I Auditioned… The Finale

So, where was I? Oh yeah…

I walked out of the theater with two things on my mind. One, where do I get a headshot? Two, how do I not dance like I have two different-sized left feet? All of this needs to happen in forty-five minutes.

I get into my car and head back towards town to get a game plan together. My phone connects to my radio and starts playing the ballad_of_sir_robin.Mp3 over my speakers. “Should I?… I should.” 

I crank it and sing-yell obscenities louder than Arkansas cicadas during summer. 

The quiet neighborhoods I passed by likely did not appreciate this, but guess who has two thumbs, got invited back to an audition, and doesn’t care?

This nerd.

8:56 pm Walgreens Parking lot. 

:: Jeff scrolls furiously through his phone. :: 

“There has to be at least one not-shitty photo of me in here. I’m at least an 8 if I trim my beard and wash the dirt off my face.” I think to myself.

You don’t care about phone storage until one of two things happen. One, you run out of space. Two, you need to find one specific photo in the ever-expanding universe of photos you haven’t deleted since 2012. 

I’m the latter. 

Ah ha! I find a headshot my friend Jamie took of me when I did a speech for TEDx. Listen, this photo…I’m not saying I’m hot stuff, but based on the inventory of men that girls have shown me on their Tinder, I would SLAY on that app with this picture. I’d probably get ghosted when they heard me talk, but still. Why is no one talking to themselves in my inbox? 

WAIT.

Just underneath that photo is THE PERFECT PHOTO to compliment it. It’s a black and white photo of me with slick back hair, muscles, and big bedroom eyes AS I PICK MY NOSE. If one photo is good, then surely two photos would show how diverse I can be as an actor. It’s like professional Jeff AND real Jeff.

The one guy working the store prints off two 8×10 copies of both photos, looks up at me, back down at the photos, and back up to me as if I handed him a fake ID that was egregiously fake. 

“You model?” He asks me.

“Well, if what I’m doing tonight doesn’t work out, who knows.”

I realize about now that I am still covered in sweat from Satan’s sweatshop stage and photo-searching in the parking lot. 

Dear Nightshift Walgreens Man, if you’re reading this, I apologize for whatever thoughts my response put in your head.

Photos in hand. I’m on my way.

9:20 pm Kum & Go Gas Station Bathroom. 

Walgreens closed and I had to use the bathroom.

9:32 pm Theater Check-in table.

Hannah eyeballs my professional headshot and finds the “digging for gold” photo stuck to the back of it. Both of them have my name in bold red ink on the back of them. 

“That’s… interesting.” She says with a slight head tilt. 

“That’s marketing,” I say confidently.

I may not be the best actor here, but they’re going to remember me, and my mining capabilities.

9:38 pm Theater Lobby.

There are about ten people here warming up to dance. They have leotards. They have dance shoe/sock things. They have grace. I’m wearing vans and munching on beef jerky from the gas station. 

I look like I work at the gas station. 

“It’s dead quiet in here.” I thought. “Most of these people are so young you can’t even hear their knees cracking.” 

It’s oddly tense, yet tame. The room is full of motion with zero noise. 

I start doing some CrossFit warm-ups in the corner and watch three more people come in. The silence continues. People make eye contact with each other, then, people make eye contact with me. “Do they want my jerky? They look hungry.”

I feel odd. I was having a blast before I came in here, and now I’m absorbing the nervousness in the air. So, I do what I’m kinda good at. I start talking to strangers.

“What’s up? I’m Jeff.” I introduce myself to six of the people closest to me. Then I tell them I’m gonna try to do the impossible, remember each of their names. Kindle, Adrain, Brian, Carla, Gabreilla, and DC. 

“I have to make people famous to remember them,” I said.

“Really?” Adrain, who has annoyingly long thick black hair that I covet, says. 

“Yeah, you’re Adrian Brody, but with like, half of the nose.” 

Adrian laughs and I tell Kindle that hers was the easiest.

I start asking what part they’re auditioning for, and their favorite play they’d been a part of. We go around a circle until we get to me. My answer of “This is my first time” is met with the most welcoming and encouraging response from EVERYONE. “That’s awesome.” was how the room felt now. 

Pretty soon, we’re all chatting and carrying on in a circle that’s getting bigger. I ask DC, a big guy with a ponytail, who’s also as nice as they come, how many shows he’s done.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe fifty.”

“Fifty?!” I totally didn’t cough out loud.

“Yeah, well I taught orchestra and theater before getting into law. Shows like this help pay bills until you graduate.” 

“This is a paying gig!?” I thought. 

These are paid actors. No wonder just showing up to audition was a big deal when I said that’s what I was doing. That foreboding feeling just came back. 

But I looked around. 

People are smiling and chatting. The room is loud. Little groups of new people are forming and there are no strangers left. This is a good time, and I just met some great people who, if nothing else, I’ll get to watch on stage and cheer for.

:: Normal Jeff comes back and nut-checks foreboding Jeff ::

We’re laughing about our song selections, what we did wrong in the audition and how we’d make everyone sing the same song if it were our show. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beetles gets group approval.

“Well If I’m in charge, everyone is singing Helter Skelter and the dance call is just a bunch of kids doing scissor kicks,” I say out loud. Adrian and I die laughing and start singing some lines as we fake mosh. 

9…something o’clock. Who cares what time it is?

“Come in everyone! here we go!”

At this point…

I remember…

That I cannot dance. 

But I almost don’t care.

The crowd moves towards the stage, and we’re all smiles.

I’ve debated telling you what a dance call is like, but I think you just need to go. Who am I to take that experience from you? 🙂

We dance. Our asses off.

The night’s over. We’re all drenched in sweat and breathing like we worked out. Bevan gives everyone some general tips and says we should expect an answer within the week. 

Now, I could stop here and feel like I was a success. I went. I did it. And I had an amazing time doing something I always wanted to try.

But that would probably piss you off if you made it this far. 

So, I’ll just share the email with you. 

Subject: Wildwood Seasonal Auditions

Dear Jeff, 

Thank you for Auditioning for Oliver!  and Spamalot, We particularly enjoyed your audition. We had many talented people audition for us, and unfortunately, we were not able to cast you at this time…We encourage you to audition for us again at the next opportunity and to explore other audition opportunities around the city. Keep an eye on our social media and website for future audition announcements.

Thank you so much, and please, keep creating art!

We hope to have the opportunity to work with you in the future.

Warmest regards,

Zachary Rhodes

Resident Stage Manager, Wildwood Park for the Arts

P.S. Local theaters are always looking for good-looking and willing-to-learn men for their productions. Take a look at The Studio, and/or ACT, a North Little Rock theater. Lessons in voice and perhaps a dance class just to get you comfortable with the lingo. You are athletic, so you could become a “mover” very soon. All to say, after some experience, get back to WW and audition. We feel you would be a great addition.

Bevan Keating – Executive Director

—–

All that to say;

I didn’t get in… this time. 

But:

My Anxiety became Excitement.

Apprehension became Curiosity.

Writing about cool things became doing something worth writing about. 

I earned some core memories, some friends to cheer on come March, some great insight from a director, and a theater workshop to attend in August.

And who knows where that’s going to take me. 

What’s something that you let life get in the way of? 

What if you immersed yourself in it for just a few hours or days? 

And with that experience, you proved that it could be done, even if just to yourself.

I’d cheer you on.

-J

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