Saturday, February 16, 2008

So Many Possibilities

I have a love/hate relationship with New York. I'm in the hate phase these days.

For many years I was in the love phase. Those were the "tourist" years, back when I was in college, and a group of us made the trip from LA, every year, the week between Christmas and New Year's. We made the trip solely to see shows, and, with the holiday matinees staggered throughout the week, one could see 10 or 12 shows if you tried hard enough.

And I always did. Rather than spend a lot of time on touristy traps, we spent our time On Broadway (and occasionally, Off-). I have already mentioned that these trips afforded me the chance to see many now classic shows with their original casts.

In the same week, for example, I saw the original Chicago, with legends Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon, and Jerry Orbach, and the original A Chorus Line, right after it moved uptown from the Public Theatre.

But I never go to NY these days to see a show. I bet I've only seen two or three there in the past decade. Instead, my NY trips are simply schlepps north, looking for work. I am only brought to the City That Never Sleeps when I have an audition there.

I used to look forward to these audition trips. I had some nice success with them early on, right after I finished grad school. In fact, the very first time I ever went to NY for an audition, I booked the gig. It was with Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, and it began a relationship which continues to this day. I've already written about that theatrical birth in a previous blog.

I've had limited success with other Manhattan auditions. Most of them run together in my fading memory, but I do recall one or two with some humor. Every time I'm summoned to NY to attend one of these overcrowded monsters, I try to remember one instance years ago. I don't even remember what the gig was, but I had been given some sides to study out in the hallway before being called in to read. This ante-chamber served as the waiting area for at least a dozen auditions happening in various rooms at this rehearsal studio. So, many people were sitting around in states of nervousness (or feigned indifference, or what have you), preparing to be called into the Principal's Office.

I couldn't help noticing an odd duck among us, a young man with (what's the PC term these days?) a developmental handicap. He had clearly wandered in off the street, looking for something to audition for. He was seated excitedly among us, waiting for someone, anyone, to come out of one of the doors so he could announce his intention to audition.

I glanced up at him, and he beamed a huge grin at me. "So many doors!" he exclaimed with wonderful anticipation. "So many possibilities!"

I remember that guy every time I am called up to one of those horrible rehearsal studios where auditions are held. Sometimes, it helps.

Here's one time it did. The gig was a summer stock production of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. After performing my standard monologue, the director proceeded to tell me all about his concept for this production. Shakespeare's treatise on Young Love, Courtly Behavior, and Growing Up, was to be set in...outer space.

The director got more and more excited, telling me all about this new interpretation which would shed so much light on Shakespeare's play, including the fact that it would take place on the Planet Navarre. I kid you not, the Princess and her ladies were to arrive on Navarre via spacecraft from (wait for it): The Planet France (my first thought was, "are they coneheads?", but I kept my mouth shut).

Though the four sets of lovers would all be human in appearance, the rustics local to the Planet Navarre (Costard, Holofernes, Nathaniel, etc) would be in alien form. Don Armado and his page, Moth, would be visiting from the Planet Spain.

I could feel my eyes glaze over as I smiled and nodded and tried to react enthusiastically to each more outrageous concept (I needed the job). I was given a speech of Boyet's (attendant to the Princess of France) to look over, out in the hall. Ten minutes later, I was called back into the room to impress everyone with my mastery of rhyming iambic couplets. But, only a second before I opened my mouth to begin, the director proclaimed, "Oh, by the way, you're an android."

The next 90 seconds are a complete blank in my memory; I only came to when I escaped from the room.

I booked the gig, and the highlight of the Centennial Theatre Festival's 2000 season was "Love's Labour's Lost in Space."

So many possibilities...