Dream Role

In mid-January, I had an audition for a theatre season. This theatre is about an hour away from where I live, between Philadelphia and my hometown, and it is non-paying. Usually, these auditions are the kinds I don’t- or rather, can’t- attend, because in my position (poor), I really can’t afford to do non-paying theatre. But I went anyway, and for one reason only: they were doing Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Brighton Beach Memoirs is an old favorite of mine. Actually, it’s an old obsession of mine, and no matter how much my college advisor teases me about my love for Neil Simon, I still love the playwright and his work, Brighton Beach Memoirs in particular. Maybe it’s my love of family dramas, maybe because it takes place in the 1940s, or maybe because sixteen year-old Nora and I are almost the same person, especially when I was sixteen. Whatever the reason, it has always been a goal of mine to play her. So even though the audition at this theatre was for a whole season (and a good one at that, with many parts appropriate for me), I was there to get a callback for BBM.

My audition went very, very well, and finally, at the very beginning of February, I got the call I’d been waiting for: I was called back for the role of Nora. But as with most acting situations, the moment you get what you want, you start freaking out about all the ways you could mess it up. In fact, the morning of the callback, the ninth, I woke up nervous and thought that I’d rather skip the audition and fail like that, then try and get rejected again. Because this is not the first time I’ve tried out for this role. No, this callback would be attempt #3 at getting the part. One of those attempts was for the Broadway show. The first time I lost the part, it was an issue of height- I am 5’3″, and the girl they wanted for Laurie (the younger sister) was taller than I was, so they went with the other girl. It was a huge fear of mine that I would walk into this callback and see all of these 5’6″ Lauries and I’d be cut on sight.

The idea of being cut on sight is not a completely unfounded one. With family dramas like this one, it’s at least a little important that the family members look alike. In fact, the first thing they did when the callback began at 11:45 that day was herd all twenty of us into the room, split us into character groups, and have us line up in one long, straight line. Then the director called out the name of one actor per character and had that smaller group stand in front of him as he looked them over as a family. I was relieved to see that all of the Lauries were 5′ or under, but I still tried to stand up really straight when put next to one of them. After doing this for awhile, the director paired up Noras and Lauries and sent us out of the room to read over the scenes.

When my Laurie and I were called in, I was actually pretty relaxed. The scene involved a big Nora monologue, but I just reminded myself to take my time and focus on the work, not getting the part. I had an idea of how I wanted the scene to end- on a funny note- and  we were rewarded with a hearty laugh from the director when we reached the conclusion: exactly what I had been going for. After that, it was a lot of the waiting game. I tried to read my book while the mothers went in and read a scene, but all I could focus on was the fact that the Lauries were being sent home and all the Noras were being paired off with mothers for their next scene… except me. Reading my book was impossible; I just sat there bouncing my legs up and down and hoping I hadn’t been cut- or worse, forgotten. Finally, the assistant came out and paired me with a woman named Robin, handing us our scripts and giving us the page numbers. I knew what scene it was: the big blow-up between Nora and Blanche, my favorite scene in the show.

Robin and I took it down the hall to work on it. I was really worried about over-rehearsing it. The scene is a doozy, involving an argument and a lot of tears on Nora’s part. I wasn’t so much worried about getting the tears, because I understand Nora completely and feel her pain in that scene, but about crying myself out before actually getting into the room. But the scene gets me every time. Even when I was sitting there earlier listening to the other Noras read the part, I was crying. So even though I wanted to save my tears for the room, I still cried. After the first read through, Robin asked me if I was okay and I said, “Yes. I just love this scene. I really want this part,” and she said, “I know. I can tell,” and gave me a hug. I think she and I were well-matched; we had similar styles and she understood my fear of over-rehearsal.

We were called in and read through the scene and I think I was way too concentrated on getting it “right”; at one point, I had to pull myself back from being too over-dramatic, or maybe just too dramatic, too soon. In the end, I cried more than I had during rehearsal, but instead of feeling overdone or out of place, like I was afraid it might, it felt really good. The director looked really, really happy when we finished and handed him our scripts. He told us that we might not know about casting for a few weeks- they had another round of callbacks the next weekend. This was even more nervous-making than the callback I’d just attended; at least at that one, I could size everyone up, and they could pull us in to assess our chemistry and looks against each other. But a whole weekend of callbacks where they might forget about us?

Now it’s April and I haven’t heard a peep about this show. Lately this theatre has taken to posting the cast lists on Facebook, but the one for BBM isn’t there. At this point, I’m assuming I don’t have the part, but I want it so badly that there’s a tiny part of me that is still waiting for the phone to ring. The show is in July, so there IS time for them to still call, even though it’s unlikely. I wish they would post the list so I would know for sure. I’m quite upset that I didn’t have the part. The callback went SO well, well enough that I actually expected to get the role. Time is running out for me to play Nora and I wish this time, it was my turn.

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