Sometimes we do things that, as Forrest Gump would say, “Just don’t make no sense.”
And I am guilty of such an act, mostly because I ignored the numbers and severely overestimated my abilities.
I have written about the fact that I performed in a community theater production of the musical Company last year. Though it was initially terrifying, in the end I made friends and had fun. So, it seemed rational that I give it another try this year. Mamma Mia is this summer’s show at the Starlight Community Theater in Phoenix.
I started singing along to the Mamma Mia CD in my car in February, So … I thought I was ready. Even the cast descriptions didn’t deter me. Though, admittedly, the fact that the “elder” female characters were listed as “late 30s-early 50s” should have tickled my spidey senses.
This time around, auditions were very different. Four times the number of actors showed up. And there was improv involved. Still, I thought I had a shot at making the cast, until I arrived at the dance callbacks.
My first clue should have been the young lady spread-eagled flat on the floor, stretching in preparation. In fact, the stage was littered with bodies of those limbering up. I was a tad bemused, as I had seen the movie and didn’t notice too much complicated-looking dancing, at least not from the named characters. Had I considered that the stage version might be vastly different from the one with Meryl Streep and her pals, I might have been forewarned.
Those hoping for a spot in the cast filled the stage facing a thin, twenty-something with a high, tawny pony tail and black leggings. She announced that we would be learning a series of dance steps.
“OK! Face the back,” she said, reminiscent of a drill instructor. ” Now, hips left, then right, and spin to the front. And … right arm up high. Good. Now side step. And back. Other side. Full turn to the left and drop to your knees.”
My head popped up. Drop to my knees? Did she mean the ones that have functioned for the last 15 years thanks to the miracle of modern science, infusions injected with big-ass needles that always make me wince? Those knees?
Not wanting to stand out, I dropped to the floor. I almost bellowed like a moose giving birth, but managed to stop myself.
“Now roll over on your butt and jump up.”
In my case, said roll did not occur. I just stared at the choreographer.
“Now … leap!” She took to the air.
Leap? The thing about leaping is there always tend to be landings involved.
“Those of you who want to can bend your leg while leaping. Like this.” She launched herself skyward again. “Point your toes,” she said, alighting gracefully. “Second line, move up to the front.”
Hoping no one would notice, I melted into the back, which would be my primary strategy throughout the ordeal.
After an hour, we took a break. To my horror, five minutes later we were at it again.
“Let’s do another one,” she said. “This one will be easy. Even I can do it.” She smiled prettily.
What I wanted most was to go all Tonya Harding on her kneecaps. “See what you feel like when you’re over 60,” I muttered under my breath, as I mounted the stage.
Another hour passed. I longed for my chiropractor.
I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just go sit down? Pride, I suppose. Or maybe just plain stubbornness. A few other older women had taken seats. I say “older” here with a caveat. If I had to guess, with the exception of my friend Scott, there was probably no one over 50 auditioning. Clearly, I was pretty much alone as a mid-sexagenarian.
Mercifully, the dancing finally ended. But my humiliation was not over.
Scott appeared. “Hey! You need to go in the back.”
I heard women’s voices singing Dancing Queen from backstage. “Why?”
“The mothers are auditioning,” he explained, using the term applied to the older adult women trying out for a part.
Not knowing how I could have missed the others being called away, I leapt – OK, in my mind, I leapt – onto the stage and bolted through a curtain and down a ramp toward the piano, where about eight women were lined up single file.
“I am so sorry I’m late!” I shouted.
All heads turned toward me. A woman looked up, paper and pencil in hand. “Your name?”
She scrutinized the document.
The director rose from his seat. “You’re not on the list,” he said. “You were called back only for a dancing part.”
I suddenly realized that if getting a part hinged on my dancing skills, I would need other plans for the summer. “I am … so sorry!”
I found Scott in the seats and chastised him. It wasn’t his fault, though. He simply assumed I should be back there with the others, which in retrospect was sweet.
The director soon dismissed those of us who wouldn’t be invited to participate in any further auditions. Totally dejected, I sneaked out the back door.
When I got home, my sweetie pie stared at me. “I’m sorry,” he said without asking what happened.
I wondered if he’d had a premonition, since he already had a glass of wine poured and waiting for me.
“Maybe they did you a favor,” he said a short time later, as I sat in my jammies feeling sorry for myself, rubbing my aching knees.
I sipped my wine and pouted. “Maybe.”
Later that night, wrapped in two cold packs and a heating pad, I licked my wounds and considered whether I would ever try out for another play.
I’m thinking about it. I’ll let you know.
That said … don’t forget to go see the show. Performances start in July.
I bet it will be grand.
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.