A couple of weeks ago, I did something rather out of character. A friend from my playgroup had suggested that we get a group together to go see our local theatre's production of A Christmas Carol as a date night with our husbands. I went on the theatre's website to scrounge out ticket prices and other details, and came across a tab that said "Auditions." I clicked on it.
And somehow found myself facing a page that said, "You have reserved an audition slot at 7:10 P.M. Monday, October 17th."
I have to say, I really had no intention of ending up there…not unlike Lucy Pevensie poking around in a coat closet and arriving unexpectedly in glittering white Narnia. As in, how did I get here and where is my familiar lamppost? But once I had reserved an audition, though I waffled a bit the following days, I figured I might as well go ahead with it, for the experience, if nothing else. I grew up around stage productions (my mom having been a high school drama teacher during my childhood) and have had a handful of bit parts in a handful of plays, including bot not limited to: baby spider in Charlotte's Web, Bielke, one of the two younger, insignificant daughters in Fiddler on the Roof (Bielke--how's that for a winner of a name?), and Gracie Shinn in The Music Man. Thank you very much for not telling me you've never heard of any of these. Destined for greatness, I tell you!
At any rate, this Monday night, I arrived, knees knocking, at my first real-deal audition ever. There's a pretty significant difference between playing baby spider when you're six and your mom's the play director and trying out for a large-scale production with the primary purveyor of live theatre in the eastern suburbs of the nation's fifth largest city. With sixteen prepared bars of Till There Was You rolling around in my head, I waited my turn to read for the Ghost of Christmas Past. (Funny, by the way, how many hours of anxiety can be devoted to a process that takes all of three minutes.) When my name was called, I passed through the heavy stage curtains and gave what I thought was actually a decent rendition of Scrooge's first apparition--not too fast, bit of humor thrown in. Buoyed by this confidence, I moved on to the singing portion of the audition, where the music director ended up asking me to sing not only my 16 prepared bars, but the entire song. Wish I had considered this a possibility when I spent the entire drive there trying to get those first two phrases right, chanting "Bells-hill-never-heard-singing…birds-sky-never-saw-winging…" Thankfully, the piano was placed such that I could look over his shoulder and, like the song says, he "never saw me winging" it. I walked to my car feeling pumped. Maybe, just maybe, I might get a callback.
Much to my excitement, I did! Moving right along in the world from Bielke and baby spider, I was called back for…Woman #2! Hey, it must be an important role, since there's a Woman #2 in just about every stage production out there, right? The phone call went something like this:
Girl on the phone: "We'd like to bring you back in for Woman #2 in the [garbled, sounded like "pauper"] scene."
Me: "Woman #2 in the what scene?"
Girl on the phone: "The Auper scene. You know, like, Auper?"
Me: "Yes, of course. Okay, see you then!"
I had no idea what she'd said, but I figured I'd get it straightened out when I arrived on Wednesday night. Because who cares what scene it was? Callback, glorious callback!
Upon arrival at the callback, I saw piles of mini-scripts (which all the cool people were calling "slides"). None of the slides said anything about paupers (or "aupers," for that matter). I was stumped and finally had to ask someone for assistance. Thus was I informed that I was there for the "Topper" scene--Topper apparently being a character who attends Scrooge's nephew's Christmas party. Finally I was invited back with a group of others also being sized up for parts in this scene. It was fascinating, exhilarating to be in an arena performing something other than finger puppet antics and feats of bravery involving poop. It's been so long since I've experienced something so unapologetically competitive--and it felt really, really good. Even though I didn't really know what I was doing, and quite likely looked like a major idiot, and tried to take my cues (literally and figuratively) from the other more experienced performers there, I had a great time…which was the point in the first place.
So now I await the final word, due tomorrow, of whether I am woman enough to be Woman #2. I find myself really wanting to be a part of this play. But as I consider the reality of the commitment--rehearsals several nights a week, seven shows a week in the month of December--I find that Doubt and Guilt are knocking at my door just as surely as Scrooge's ghosts. Doubt says, "Will it really be worth it to miss out on all that time with my kids? Will I be able to care for them properly if I'm committed so many hours a week elsewhere? Won't they miss me if I'm not there to put them to bed every night?" Guilt picks up where Doubt leaves off, telling me I couldn't possibly be a good mother if I leave my kids that much, that I'll have to wean the baby if I'm going to be gone that many hours a week, that I'll ruin Christmas for all of them, all because of my own selfishness. Surely I can't do this play…because (did I forget?)…
I have kids.
And I realize that's the excuse that trumps everything, all the time. It's the sign I might as well have tattooed to my forehead, the limitation I have placed on myself in so many ways since I stopped working four years ago. Over and over: I couldn't possibly do (fill-in-the-blank-thing-I-think-I-want-to-do). I have kids. Like they're some debilitating disease that keeps me home-bound. The truth is, they're not. They're wonderful little people with a wonderful dad who supports me pursuing my passions. So why don't I? I'm starting to think that the "I have kids" line is something a lot of us moms throw at anything that threatens us, anything we're afraid to try. We do kids and kids and kids all day long and we start to be afraid that maybe we won't be good at anything but kids anymore.
But I don't want to be like that, and I'll bet you don't either, mom-friend. I have to believe that by showing my kids that I have passions, it may teach them to have passions, too. If I get out there and use my God-given gifts (not just the baby-rocking and/or Spiderman-web-throwing ones), I have to hope that my children will see that as important, a value we hold in this family.
And frankly, if you can do kids, you can do anything, mamas. Kids are the hard part. Everything else is cake.
So woman #2, it's on. I am ready to step into your uncomfortable Victorian shoes. I think it's worth it and it's gonna be okay. And (have to conclude with this) God bless us, everyone!