A few weeks ago I had an audition for a musical. It was a pretty big audition, at least for me. The last musical I did was in 2006 and I was nervous about auditioning for another one. I trained my entire life as a singer before I even got into acting, and I've always been really confident in my vocal abilities. The positive feedback I receive from people inside and out of the industry further reaffirms my decision to pursue what I love. But when I have a vocal audition coming up, I begin to freak out. Particularly when it's a big audition for a company that will pay me a living wage. Isn't that every actor's dream, to book such a gig? No pressure.
Except I was feeling the pressure. And tons of it. When I toured with Bombay Dreams in 2006 I finally understood what it meant to sing 8 shows a week - and I had one of the less strenuous tracks in the show. Having to sing on a regular basis meant keeping your voice in tip-top shape. One little sneeze, tickle or scratch and your chords decide to say "Fuck it - I do what I want!" Then you stress. Will I be better by half hour? Should my understudy go on? The day goes on and you think the stress is making it worse, but you're a goddamn professional so you show up and do your job.
Remembering my many experiences during a 10-month run of a national tour, I remind myself of the immense joys that come from doing a musical. I suck it up, prepare my songs, and go in to my audition. Only, what will they think of me? Sure enough I look like a woman. Hell, I've even been told I've got some feminine grace. Surely this makes me confident in how I present myself. Oh wait, I'm about to open my mouth and sing - aaaaaand I sound like a baritone.
This conversation, this struggle, is one I fight every time I am confronted with the choice to audition for a musical. I yearn for the sound of an orchestra backing a gritty, emotional 11 o'clock number I'm singing in front of hundreds of people, but getting there has proven difficult. I think of the many reasons I shouldn't go audition - I look like a woman, but sing like a man. Everything I sing that's been written for women I have to transpose. There are no roles for women written in my range. I should just give up then; I'll never be cast in a musical.
Friends, particularly in this industry where they can be your competition, are your greatest asset. They'll tell you when you need to work on your material, refer you to the best of classes and even lift you up when you need it the most and remind you why you got into this business in the first place. I am grateful for one friend who did so for me in the days leading up to this big audition. "You must think of yourself as special and unique. What do YOU bring to the table?" she tells me. She reminds me of a quote from Judy Garland. "Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else."
Why not. I have nothing to lose, right? I fear I'll embarrass myself but I need to trust in my abilities. Show them what I can do and let them decide if I'm right for what they want. If it doesn't happen today, or tomorrow, don't worry. It will happen. I have to keep breathing and keep pursuing. My friend tells me "Seattle needs you. The world needs you." My ego swells. Is she right? Perhaps I can be the change I wish to see in the world. (Gandhi said that.) Perhaps I can facilitate change within this industry. Perhaps I can inspire those around me to create more inclusive work, where my own community, my own story, my identity, is reflected in the industry. Perhaps one day, I will be cast in a musical, as a woman - and no one will think twice about how I sound, not even me.