Archive for October 9, 2006

To BE or Not To BE

I heard about the Zanesville Community Theaters Angel Tree Production over the summer. It’s a play/variety show they produce during the holidays to raise money for the Salvations Army’s Santa’s Toy Box Project. A real community project, the usual ticket prices are waived in favor of donations at the door and every penny they take in from tickets to popcorn sales and random donations over the three days that they present this play is donated to the cause and goes directly to the children in town. Everybody who comes to try-outs gets a part. That’s how they really caught my attention.

“Act in a play” just happens to be on my list of one hundred things I want to try before I die. It lives toward the top of that list, right in between “bungee jump” and “drink one bottle of every kind of wine made in Ohio”. In consideration of the fact that either of those two things could conceivably prohibit me from ever being able to complete “act in a play”, I decided it was my destiny to perform in this play.

There are several compelling reasons that I’m a writer, two of which are: I can’t paint and babies cry at the sound of my singing voice. I am, however, an enthusiastic student and I have gained a considerable resume of speaking experience since High School, surely the director of this play, Rich Tolliver, can turn me into an actor. Armed with the knowledge that EVERYONE gets a part, I happily zoomed off to try outs last night.

Things started out fine, I know several people connected to that theater and they all greeted me enthusiastically. There was a little form to fill out: name, address, phone, e-mail. Then the more specific questions: do you want a speaking part? Yes. do you want to sing? NO (circle that answer many times and draw arrows pointing to it). Are you a soprano, alto, tenor… XXX these all out firmly. Do you read music? Write in NO and circle it several times. After handing my form in to the assistant director I took a seat in the auditoreum with everyone else. To make a long story shorter… my try out process began with an admonishment from the director to “stop talking”. In my defense, he’s not a very tall man and his mother was leading me astray.

After some general information about when rehearsals would be, and how darn much fun this play always is, the director took his seat in the first row and try outs began. He called up all the kids first. Very cute, he asked them all to say their name and where they went to school. Asked them what they liked best about Christmas and then he turned things over to the music director, who immediately introduced the song and explained we would all sing along with them.

When I say I can’t sing, I really mean it. My junior year of High School I attended a very small private school in North Carolina that let anyone into the choir. Anyone is my operative word, so I joined that choir much to the music teacher’s chagrin. Whenever he would say “WHO is singing one octave below everyone ELSE!” It was always me. And that was before two packs a day. Anyway….

Since I had clearly indicated that I don’t sing on my form, I wasn’t really worrying. They brought up the teenagers next and things got worse. Assistant Director hands out papers with this three word song on it and notes all over the place. They teach it to the teenagers… and say again we would all sing along. That’s when I started getting nervous. Especially when the music director started splitting the teenagers into groups of threes to have them sing ALONE.

Rich dismissed the teenagers and called the adults up to the stage. I take my place, center stage of course, if you’re going to do something crazy like this, you should always do it full bore I always say. He starts asking questions at the end of the line. About three persons in, I start wishing I had worn sneakers instead of my very stylish platform wedgies. My knees are shaking, I can feel this tick starting in my right eye… looking out over those seats that will eventually be filled with people is making me sweat like a racehorse. He gets to me and I get things in control enough to actually explain who I am and what I like about Christmas (presents, duh! Just kidding). I also clearly explain that dogs had been known to howl when I sing. The people on my other side introduced themselves. Then they made us sing. Then they made us sing in threes.

Note to Director: If you saw me robustly singing along with my group – that was ACTING. So give me a good part.

October 9, 2006 at 7:13 am 19 comments

The free-lance writer is the person who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps. (Robert Benchley)

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Shortly after I learned to use a spoon, I learned to use a pencil. Crippled by shyness as a child, I found that the things I couldn't say out loud, I could say with a pen, and then a typewriter. The shyness was overcome with education and age...but the need to write has never left me.

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October 2006