Post Title: Leaving a Trail
Post Date: August 20, 2012
As a school kid in England, I used to love drama. By A level (graduation) English Literature time, my schoolmaster used to call me “Sir Larry” (we did Henry V at A level). But it sort of...well, wore off. I haven’t done any amateur dramatics for over 30 years.
SoCal seems to offer the soul the sort of freedom that no other place can. A few months back, after emailing the Coronado Playhouse, I received an invite to audition for their current production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
However, two problems arose from the contents of the email. Firstly, the director stated, “Just to confirm, all speaking roles will need to use a Southern accent.” More about that later. In addition, the show is a musical, so even more disarming than the Southern accent was this: “Speaking-only roles — some of the roles for men are ‘speaking only,’ and actors only need to be able carry a tune in the chorus ensemble number.” (I underlined the ONLY).
I spent the day of the auditions watching and listening to YouTube clips of the 1982 film version, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. Mostly song and dance but also some dialogue. I reckoned that if I listened long enough, I would be able to recreate the accent that evening.
When 6 p.m. arrived, I was the first to enter the theater. I filled out the forms, presented my photograph, and was asked for my résumé. Now my C.V. consists of 26 years as Financial Controller, CFO, Plant Director, qualified Accountant, fluent Hebrew speaker, and God knows what else. But there isn’t any mention of acting, singing, dancing, or even sweeping the stage floor. (My mother used to tell me that “one day you will be on the stage — sweeping it.”) “I thought it best not to bring my résumé,” I informed the clerk. “I just have a picture.” The other auditioners all had résumés and CDs of themselves. One was a baritone, another a something-else tone, while I was just an OUT OF TONE!
I entered the audition hall, and at least half a dozen sullen faces greeted me from behind desks. I had to break the ice. “I bet this is the first time that you have auditioned a Brit for a part where a Southern accent is needed,” I joked and, thankfully, they all laughed. “Well, I seem to have made a stupid mistake: you said a Southern accent; I thought you meant a southern English accent, not an American one.” They laughed out loud, and for a nanosecond, I was at ease.
The director asked me what I had brought, and the nanosecond passed. “I thought you were providing me with an unseen passage.” He looked very queerly at me and explained how the others had brought CDs or DVDs of themselves. I just had me and my stupid overconfidence. One of the panel suggested to him that he provide me with the show’s script. He brought out a little red book, opened it to a medium-length passage, gave me a few moments and...
Well, the passage was one of the damned YouTube clips that had given me a headache just three hours earlier. I ripped right into it. I have no idea where that Texas accent came from, but, boy, did they enjoy the Brit taking the piss out of those Confederates!
But remember the bit above, about singing in the chorus? No? Neither did I! The director blindsided me with the request to sing them something. I wanted to make for the door, but then that SoCal overconfidence grabbed me again, and I humbly pointed out that I was very aware of my musical IN-abilities. Another of the panel suggested I sing “Happy Birthday.” Unsure whether they were pulling my leg, I replied by suggesting that he sing with me. He started me off, and again, that Texas boy buried deep deep down inside me came to the fore. I sang with a deep Southern drawl, to the applause of the panel.
Exhilarated, I left the room, only to be called the next day and told I would not get a callback. I am still not sure whether they were laughing with me or at me, but the adrenalin was racing through my body and I enjoyed every moment of it, even if they didn’t.