Given that I have chosen one of the world’s most emotionally traumatizing career paths, I shouldn’t have been surprised when my agent coughed up yet another audition for the national tour of Mary Poppins.  Last year’s audition is chronicled here, and as some of you may remember, it resulted in tears and a clove cigarette.  So this year when I heard they wanted to see me for the exact same part, I had to resist the urge to bang my head against the wall.  Was I to endure the torture a second time?

“They wouldn’t have you back unless you did something right the last time,” my Poppins-cast-member-friend Elizabeth said when I called for support.

“But they didn’t even keep me to dance,” I protested.

“We’re going to go over the dance,” she reassured me.  “You’re going to go in and kick ass.”

Fortified by Elizabeth’s confidence in me, I threw myself into the material and learned the audition tap combination.  (Which would be cheating except everyone does it.)  I arrived Tuesday morning feeling not just prepared, but determined.

This time I was asked to stay and dance along with four other women of various types.  I gave the combination all I had, as did the talented women around me.  My agent called that night.

“You’re the top pick,” she said, “But they can’t offer you the part yet.”  It turns out that the woman I would be replacing hadn’t officially put in her notice.  This sort of preemptive auditioning is rare in my experience.   In Dalmatians they waited until the person’s second to last day before auditioning replacements, throwing on the swing (me) to fill in the gaps.

Nonetheless, I was elated.  I had won the day!  The prize might be forthcoming, but I had Done Something Right.  I called the husband to tell him the news, cracked open a bottle of wine, and settled in to wait.

Actually, the phrase “settled in to wait” isn’t quite accurate.  More like, “paced the apartment, completely unable to focus,” or “obsessed to such an extent that I lost sleep.”  My husband was helpful, as usual.  “Don’t believe anything till you’ve signed the contract,” he warned me.   The rain he poured on my parade came from an honest place:  the issue apparently was that the cast member I would be replacing had been on maternity leave for a year.  (Yeah, Disney gives a year.  Cool, right?)  Last year, I had auditioned to replace her during the length of her leave.   The girl they hired last year instead of me had indicated that she did not want to stay on the road longer than May, and the new mother does not want to return to the tour.  She has told everyone that she intends to give notice.  So they need somebody new.  That’s where I would step in.  “There’s no way she’s taking that baby on tour,” said my friend Stephanie, who had just given birth herself.  “And there’s no way she’s going to leave it at home.  She’s going to park it in New York and wait for the Broadway slot to open up.”

“You don’t know what she’s going to do,” my husband said.  “Don’t get your hopes up.”

My agent said we should know by Friday, April 15th.  Here is a short list of things I have done to fill the time:

1. meditated in the park.

2. got a mani/pedi

3. made potato bacon pie (Weight Watcher’s recipe)

4.  went shopping

5. checked my phone every three seconds.

By Friday I was ready to gnaw off my arm.  I also got hit out of nowhere with a cold, leading me to believe I had worried myself sick.  It might have had something to do with lack of sleep.  I would wake up in the middle of the night to pee and lie awake fantasizing about paying off my credit cards.

But by 6 PM Friday I knew I would have to wait through the weekend.  I wrote the first draft of this blog, mostly to create an outlet for my anxiety.  As an actor you get used to a certain amount of uncertainty regarding the future, but this was epic.  I began to steel myself for rejection.  “Her mother’s coming on the road with her,” I could imagine my agent explaining.  Or “she’s arranged to swap parts with the Broadway girl.”  Or some equally unlikely scenario.

By the following Thursday I had become acquainted with a whole new form of torture:  that of waiting  for The Call.  My initial excitement began to be replaced with frustration.  What is going on?  What is taking so long?  Every night I went to bed thinking, “I’ll get the offer tomorrow.” I was starting to think it was all a figment of my imagination, some sort of psychological defense mechanism, like how people develop multiple personality disorder to cope with severe emotional trauma.  In my case I’m creating imaginary calls from my agent whereby I  imagine I book the part, but there’s a catch.  There’s always a catch.

Finally today, April 26th, I got the official offer.  The job starts Tuesday.  I leave Friday to visit the spouse in Rochester, where he’s doing a lead in The Music Man, and I will fly from there to Columbus.   No news on whether I’ll still be able to do Ulla in Producers at Sacramento Music Circus.  My agent thinks it unlikely, but we’re waiting.  Always waiting.  Until then I’m scrambling to pack, get a hair cut, eat up the fridge, et cetera, et cetera.

Whew.  Sometimes life is exceptionally strange.

