One week ago …
I’m now leaving to do something I haven’t done in over 40 years. I’ll be back.
How did I allow my friends to talk me into this? I love them both dearly, and have gently pushed aside their suggestions over the years, using all kinds of excuses: I have to work. We’ll be on vacation. It’s football season.
But, this time, I had absolutely no logical reason to refuse. And so, I entered the rear door of a small theater, where I was handed several forms the fill out. One asked me to rate myself from 1 to 10 in a number of areas. The first question: What is your tap- dancing skill level? At that point, I considered fleeing for the door. Tap dancing? Embarrassed, I circled 1, only because zero wasn’t an option.
A short time later, I stood alone on stage at the Starlight Community Theater in north Phoenix, waiting for the lead-in to “As Long As He Needs Me” from the musical Oliver. An orange and white sticker identified me as the second person to audition for the upcoming production of Company.
I know I said it had been over four decades since I’ve been in a play. I’m not counting my turn as the angry wrestling coach in Footloose, a play produced at the school where I teach. No audition was required. The drama folks just thought it would be cool to have teachers play the adults in the show. I had six lines and some chorus singing. It was fun and not too taxing. And I even got a gold Oscaresque trophy from my sweetie that says Anne Montgomery – Best Performance by a Teacher in a Supporting Role.
But today’s audition was wildly different. As I stood there, searching for notes and words, my knees started to shake rather violently. I tried to calm myself. Come on, when you were a sportscaster, you were on live TV probably 2,000 times. You swim with big ass sharks that might bite you, if you don’t behave properly in their watery world. You face down angry coaches as a referee on the football field. You’re a high school teacher.
But nothing worked. As I fought to curtail my shaking, I choked on the high notes. The polite clapping when I finished was just that … polite.
We auditioners were told that the director would be in touch to let us know if we would be invited to the next day’s call backs. So, I went home to wait.
“Did you get a part?” Ryan asked.
I looked at my watch. It was almost 6:00 PM. “They haven’t called.”
“Should we go get ice cream?”
Ryan knew of my failure forays to Dairy Queen when I was a struggling young ice dancer. I would have to skate before three judges and then wait for the dreaded list of those who passed their tests to be posted for everyone to read. Whenever my name didn’t appear, my father would hand me a few dollars and send me across the street for a Hot Fudge Brownie Delight to soothe my wounded spirit.
While we did drive past Dairy Queen, we didn’t stop. I wasn’t ready for ice cream.
Later that night, after checking my e-mail and finding nothing new, I went to bed and reconfigured my summer plans as I fell asleep.
The next day …
Holy crap! I read the e-mail again. My call back was set for 1:00 PM. Now I would have to sing “These Are the Ladies Who Lunch.” I was being asked to audition for the part of Joanne, the thrice-married, acerbic, unhappy alcoholic.
There were four of us, clandestinely eyeing one another, sizing up our chances. I’d heard them sing the day before. All had lovely voices.
A little over 24 hours earlier, I’d faced that frightening audition. Strangely, this time felt different. I’m not sure how it happened. But, rather magically, my nerves had fled. I think, something stirred long ago memories of being comfortable on a stage. Enjoying the tension and the audience. When my turn came, I sang, just for the joy of it.
That evening, I got a call from the director inviting me to play Joanne.
“Yes!” I said, for the first time, realizing just how much I wanted the part.
Rehearsals begin this afternoon. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.