The time between booking a job and the “first day of school,” as we say in the business, is the time to savor.  We relish the security employment provides in the brief period before disappointment, compromise or just plain drudgery kicks in– the inevitable byproduct of any steady job, no matter what the field.  In my case reality began to set in as I kissed my husband goodbye one rainy afternoon at the Rochester airport.

I had flown to Rochester to see him in The Music Man before I departed for tour.  So had the majority of my family.  The weekend had been one small celebration after another, starting with the Royal Wedding the morning I left and ending with drinks with Rochester-based friends.  In short, I was exhausted.  My cold had re-emerged to the extent that I could no longer pretend it was allergies.  After a year of unemployment, my body was failing me just when I need to be well.  Very frustrating.

My flight was relatively uneventful, except that I had to check my yoga mat (?) and was seated across from the latrine during the Rochester-DC leg.  (I moved.)  My luggage, yoga mat and I arrived intact at the Columbus airport, grabbed some Wendy’s right before they closed, and hopped a cab to the Doubletree, where I was greeted with the customary oven-warmed  cookie.

Once off the elevator and onto the 9th floor, I opened the door to my room.  It was huge.  Cavernous, in fact, with an enormous king-size bed, a dinky coffee maker and cupboards that wouldn’t open.  I was later to discover that the tub wouldn’t drain and I couldn’t get cell service, but I didn’t know that at the time.  All I knew was that I couldn’t possibly fill the space.  I gazed out the window at the rain-swollen river and felt empty.  I longed for my cozy one-bedroom with the bathroom tile I hated and the over-active radiator.  I longed for the full-size bed that doesn’t fit Andre and me, and I longed for my Cuisinart coffee pot.  For the millionth time I missed my cat.

Since I wasn’t feeling well, I immediately hit the hay– the hay in this case being the starched sheets and lumpy pillows of my oversized bed.  As I huddled under the covers– I had to huddle because the room was insistently cold– I put a name to what I was feeling.  There, in my home state of Ohio, surrounded by Midwesterners and theatre people, I was homesick.

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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.

As I was headed to the Japanese market on Broome Street, my agent called.   Remember the audition for Billy Elliot a couple months ago?  Well, they want to see me again.  Oh, yes, and the contract starts Monday.  In Chicago.  Would I be willing to do that?

There goes the universe, dangling the proverbial carrot.  The parallels to last year did not go unnoticed.   Almost exactly a year ago to the day I got a call asking me to audition again for the Dalmatians tour, scheduled to start the following Monday.  But I didn’t want to dwell on that or on this.  I doubted my luck would repeat itself.  I asked my agent how many women were going in.  Only five.

I called my fiance to discuss it with him.  We are planning a wedding, after all.   He agreed I should go in for it.  I cleared my schedule.

Twenty-four hours is not a lot of time to obsess over something, especially if one expects to be sleeping for eight of them and reviewing a dance performance for two.  But I managed to cram a lot of mind-fucking into that period.  It was not lost on me that if I were to get it, I would not have to worry about our health insurance running out or going into debt over this wedding– all very serious considerations.   There’s a point where you’re no longer trying to live your dream.  You’re trying to pay your bills.  You’re trying to make a living.  You’re trying to survive.

There was no time for coaching or over-preparing the five scenes and two songs I was sent.  I had to rely on the work I’d done previously.  I was reminded once again of Every Little Step‘s Rachelle Rak, who complained during her upteenth callback for Chorus Line, “I don’t know what I did eight months ago!  I was in a different place.  I was a different person!”

The next day I found myself at New 42nd Street Studios, where we rehearsed Dalmatians.  I had to laugh.  It felt strange not having to worry about getting into stilts.  It felt quite homey, in fact.  Like I belonged there.  What a whirlwind month that had been!  Maybe I was preparing for another whirlwind.  Who knew?

The assistant director and casting director were seeing two of the five women that day on a lunch break from rehearsing the second national.  I paced outside the room while the other woman was put through the paces.  After nearly a half an hour, it was my turn. The assistant director and casting director set me at ease right away.  They really are so lovely.  We chatted for a bit, and then I launched into the mother’s song, and that’s where it got weird.  They wanted me to sing it less and make it about communicating.  (That is, not about emoting.)   I appreciate this in a way.  At this level, obviously everyone can sing, so just leave it.  And this is a tough, northern English culture.  They are not emotional.  I get it.  But this song is a ballad.  It’s hard to speak-sing a ballad.  The notes literally go on for too long.   I gave it my best, but once again I wasn’t sure if I was doing what they wanted.  Then we moved on to the mom scene.  I did that, took direction, did it again.  Same thing with the second song (pretty sure I nailed that, actually).  Then moving into the second scene.  This time, no direction.  Just “thank you, that’s all we need today.”  And my heart, which had been trying not to get its hopes up in the first place, broke just a little bit.

Now, possibly I’m jumping to conclusions.  The audition could’ve ended abruptly because:
A.  They were out of time (which they were).

B.  I nailed it.  (Doubtful.)

C.  I sucked.  (Also doubtful.  I usually know when I suck.)

But just the same I put my brave face on, thanked everyone in the room, and left.  The casting director followed me out, thanking me for coming in on short notice.  I thanked him and asked  for any feedback he could possibly give when he gets the chance.  I called my fiance.  I called my agent, who promised to look into it.  I treated myself to the buffet at the health food store on 43rd Street.  Then I switched out my heels for my flip flops and resumed my life.