Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Secrets of my big NYC audition!

Y'all, I was at a callback for a BROADWAY SHOW! My secret dream has always been to be in musical theatre, but two things:

  1. I was pressured into the orchestra pit my junior year of high school, not because I wasn't talented enough to land a role, but because they supposedly couldn't afford to do the show if they didn't have a free keyboard player to be the orchestra. That was a huge blow to my confidence as an actress, even though I'd had multiple leading roles prior to that. (It did mean I got to play 364 pages of Stephen Sondheim piano parts, however, so that was fun!) 
  2. At NYU the musical theatre people were NUTS. Also, I had no fewer than 10 roommates/suitemates who were theatre majors, and I saw the drama firsthand. Oh, wow, was there drama! (Lyzz, remember that time when B****** made up a date, and we saw her at the movies by herself, and then she came home and told us all about how he bought her popcorn and put his arm around her...)
I've done a lot of work with theatre regionally, but it's been mostly musical -- as in behind-the-scenes, like musical directing the Apprentice Show at Actor's Theatre one year or acting as accordion coach for ATL during the Humana Festival. Or helping them with sound effects, recording accordion or musical saw parts. I took an actual role onstage in Cowgirls about 10 years ago, doing a role that seemed to be written for me: a classical pianist, turned honky-tonker/ accordionist, guitarist, yodeler. It was so much fun, but it was also the same time my first record was blowing up and I took a different performance route.

Anyway, it wasn't completely ridiculous for me to send in a video audition when Adam Brodsky texted me a link that ONCE the Musical was looking for an accordionista. I love that show and love that there is no orchestra pit. The actors play multiple instruments onstage and are like a roving band. It's the perfect combination of all my loves. I threw together a clip and a resume and sent it along. No one looked at it, but it felt good to have accomplished something interesting, new and work-related. I moved on.

A few days later, just before I went to bed, I get an email via my website from a casting agent in New York who is looking for female accordionist singer/actors asking would I be interested in submitting a video audition for ONCE the Musical? And, oh, by the way, it needs to be in tomorrow morning. Apparently no one had seen the other video (still 0 views on Youtube; it's a private link; you can't find it), but I got a babysitter the next morning and read the monologue and played the accordion part and sang 16 bars of a song and played the piano parts. Honestly, I thought the music was easy and was amazed they couldn't find anyone in NYC to do the role.

A few hours after I sent in the video, the casting agency asked me to come to NYC for a callback!

I wasn't 100% sure about going, but David said, "OF COURSE YOU WILL GO." 

The thing is, it was for the National Tour of ONCE the Musical, which opens in, like, 3 weeks in Tulsa, and rehearsals start this week, and I have four million gigs this fall and I am surely the only actor they are considering who has kids, and definitely the only one with a baby young enough that he subsists entirely on breastmilk.

But in acting, you can't tell them things like, "Oh, I have kids." Because no producer wants to deal with the ramifications that an actor-with-kids means. Calling in sick because your kid is sick is a little different when it's a sold-out show.

But I went! 

And man, did I feel like superwoman. 

They asked me at the last minute if I happened to play the cello, which I did play in middle school and again for a Days of the New tour. I can read the music and play the notes, but I hadn't touched one in years. A cello is fretless, so it's not something I can just pick up and be perfectly in tune the whole time. The music didn't look complicated, however. I was completely honest and said I used to play, hadn't in years, but would be happy to give it a try.

You know the rest, about how I flew up BY MYSELF, enjoyed a night in a hotel BY MYSELF, ate several meals BY MYSELF and generally had a merry old time. 
What I left out was the audition!

It was so crazy -- like the movies. Actors lined the hallway in a studio full of various productions rehearsing. NYU students had movement class in one room. MAMMA MIA! was rehearsing in another. Phantom of the Opera had reserved the room we were using right after us. 

Everyone had fancy headshots and some people were clearly trying to psych out others with their vast knowledge and serious experience. I also felt so old and so carefree because they all cared so much about everything. I was just there to have fun. 

