety is that I put between myself and that room. I kept reminding myself all I was doing was saying some words for a minute, living somebody else's life, and then I was going to play like 30 seconds of a song I know by heart and have been practicing for weeks. That's nothing. But the longer I sat outside the door, the more it built up in my head as a big moment, as if this were a make-or-break opportunity. Would doing the show be fun, and good experience, good exposure, and make me a little money? Sure. Absolutely. But would this one audition destroy all future performance prospects if I blew it? Of course not. So I reminded myself that the beauty of auditions is that the risk of an audition is always so much lower than the reward. Didn't nail it? Okay, go to another one tomorrow. You still have the monologue or the song ready to go. You didn't spend them; they're not "used up." Got the callback? Great! Got the show? Good for you! 

Once I got through that whole train of thought (they were running late and then took a break as soon as I got there, so I had quite a bit of time to think about all this), I wasn't so stressed. The audition would be what it would be. I had put in the work, and the work would support me. (That's one of those annoying things acting books and teachers always tell you but you never really believe until it just clicks one day, apparently four years after graduation.) I said my words; I played my song. Bonus points, the "redhead" I talked about in my monologue was present in the room (well, *a* redhead, is what I mean), and the director liked my song choice (yay) and, as I walked out, called after me, "I love your tattoo!" which is definitely a good sign since I can't do anything about it if ya don't like it (and I wouldn't want to). 

So now I wait. I think they're having callbacks Friday, for which I am completely unavailable between work and rehearsal, and I had to say so when they asked, but it was incredibly gratifying to say I had rehearsal. Oh, this is the life of a working actor. Right. 

I really liked the vibe of the directing team, and I would love to work with them and I'd love to play guitar in a show for real. I have loved learning guitar, and I would love to expand my abilities and talents and resume (and rock persona). But if that doesn't happen, it's okay. Tonight was exactly what I wanted it to be - a chance to do something "scary" and beyond my comfort zone and maybe my abilities but that I was going to do anyway. If I could do that, I can certainly walk into a room and just to a regular old monologue no problem. 

So hey, reader. Take a risk. Do something scary. Do something you don't think you're ready for, or that you "can't" do. There is nothing better than surprising yourself. 

 
A fortuitous draw for card of the day. Opportunity is knocking, will you answer?

A fortuitous draw for card of the day. Opportunity is knocking, will you answer?

 

Finishing the Play

 
 

I did the thing. Under pressure of a deadline for a playwriting fellowship application, I finished my play. After four years of on-again-off-again writing and research, in the course of a week I watched a documentary, read several hundred pages of books about Ed Snowden, American surveillance, and constitutional law, and I wrote an additional forty pages of my script. My little play that I was once able to edit into a thirty-minute one-act became a full-length work. I dove in way over my head with my research and shut myself in my room for hours on end, writing and rewriting. (Check out a new excerpt, available here!)

Thanks to all the work I had put in over the last six months, I was able to generate a lot of material very quickly to meet the deadline I found out about at the last minute. And I figure, even if I don't get into the program, at least the deadline got me to finish the work. I finished editing one last scene and submitted the play on a sunny Sunday afternoon, my first day off in a couple weeks.

And then, I wasn't sure what to do. For my entire life since I graduated college, that play has crept around in the back of my mind, scratching at the back of my neck, reminding me it was unfinished and that I should stop rewatching Parks and Rec and get to writing. Most of that time my excuse was how much I was working, or other projects I was a part of, or more recently, the research I still needed to do in order to do the story justice. But now that the play was finished, I didn't have anything I needed to do. It's almost like not having homework for the first time, ever.

Of course I'm immediately throwing myself into other work - I'm in a show that's going up in early July, I'm working on assembling a team for a staged reading of the play, and a friend and I are hoping to collaborate on a new work about the Israel-Palestine conflict (because I'm a masochist who wants to be mired in complex research forever, apparently). Still, it's a bit of a strange feeling, now, to have my paper baby out there. The creation process was so long and involved that letting it go is challenging. I'm excited for the next steps, but sharing the work is also terrifying.

I have a good feeling about this year, though. I turned twenty-six a couple weeks ago, and it's almost as if since my birthday, things have just started falling into place. I finished the play, I got the acting gig, I have some cool auditions coming up, and I'm leaping into situations I might not be quite prepared for, just for the sake of adventure. I'm going to play guitar at an audition, folks, which I would never have imagined doing six months ago. If that audition works out, it could be the start of my career as a professional musician, which would be hilarious and amazing (and essentially what I want more than anything right now). I just want to have fun and be happy and make art that matters, and at the moment I feel like I'm on track to do all those things.

I have a summer ahead of me where, for the first time, I have time to actually enjoy the city. I may have finished the play, but I haven't left the arena. I'm still here. Still ready. Still fighting.