He offers me a final smile, a moment of solidarity from this boy I’ve never met who is competing to take my spot, then tucks his binder under his arm.

Shiny dress shoes, perfectly styled hair, and hopeful eyes disappear through the door.

It makes a dull clunk when it closes.

In. One. Out. Two.

Through the door, I hear the rustle of sheet music, murmuring, as he goes over his tempo with the pianist.

My finger taps a tempo against my knee, a bodily manifestation of the hammering in my chest, but it is too fast, my song doesn’t go that fast.

Slower. Slower. Breathe.

In. One. Out. Two.

He delivers his smiling, charming slate. “Hello, my name is Ian Goggins, and I’ll be performing…” Ian. I knew an Ian back in fifth grade. I’d maybe think he’s cute if I wasn’t so freaking nervous. It’s hard to distinguish between butterflies and my intestines trying to eat themselves out of sheer anxiety.

A quick piano intro – Is that a Golden Age piece? I didn’t bring a Golden Age.

His first line, lovely vibrato, smile in his voice, I can sense the sheer charm through the door. This kid’s good, probably was a lead all through high school, big fish from a small pond but he’s actually got the talent to back it up. 

An up-tempo. Should I start with my up-tempo? It’s not really up-tempo, more a—

No, I have to start with my ballad, then I can end with the belt, that’s how I practiced it.

In. One. Out. Two.

I hum softly, finding the placement of each note in a melody line I feel like I’ve known for ages, though it was only tucked into my binder by my voice teacher a couple of weeks ago.

“You’re not an ingenue,” he said, shaking his head ever so slightly at me. “Don’t try to play against type, you’ll never be cast. Besides, that song’s overdone anyway. This one will fit your range better, and it’s a hidden gem — just like you.” His compliment was just a little bit too late, as was his smile. I told myself I was just being paranoid. 

Am I warmed up? I tighten up when I get nervous, I should get more water, do I have to time to get more water?

I warmed up this morning, but it definitely didn’t feel right, my breath felt off and my vibrato was inconsistent, sloppy.

Maybe I’m getting sick.

I gaze at the door and think about what’s beyond it – not the boy in the audition room, not the professors with their little notepads and their whispering and their hollow smiles, but the rehearsals, the workshops, the lessons, songs, monologues, shows I’ve dreamed about that I just might get to be a part of.

But only if I do well today.

Everyone calls performance a frivolous dream, and maybe it is. But then why do I feel like I’m going to pee myself every single time someone asks me to fucking perform? Doesn’t make any sense. 

Sometimes I wonder if I even still enjoy this, or if I’m just suffering through it out of habit and sunk cost fallacy. But then I’m onstage again and the nerves melt away like chocolate on a summer afternoon and I feel like myself, like truly myself, and I know this is what I’m meant to do.

Doesn’t make auditioning any less gut-wrenching though. 

He ends on a strong high note – doesn’t quiver, doesn’t falter at all, God is he even nervous? First song over, time for the second. I recognize the complex and beautiful piano accompaniment of Jason Robert Brown. Bold choice. People say JRB is the new Sondheim — don’t bring it into auditions unless you want the accompanist to hate your guts — but then Ian starts singing and I think oh, that’s why he picked it, he’s fucking stellar.

I’m running out of time.

I definitely don’t have time to get more water. God, why didn’t I bring more water?

Hum the E. Too nasal. Try again. Too far back this time, okay, mix it.

I did it this morning when I was warming up, why can’t I do it now, I should be able to do it now, what if I can’t do it, there’s something wrong with me, there’s something, I’m not—

In. One. Out. Two.

In. One. Out. Two.

Hum the E again. Still not quite right. Try the belt. It’s only a Bb, you can do that.

Yes. Yes, belting is fine. Okay, that’s good.

If I don’t get the E, that doesn’t matter too much, right?

It’s one note, right?

It’s one note.

But there are other girls who can do that one note, and if I can’t hit that one note—

Why did I pick this song, I should have done a Golden—

Maybe the acting will save it. Stay connected. Connected to the piece, the emotion.

In. One. Out. Two.

How much does it really matter anyway? It’s just one audition.

It shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I shouldn’t be nervous

Why am I so nervous? I shouldn’t be so nervous.

If I were better, I wouldn’t be so nervous.

He doesn’t sound nervous, listen to him, he sounds great

Why don’t I sound like that?

Why don’t I, why don’t I—

In. One. Out. Two.

He’s getting closer to the end of the song. His voices dances through it.

It is so easy for him.

So easy.

Pretend it’s easy. You’re good at pretending.

In. One. Out. Two.

In. One. Out. Two.

Untwist your stomach. Quit that tapping. Close your eyes. Stop thinking.

In. One. Out. Two.

There’s a smattering of polite applause. I hear his “thank you” through the door.

I jerk to my feet. Wipe my hands on my dress.

I can feel the hammering in my teeth, in my neck, in the backs of my knees.

In. One. Out. Two.

He smiles at me. Still charming, though there’s a relief-saturated aliveness in his eyes, like he’s just been doused with ice water after sprinting a mile.

I smile back. Even offer him a clumsy wink. I can be charming too.

Hand on the door.

In. One. Out. Two.


July 15, 2020 16:30

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