I hereby lay out, before my readers and potentially (if improbably) the entirety of the earth, my confessional. This is the story of my first audition, and if you think this is going to be a tale of triumph, you are unspeakably incorrect.
Let me begin this tale of terrible sorrow and ignorant woe with a brief acknowledgment. This was not, strictly speaking, my first audition. That took place in elementary school, when for reasons unknown I won the enviable role of Steve in the kindergarten choir’s musical production of Blue’s Clues. The choir was in kindergarten. I was in 5th grade at the time, specially chosen to portray the role of Steve because, I can only assume, of my prodigious talents, apparent even then to our choir instructor, Mr. Potts. Naturally, I then went on to never perform again until high school, when out of boredom and a sure and certain feeling that I would not make the basketball team, I tried out for the school play.
But, let us leave these tiresome, entirely trivial caveats behind us and cut straight to the heart of our present story. Let us rejoin our hapless hero, me, during my Freshman year of college, when, for reasons that I shall explain in but a moment, I was forced to try out for the fall musical.
Like many a fool before me, I had arrived at my college (Huntington University) without having picked a major. This was, I thought, practical. I would only change my mind, I reasoned, and so it made sense to get things going without the pretense of certainty and feel my way out as I went along. The dean had kindly, therefore, recommended classes based on my high school activities, and had signed me up for not one but two beginning acting classes. This sealed my fate, as it was a requirement for all beginning acting students to audition for ALL of the university’s productions. The first production open to incoming Freshman was, as I am certain you will agree, a vehicle that simply SCREAMED for my involvement – a musical version of Little Women. What could be more perfect for an average sized man such as myself, who had never sung a show tune in his life?
At the time, I considered myself a "funny man," destined to act (if at all) in PLAYS … comedy ones. A serious musical role was not something I aspired to in the slightest. But, class requirements, after all, being class requirements, I dutifully prepared for my audition by not really preparing at all, because I had no idea how you would do that. When told by a concerned observer that I would need to bring sheet music for my musical audition, I responded with an honest, if alarming question, “What is sheet music?”
This should alert you to the depths of my ignorance.
A brief word of explanation might be in order before we proceed to the inevitable unpleasantries. We are not all, it’s true, musical theatre people, and some of us may not be aware of how a standard musical theatre audition is meant to go. Typically, this is the order of events:
Needless to say, I knew nothing about these expectations, and, safe in the fortified city of my own ignorance, I made no extra effort to find out what was truly required of me. I simply prepared in my own quiet, completely incorrect way.
I picked a song I was familiar with (Pure Imagination from the Gene Wilder classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), and I printed out the lyrics…just the lyrics. As I eluded to earlier, sheet music was not something which I knew how to find at the time. I was, it must be said, and in the truest sense of the word, an idiot. I practiced singing my selection, but I did not memorize the lyrics.
The day of my doom dawned dark and early. In my memory, it was a very stormy day. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. Tornado watches were in effect, although it may have been a perfectly sunny day – memories are like that. I nervously arrived at the Arts building and paced about with the other auditionees, awaiting my appointed time slot.
Eventually, my name was called, rolling out like the tolling of a far off church bell.
I entered the room and proceeded to desecrate the very foundations of the theatrical art form.
Allow me to list for you my manifold errors:
A few days later, I returned to the site of my shame to gaze morosely on the freshly posted cast list. Imagine my surprise when I saw that I had been CAST. It was a small role, but it was a role. As a willing young man possessed of a beating heart and a mouth capable of forming sounds, I was deemed too valuable of a commodity to be lost by the tiny Huntington University theatre department. That I lacked any knowledge or talent in the realms of music or theatre or musical theatre was a fact that could be remedied in time, or so those charitable professors decided. They needed bodies to fill the stage, and, at the very least, I had a body, if not a very impressive one.
It was only later on, at the end of that school year, that my eventual acting instructor, Jay Duffer (who was a guest director at the time) confided to me that, having seen my first audition, he had thought me to be completely tone deaf.
At the time, he was completely correct.
One final note. That audition was filmed. Someday, I would like to find that DVD, if it still exists. I would like to watch it once, and then I would like to lock it in a box and drop kick that box into the Pacific Ocean. Anyone who tracks the DVD down is welcome to watch the travesty with me.
But only I get to drop kick it into the ocean.
Christeena J Dinehart
5/24/2017 07:14:39 pm
Seeing how brilliantly you portrayed Gaston your senior year (I think!), I can hardly believe your first audition was faced with such trepidation! You stole the show from Belle and Beast and completely impressed your aunt!
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Philip David Black is an actor, educator, voice over artist, and blog author. Someday he may write books. Until then, he blogs .