Twenty-two (22) years ago, I made my stage debut. The school that I attended (a small, parochial school--when I say small, I mean I graduate from 8th grade with 11 other people) did a yearly play/operetta and when I was in first grade, we put on a production of "Chicken Little and the Day the Sky Fell." Pulitzer winning stuff, I tell you.
In any regard, speaking roles tended to go to the "upper classmen"--4th, 5th and 6th graders (7th and 8th grades weren't added to the school until I was in 7th and 8th grade). But for some reason, when casting the role of Turkey Lurkey, the administrators were like, "What about that Josh kid?" So, in a play full of daunting 4th thru 6th graders was tiny little me, playing a tiny little Frank Perdue.
As part of our costumes, each of us had to wear felt duck feet and mine were made a little too big. On the night of the show, I stepped forward to say my final line, a simple "Me too!". However, the theatre decided that my performance needed a little pizzazz. Unbeknownst to me, my felt duck foot--already a little too big--had ridden a little bit up my heel, leaving me with no traction. One step, and boom. I'm on my plump little turkey butt.
The audience, of course, loved it. How can you not love watching a 6 year-old, trussed up like a Thanksgiving Butterball pre-butchering, fall on his tiny little butt? I tell you, if America's Funniest Home Videos were around then, I would've made $25,000.
Cut to 22 years later. Over the time-span I was in more school plays, then branched out into community theatre and found a niche for myself as the Shakespearean sidekick (Roderigo in Othello; Flavius, Timon's steward in Timon of Athens; roles like that). My last show was in 2007 and I haven't done anything since. Between 2007 and yesterday, I'd auditioned once, for Rent. I'm not great in musicals, so I didn't consider a serious audition. Just a long shot, to be in Rent.
Last night happened as a lark. I'd planned on auditioning, but didn't get the email about auditions. At 1:00 pm yesterday, my friend who auditioned for Rent with me and got cast asked if I planned on auditioning. I thought about not doing it, but then...I don't know what. Remembered how much I loved the stage? Thought about my tattoo and how the theme for 2010 is change? I don't know. I said yes, I was going to. And 6 hectic hours later (2 more hours of work, an 1.5 hours at the vet, an hour at the gym and 1.5 hours of interstitial time), I showed up for auditions.
Right away, I was a different person. I smiled. I was an outgoing person. I talked to people. I was charming and funny. Why? Because the theatre is my element. It's where I thrive. No matter what theatre I'm in, the people know me, and I know the people. Every theatre is the same, and I love it.
The audition itself? I was charged. I don't know what it was, but I just felt like I was killing it. The people holding the auditions laughed at all the right places and even some places I wasn't expecting. At one point, I thought I heard the director say, "He's cute, right?" I read a monologue, did some some scene readings with a couple of people and then came the "tough" part: the director gathered all of us into the auditorium for quickfire readings: saying, "you, you and you, read this" and we'd have to do it, with no prep time.
Even in the room with all of the other actors, I still felt jazzed. I felt like I had chemistry with everybody I read with, and that's never happened before. I don't know if there was just, like, a perfect storm of awesome or if Uranus was in retrograde (that's astronomy speak for "back that ass up"...no, I'm not an astronomer. I'm completely making that up. It just sounded funny. LAUGH FOR ME) or what, but I loved every part of the audition.
I actually had my best auditon moment ever last night. At one point, this girl and I were sitting on rollie-chairs, pretending we were in bed. The character I was reading for was really happy at the moment, commenting how he felt like he was laying on a raft in the river. The script said "pantomimes paddling", so I did...and made the rollie-chair scoot forward with each paddle. Everyone in the room lost it, and the actress auditioning opposite of me just went with it. She laughed and pulled the chair back so that I flopped back onto her shoulder with a blissful look on my face. Perfection.
This evening, my intention was to go to the gym at 5:00. A friend of mine, who is leaving for Australia entirely too soon, was going to be assisting a Zumba class and I wanted to see her before she left. Life had other ideas and work kept me until 4:40, too late to get my shit together by 5. I was also exhausted and nearly passed out on the couch reading.
As it turns out, life worked in my favor for once. Because I didn't go to zumba, I was able to answer my phone when I received a call from a number I didn't know. It was the director: "I was just calling to see if you'd be interested in playing Tom."
Though "Fat Pig" is an ensemble piece, Tom is the lead, as it were.
There was a pause as I let that sink in, and I let out a stupid laugh. "Yes, I would, actually. I'd love to." That was when the director...I don't even know. She made my day.
"I'm so happy you say that. We loved you yesterday. I was ready to pick out China patterns with you. Something about your audition really resonated. You brought out parts of the character we didn't realize we there."
I've been acting for 22 years. That's nearly 4/5 of my life. And no one--no one--has ever said that about my acting. I was so happy she was talking to me over the phone and not in person, because I was grinning like an idiot. All I could say was "Thank you, thank you so much." Finally, I eked out, "I really appreciate that, so much."
The theatre runs through my veins, and I don't know why. I don't know why I'm happiest in life when I'm dissecting a character, when I'm beign somebody else. I don't know why I delight in playing bad guys and making people hate me--and find it a compliment when they say that to my face. I just know that if I go too long without being on a stage, I go a little crazy. Thank God I'm back.