Several people went in and came out a few minutes later echoed by a thankyouforyourtimeNEXT! kind of vibe. I was pretty much expecting that to happen for me, the last audition of the morning.

But, friends, they asked me to stay! Even after I played a crazy attempt at the cello, apparently my piano skills and accordion skills were worthy (duh- I'm awesome at those!), and my acting wasn't terrible, even with the Czech accent I was asked to attempt, because they asked if I'd stay for the movement audition. (Also, they were super nice and really easy to talk to, and I kind of wanted to go grab a beer with them after the long week I'd had. But business, you know...)

This part was funny because, though I actually love dancing and am also not terrible at it, I am five months postpartum. I have a lot of pelvic pain from PGP and misaligned hips and so much lower back pain and an incredibly weak core from a touch of diastisis recti (abdominal split). My healing has been so slow, and I can still barely turn over in bed at night. And pretty much the entire routine was core and lower body -- no arms, but not in a Riverdance kind of way, more of a you'llhaveaninstrumentinyourarmswhenyoudothisforreal kind of way. The first move was a deep lunge that caused lower back spasms, and I can't believe I made it through the routine without grimacing or falling over. 

Facetiming with the Wee-est boy.
At one point I sort of just laughed to myself and said, "Oh well, it's been fun. I'll just do the best I can." I probably should have attempted some facial expressions, but I was focused on not crying out in pain because, you know, I couldn't mention the whole five months postpartum thing without basically eliminating myself from the competition. 

Anyway, in the end, there were five of us left -- two men, one woman up for an entirely different role, and one woman up for the same role as I was. So basically: 50/50 shot at a ROLE IN A BROADWAY SHOW!

How crazy is that, y'all?!

They had to send the videos of auditions to the director to make a choice. People, the director is JOHN TIFFANY, currently in London directing THE CURSED CHILD! 

Also ... it's a six month tour, and I would have to bring the kids. They are young and portable, so it's not impossible. And David's company would fly him to a different city to meet us every week because he travels for work weekly anyway. But I'd have to hire a travel nanny. I'd have to buy a car. I'd have to put off finishing my new record and touring my new record. But then, in theory, it would be easier to book tours as a Broadway star than as a singer-songwriter. But oh, how exhausting! And Graham's birthday is this week, and I would miss it ... and I missed his birthday last year because of a work thing in Nashville. And the guilt the guilt!

Anyway, I spent the last several days in limbo wondering what life would present. I would have to say yes if they offered it to me because it would be amazingly fun and what an opportunity! And I would be great in that role -- it was written for someone like me.

They said they'd make offers on Monday, and I hadn't heard anything by Tuesday morning. I sent a quick note asking about travel reimbursement when they replied that the role hadn't been cast yet. Yikes! Back to limbo ...

Ultimately I found out last night that the other woman got the role. She was really nice and I had been angry at myself for rushing out to catch the elevator and my flight before I was able to get her contact info. She had more theater experience, was younger and didn't have kids, and I'm pretty sure was a better dancer (I was too busy trying to remember the steps on not enough sleep and didn't look at the others dancing. I also failed to list a bunch of my own theater experience on my resume because it was so long ago!)  (Producers, if you're reading this because something happened and you're considering casting me, IGNORE all my wondering-if-I-can-pull-it-off: I totally can. Because remember, moms can do it ALL. Your mother would agree.)

 But can I explain to you the sigh of relief that I didn't have to make a difficult choice? 

Moral of the story: I made it to the final two choices of a real actual BROADWAY SHOW when I was five months postpartum and in the worst shape of my life, both physically and mentally. So take that, haters (myself, included!). I am basically superwoman.

Now - let's book that Europe tour full of house concerts and festivals and folk clubs next year. Who's in??

4 comments:

  1. What a cool confidence boost and how fricking awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is so freaking cool, Brigid Kaelin! Good for you

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congrats! We hope you will book a show with us as we are starting a house concert series.

    ReplyDelete

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