Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dreams Do Come True

I’m not one for love at first sight, but the first time I saw Centerpoint Legacy Theatre I knew I wanted to perform there. It’s a beautiful building, more like a concert hall than a community theatre, and much larger than all of the theatres I had previously auditioned for. I entered through a backdoor, was shocked at how many people were waiting there, and promptly botched my audition. Here’s a piece of obvious advice: don’t use pieces you learned last night for auditions. Somehow I was still surprised that I didn’t get a callback. We always hope, right? The experience of auditioning with no callback was repeated twice before I even entered Centerpoint’s front doors to see a show.

If I thought I’d wanted to perform there before, seeing Guys & Dolls magnified the ache about a thousand times. It was one of the best productions I’d ever seen. The choreography was sharp and polished, the sets moved with uncanny ease, and the cast was simply incredible. Twenty dollars had seemed a lot when purchasing tickets, but now seemed an absolute steal. Greeting my cast-member friend after the performance, he assured me that the backstage culture was as lovely as the theatre. “And they give you waffles!” I had to get in.

I also saw Addams Family and You Can’t Take It With you before auditioning again. The timing with school and work made it difficult to fit shows in, and I was determined to be prepared for my next audition, unlike the “well, I think I have this memorized let’s give it a shot” fiasco. Both shows were as impressive as the first; I couldn’t believe that a theatre this good would ever take me, but I had to keep trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I had been missing the stage something fierce, and seeing some of my favorite titles come up for auditions (Sister Act, Noises Off, Beauty & the Beast) made me excited to brush up on my sixteen bars. As per my usual custom when searching for auditions, I checked Centerpoint’s site. They were holding auditions in just a few weeks for Oliver, a musical I’d loved since my first listen.

I used to have a job in a chocolate shop where I could listen to my own music. This gave me ample time to discover new shows, and I still remember sitting at the counter listening to “Reviewing the Situation” and “Be Back Soon” and loving what I heard. “I’d love to be a part of this show someday.” And now Centerpoint was doing it? I scheduled an audition time immediately.

I had five auditions in the weeks before I auditioned for Centerpoint. “Always the callback, never the cast” sometimes feels like my mantra, and that’s what happened here: four call backs and four “please try out in the future”s. I’ll admit I felt a bit of a joke walking down the ramp that led to Centerpoint’s audition room. But my boyfriend had run my audition piece with me so many times, I had the monologue memorized, and there wasn’t anything to be gained by doubting myself now. I stuck the number 39 onto my chest, hoped the production team was a fan of odd numbers, and walked into the room.

To be honest, I left the room feeling like, ‘well umm that was a bust.’ I felt like the pianist and I hadn’t really connected, and I was focusing too much on my presentation as opposed to my singing. But that night as I lay in bed playing Candy Crush my phone pinged to let me know I had an email, and it was from the production team of Centerpoint. I was called back for Matron, Old Sally, and Widow Corney. SAY WHAT NOW?

Callbacks are generally even worse than auditions, if such a thing is possible, because you see your competition in all their glory. But Centerpoint callbacks were almost joyful, mostly because the production team was so incredibly encouraging and positive. Even the choreography, my weakest suit, didn’t feel like a complete nightmare. The two nights I spent at callbacks were so much fun that I knew I would be crushed if it didn’t result in being cast, especially since I’d never gotten this far in the process before.

“You’ll hear from us by Friday night,” we were told on the last night of callbacks. We’d get a call if we made it, and an email if we didn’t. Just a few days before I’d been yearning for a Centerpoint email and now I was dreading one. To hedge against eventualities, I scheduled an audition for Friday night, but I was feeling serious audition fatigue. A cycle of getting your hopes up only to be disappointed will do that to you. Still, you have to keep getting back on the horse, so I put on my audition boots and started the car.

I hadn’t even made it to the freeway when my cell phone rang. My heart stopped. If this was the recorded spam call from Marriott that I’d been getting lately I was going to flip a table. “Hello?” “Hi, this is Carynn from the Oliver! production team…”

I immediately pulled over. I couldn’t take this call while driving and not swerve wildly. “The production team would like to offer you the role of Widow Corney for the Monday, Wednesday, Friday cast.” I don’t know if Carynn was going to ask me to accept or not, but I blurted out, “Oh my gosh, I’d love to!!” It was happening. It was happening. After I hung up I screamed and then turned the car towards home. The sky may have been pouring rain, but my world was full of sunshine.

The months since then have been a happy blur of rehearsal and new friends and a new theatre and an overarching sense of incredulous awe. When I showed up at the initial cast meeting I was sure someone was going to say, “Rebecca Waite? No, we meant to call Rachel White. Terribly sorry for the mix-up!” This feeling lingered for weeks, but once I sent in my bio for the program I told myself that even if it had been a mistake they were stuck with me now. I mean, we took cast pictures last night. We open on Friday. This is real. I think they meant me. And, yes, I also got waffles.

I’m exhausted and excited and anxious to release our show into the wild. Come see Oliver! Both casts are great (I’m in awe of my double, Maegan), but if you want to see me, hit up the MWF cast or the matinee on 4/22. http://www.centerpointtheatre.org/tickets/  :)