It’s 7:00PM on a Wednesday night in February. I dutifully click on the Zoom link, and join a Brady Brunch opening credits montage, filled with a dozen or so well-dressed, nervously smiling heads and shoulders — my fellow virtual one-act play festival auditionees.
Several of them recognize me and shout out my name. I’m suddenly reminded of a TV show from my formative years called “Cheers”, and a forgotten life goal I once had to be like Norm. (Note to self: dream evidently accomplished.)
I smile in return, trying to spot who in the group was acknowledging me, but now everyone is looking at me as if they are trying to remember who I am, making it near impossible to figure out who actually proved that they did in fact remember … So I simply say, “Hey everybody!”
Several of the Brady Bunchers wave. I am comforted by the fact that I can recall most of their names.
Followed by a quick wave of discomfort, as I take a forest-eye view of the group, and almost everyone is really young and beautiful and spry.
Well, crap, I think. So much for this show.
There was a time, a mere handful of months ago, when I wouldn’t have been plagued by that thought. I’ve spent the first four and half decades of my life blessed with amazing genes (and a decent skin care regimen) that have put me comfortably in the audition group of 20s – 30s Caucasian woman. And chances are good that I was invited to this audition with that same description in mind.
These days, I’ve had to let that go. Every visit to the mirror reminds me why. And it’s been more than a little bit of a wave to ride, as sudden changes often are.
I’m not without my arsenal of tricks and tools to get through this. I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my brief tenure on this planet, and learned in the process that these things do happen.
Change is, as they say, the only constant.
There’s an argument to be made that we’re always changing. That we’re never NOT in the mode of dealing with it, in some form or other. It’s just that some changes are more obvious than others.
Many of them are part of what it means to be fortunate enough to survive long enough to experience the biological development process of a standard human being. Others are particular to events, circumstances, and genetics that are features of my particular brand of nature and nurture, of chance and choices.
Puberty, with all its new curves and acne and greasy hair and oh my gawd I really should have showered more back then. Haircuts gone wrong (and right). Abrupt changes in wardrobe style. Location changes, like moving from Michigan to Japan to California to Japan to Michigan. (The more things change, amiright?) Altered status, like going from anxiously single to happily married no kids to anxiously married stay at home mom to sometimes anxious but mostly happy divorced career mom.
So. Many. Changes.
Changes that I’ve chosen have typically had a rising action / climax / falling action flow to them. There’s the triggering factor (the beginnings of the idea), the decision point (maybe an impulsive choice, or a coin flip, or a point reached after years of being unable to take a stand one way or the other), the execution of that decision (aka let’s do this before I lose my nerve), then the gradual settling into the new state of things (the “don’t worry, it grows back” chapter or the “I can’t remember why I ever did this any other way” one).
Then there’s those other changes. The ones that smack you upside the head and leave you grasping for a hold on an invisible railing. There’s no “I have an idea” moment to them, no “choosing” the change. It just descends upon you, and you have to figure out what to do with this new moment, which like a boulder being dropped in a small pond, will alter your world forevermore, and there’s nothing you can do or think or say to go back to those smoother waters.
Changes that you know, as you’re in the midst of them, that you’ll look back one day, and likely be very proud, or very embarrassed (or most likely, a windy, twisty mixture of both that varies each time you look back) about how you handled it.
So, I’m dealing with some obvious not-my-choice changes these days, the kind that I can’t help but reveal to the outside world, and I’m trying very hard to handle it in a way that I’ll look back on with pride rather than embarrassment. In the meantime, it’s a weird journey and there are a lot of voices in my head wanting to throw myself to the ground and beat my fists at the sky because for some reason they believe that this will make a difference.
They’re wrong, of course — some changes are tides that we cannot turn.
It was in that spirit that I decided to embrace the new me and audition for this one-act festival.
So there I am, staring at this weird, aged version of myself on the Zoom self-view, next to all these other women who are cute, bright, and have sparkles in their eyes and passionate energy in their voices.
I wouldn’t describe my audition as cute, bright, young, or sparkly.
And I am painfully aware of this fact, as I read the lines that they instruct me to read. I can’t get it out of my head, can’t stop comparing myself to everyone else in the room, and coming up wanting.
So much for that audition, says my internal — and rather uninspiring — acting coach.
Doing my usual post-mortem after we are dismissed, I know I’ve cursed myself going in. Obsessing over how this would be my first time putting myself out there, with my sags and lines on full display. Unlocking the dressing room door of my vanity, and allowing my thoughts to linger on the things that used to be my claim to greatness, and how I’m now just another aging actress, and not a very good one at that.
Conversation in the mirror commences. Stop whining and learn from it, I tell myself. Thou shalt not wallow. (My first commandment – and oh, how I sin.)
As expected, the evening passes. The next morning passes. The afternoon passes. Still no calls about being cast. For the readers out there who aren’t “in the industry”, this is code for not being cast at all. Everyone who gets the part is called the night of or the morning after. The folks who are rejected will hear back the following day. Silence construes rejection, more or less.
I text my significant other – hey there, looks like I didn’t get cast, and I understand why.
He texts back – ugh, sorry to hear it, looks like you’re handling it well.
I start to respond that I’m feeling self-aware about the whole thing and it was a good learning experience and …
My phone chimes, notifying me of an incoming email. It’s from one of the directors of the festival.
“Hey, I’ve been trying to reach you. For some reason your phone isn’t letting me leave any voice mails.” Followed by a lovely statement about my audition, and an offer to play one of the lead roles in her show: a witty, snarky, down to earth, and all-over-awesome 40-something.
Thus endeth the lesson.