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Me on Stilts Yesterday I had my first rehearsal for 101 Dalmatians.  It turns out this show isn’t the latest excretion of the Disney machine.  The producers went straight to a Miss Dodie Smith, or at least her nearest surviving relative, who penned the book 101 Dalmatians.  Who knew it was a book?  Did you?

Anyway.  Yesterday was lovely.  Not only were there bagels and coffee (no cream, though.  What is to be done with New Yorkers?)  and a few lovely speeches, but we ended 30 minutes early after a read-through of the script.  As the swing, I had no lines to read, which killed me of course, but I’ll get my chance soon enough!

If you’ve read my blog before, you may know that the human characters perform  on stilts.  The show is being told charmingly from the point of view of the dogs, and as such all the adults are taller and somewhat outsized, as they would appear to a dog.  Enter the stilts.

I was expecting pegs attached to our feet by strips of Velcro.  What I got was a highly technical prosthesis, the type of thing I might order for myself if I suddenly lose my lower leg, say, in a logging accident.  The stilts have shock-absorbing springs and very secure straps that go around our dance-sneaker-clad feet with remarkable comfort and efficiency.

Before mounting our stilts, however– and that term is accurate.  To get them on, we had to sit in high, stool-level chairs and be strapped in by a member of our physical therapy team, while being supervised by a member of Actors Equity.  I felt the way Bonnie Blue Butler must’ve felt the day Pork first set her on a pony.   But I digress…

We were led through a warm-up by Ashton.  She isn’t our main PT, but she ended up being the first one to help me walk in stilts, so I won’t have a word said against her.  Overall, the physical therapy team took their jobs about as seriously as the bag check people do at JFK.   In their noble efforts to emphasize safety above all else, they managed to kill a lot of the fun– except, of course, full-grown adults clonking around in stilts provides hours and hours of undeniable hilarity.  If said adults attempt to do a grapevine in said stilts, rehearsal becomes more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

I’m sure singing and dancing in stilts will be no sweat in a couple of weeks– days, even.  Meanwhile, after about 30 minutes of step-touching, step-clapping, and, of course, the grapevine, I could feel a burn in my ass and inner thighs.  We have to stay just slightly pitched forward with our abs engaged.  We’re going to be a smoking hot cast by the time we hit Miami.  Possibly we should put together a swimsuit calendar.  After all, there’s nothing sexier than a bikini on stilts.

Date: 4/22

Audition: EPA for Nt’l Tour of upcoming Disney mega-musical 101 Dalmatians

Outfit:  Black pencil skirt, black 3/4 sleeve top over beige lace underlay.  Paired with nude fishnets and my unlucky shoes.  (Seriously, I’ve never gotten so much as a callback wearing these shoes.  In music theatre, you audition the shoes.)

Song: ??

I get to Ripley Grier studios at 9 AM, right when sign up begins.  I manage to book my lucky time, 10:30 , so despite the shoes, things are looking up.  Ten thirty is lucky because the casting director has at that point seen enough people that he or she is primed for someone to be good, as opposed to 12:00, when all he can think about is lunch, or 3:00, when he’s wishing everyone would go away, or 5:00 when he’s seriously contemplating a martini, and so forth.  My theory is tested and true.

Dave Clemmons is casting this, and fortunately Dave himself is not in the room.   He saw me at Carnegie Mellon years ago, told all the teachers how I was the next Patti Lupone, then refused to cast me at every opportunity.  Oh, except for the Cats tour, which he personally did not cast, but Rachel Hoffman cast.  She now works at Telsey.  But it doesn’t matter because I didn’t take it anyway, opting for the Gateway Playhouse and my Equity card.  But I digress.

I am unsure of my song choice going into the room, so I decide to give Joy, the casting director, some options.  “Since it’s a new musical, I’m unsure of what to sing,” I say to her, emphasizing the liquid u in ‘new’ (pronouncing it n-yew), therefore drawing attention to my training.  We decide on “You Can Always Count on Me” from City of Angels.  The piano player begins the song, disregarding the tempo I gave him, plunking it out like a geriatric matron returning home from a long night of Bingo.  I try to work it anyway, and at the end she says, “Thanks, Molly.  Good song choice.”  I can’t tell if she’s just being nice.  But it is nice that she’s nice, regardless.

As I head to the train, I pass a street promo where a loud black man is yelling, “Got a cat?  We love your cat!  Get your free cat food!  It’s Earth Day!  Free cat food here!”  So I pick up two cans for Pants as well as a ‘Buy Six, Get One Free,’ coupon.  (Um… great deal.  Thanks.)  I hear somebody go, “Hey, that guy’s eating his.”  The loud man shrugs.  “We tell ’em it’s cat food,” he sighs.  “Some people are just hungry.”

Another day pounding the pavement in New York…