GCP audition delivers the unexpected – Column

GCP audition delivers the unexpected – Column
St. Catharines Standard, 2012

There are things in life that make me want to run screaming across the border, never to be heard from again.

The only way I can push myself through it, is to avoid the details.

Like running a marathon. Don’t think. Just do.

Your legs will cramp, you’ll sweat like Niagara Falls and it will feel like the exhaustion is about to destroy you.

The only thought? The finish line.

It was with that in mind, I dialed up local theatre group, Garden City Productions, to book an audition for their upcoming show, Cabaret.

The goal? Write a column about the experience of baring my inner drama queen in front of a panel of producers. But also (and this was more important than I admitted to those around me), I truly just wanted to be in the show.

Mavis Rodgers, the grande dame of Garden City Productions and audition booker, answered my phone call.

Minutes after I managed to stutter some details and asked her not to tell anyone where I worked – I wanted to get into the show on my own merits, not my job – she asked something that knocked the air from my lungs.

“Do you have character shoes?”

Dance shoes. For a DANCE audition.

The word LEOTARD flashed in my mind and prompted a migraine.

“End result,” I reminded myself.

I spent the next four days reacquainting myself with songs from Les Miserables and Rent. I belted them out in the shower. In the mirror, as I applied my makeup. And in the car – much to the amusement of passing motorists.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, I arrived at The Barn – the white building GCP calls home – for the vocal audition.

Jean Wesley and Sandi Syri, the show’s producers, and part of the few who knew I was auditioning and writing about it, welcomed me in.

As I sat waiting to be called, they smiled kindly and chatted, perhaps in an effort to calm a visibly petrified reporter.

They explained the framed photos lining the walls – collages of the performers and programs for every show Garden City Productions has staged in its 55-year history.

They talked about the costume and prop rooms stacked with 100 shows worth of stuff.

“It’s like the theatre version of hoarders,” one of them chuckled.

The talk was comforting, even though it limited my ability to eavesdrop on those auditioning before me through the rehearsal room door.

Then, it was my turn.

I felt faint. My fingertips were ice cubes and I needed water. But it was too late for that.

I walked in, gave my music to music director Tom Inglis, and turned to face the director, Wendy Leard.

She scribbled something on a page, then casually looked up.

The rest is a blur really. I sang. They smiled. I felt good.

Then Leard handed me a scene to read.

Unexpected. And if there was anything that made me want to crawl out of my skin more than a dance audition, it was reading a scene. Cold.

I stumbled through it. Mispronounced a German name. And any confidence I built, plummeted.

When it was over, Leard invited me to a callback after the following day’s dance audition.

“I’m going to get you to read a scene tomorrow,” she said. “And I’d like you to try it with an English accent.”

So, not only did I have to act, dance and sing a new song the following day. I had to do it in British.

I searched learning guides for English accents on YouTube, watched the movie version of Cabaret with a reluctant husband and belted the title song well into the early morning hours.

Then, at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, I prepared to leave for the dance portion of my weekend adventure.

I solved the leotard and dance shoe problem with a pair of yoga pants and high-heeled boots.

Then I went all Flashdance with a pair of scissors and cut a wider neck in a black T-shirt so it would hang over my shoulder.

This is Cabaret after all.

Sass isn’t optional.

I got through the first hour of the dance audition, then, straight out of a scene from America’s Biggest Loser, my muscles locked up.

We took a break and I wanted to crawl into a corner and avoid movement for a week.

As I write this, nearly a week later, my hamstrings are still giving new meaning to the phrase, “feel the burn.”

I felt awkward but retained most of the dance steps we learned.

It was gruelling, but fun. A group of girls chatted and giggled, others focused intently on mastering the tricky parts of our routine.

“Are you all right?” one girl in a bandana asked as I struggled to stand.

I muttered something about being supremely out of shape before walking to my place in the group.

The afternoon callback brought a new experience. More than 20 Cabaret hopefuls sat in a semi-circle in the rehearsal room and watched as people were called to the middle of the room to read scenes from the play and sing.

First, four men were brought to the front to sing a song by the Emcee – the flamboyant host of the Kit Kat Club.

Next, actors called back for the role of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Shultz – the aged, ill-fated lovers – walked to the middle of the room.

Then, it was time for the five actresses vying for the role of Sally Bowles – the headlining act in the Kit Kat Club, unlucky in love and dreaming of stardom – to read a scene with the character’s love interest, Cliff.

In some living-in-an-alternate reality twist, I was included in the group.

We read a scene – my English accent was imperfect, but better than Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, if that’s really saying much – then later we sang.

The afternoon passed quickly. And at the end, the director and producers left the rehearsal room to deliberate.

Excitement sparked through the room and I was reminded of what it feels like to be in a theatre production. So many hours spent rehearsing together creates a familial-like bond. It was clearly present in those who have been in other GCP shows before. And through the weekend people often would say, “we’re like a family.”

I stopped stressing about whether I’d make it in the show.

I stopped thinking of the end result and looked at the people enjoying the process. Savouring each gruelling, joyous step toward the curtain call.

When the production team re-entered the room they announced everyone present that day would be in the show.

Then came the individual casting announcements.

The director went through the list. One. Character. At. A. Time.

It was excruciating.

Then she announced I’d been given the role of Sally Bowles.

I didn’t move. Or look up.

A colleague asked what the people around me did at the time, and honestly I don’t know.

I’ve been in a number of musicals in my life, often playing the bubbly blonde roles (which is slightly odd since I’m a staunch brunette). But I’ve never been given the lead.

I’m still a little stunned. And, instead of belting Les Miserables and Rent in the car on my way to work, I have Cabaret on repeat.

And now, instead of thinking about the end of our eight weeks of rehearsals, I’m going to enjoy the moment.

And write about the process, the superstitions of the theatre and those who will build this production, block by block, from the ground up.

Just purely for the love of it.