About a year ago, I tried out for a play. I hadn’t been on stage – except for a bit part in a production of Footloose at the high school where I teach – in over forty years.
I wrote about the terror of the auditions and the weirdness of having to acquire tap shoes and actually wear them. I recall the moments of apprehension back stage waiting for my cue, forgetting lines and dance steps, learning to smoke fake cigarettes that only emitted chalk dust if I breathed out – not so easy, I learned – trying to sing after accidentally swallowing an ice cube, and the location of the dead spot on stage where our mics would mysteriously cause ear-shattering feedback.
It was terrifying. And yet … I plan to audition again.
Why, you ask? That’s a good question. And the answer might surprise you.
Starlight Community Theater in Phoenix, which produced Company last year, the musical in which I played Joanne – an aging New Yorker who smoked and drank and was generally disagreeable – is now staging Mamma Mia.
I had never seen the show, but the idea that Meryl Streep stared in the film was appealing. Still, six months would pass before I considered that I might give it another shot.
My epiphany happened in February, a few months before auditions were scheduled, and I blame the folks in media.
Here’s the thing. I’m a news junkie. I watch the TV news when I eat my breakfast. I listen to NPR and talk radio on the way to work. I read the newspaper at lunch time. Then I listened to NPR and talk radio on the way home.
While I don’t remember exactly which news story pushed me over the edge, one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. Something made me punch the button on the radio, leaving me with silence in the car and a bruised finger. The news was just too damn depressing. As a former journalist the confession rankles, but there you have it.
My drive to work is only about 20 minutes, still the day I swore off the in-the-car news – Hey! I wasn’t going to quit the whole thing! – I realized I needed another option.
Regular music radio was out, since Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBONOW have destroyed my ability to digest commercials. And I couldn’t bring myself to pony up the cash for Sirius radio, since all those video-streaming services are already sucking up my salary.
So, what did I do? I went old school. Which brings me back to Mamma Mia. I got the CD. For the past two months, I’ve been driving to and from work, belting out “Money, Money, Money” and “Does Your Mother Know” and, of course, “Mamma Mia,” singing along with Streep and the rest of her silly gang. And I don’t care if people stare, because it’s so much more fun than listening to the news.
Then one evening, I got a sign. On a pizza run, my youngest son and my sweetie pie – an old-time, head-bangin’ rocker – joined in on “Dancing Queen”. Who knew the big guy could sing every word?
So, I will try out next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In any case … I do feel better.
Maybe I’ll give up reading the newspaper too.
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.