Friday In A Sweltering Room With George
Today I did something that turned out fairly insane and I’m still trying to decide if it was worth it. I went to an open call for George Takei’s musical which is opening on Broadway in November. The play, “Allegiance” is based upon his family’s true story of being forced from their homes into the Japanese American internment camps during the war.
Today there was an open call, here in Los Angeles, for Asian American singers. This might not seem like a big deal, but for AA musical theater folks, it’s huge. We’re not seen in musicals very often so to have an entire cast of AA actors, singers and dancers is super cool.
I made an appointment with my voice teacher and prepared 16 bars from two contrasting songs, one a classic songbook number and the other a contemporary musical theater piece. I practiced and freaked out a little because I – like 99.9% of all breathing beings in SoCal – am having severe allergy issues right now with a sore throat, post-nasal drip, nagging cough and itchy eyes. This does not make for a great singing voice, but the show must go on.
Before I go any further, I should note that it has been years since I’ve attended any type of open call. Literally, probably over 10 years. Open calls are generally for desperate young actors with no experience, homeless people and American Idol contestants. But apparently this was the only way to be seen here in L.A. and it’s the show of a lifetime for a face like mine.
The open call started at 11am (the notice said not to show up any earlier than 10:30am for sign up) and went until 2pm which is when the dancers open call started. I got there around 11:25am and the waiting room was packed and sweltering. Eyeballing the crowd and knowing they were all going to sing 16-32 bars, I made a rough estimate of a two hour wait.
Well, almost two hours later, I was losing my voice from allergy coughing, I was starving, the room was even more sweltering and just as crowded. Looking around I knew there was no way we were all going to be seen and they have to give preference to AEA members, which I am not. Then they announced that normally they would just cut the waiting list off at some point and tell those of us who didn’t make it under 2pm to go home and too bad, so sad, sorry but not sorry. That’s not actually what they said, but that’s what typically would happen. But since they really wanted to see as many of us as they could they asked us to select EIGHT BARS to sing from of one of our songs, when we go in the room, don’t waste time introducing ourselves, just give your music to the accompanist and start singing and get out.
A roomful of black haired singers with furrowed brows, frantically started pawing through their sheet music, singing quietly to themselves, shaking their heads, asking each other questions. For those of you who aren’t musicians, let me break it down for you: eight bars of a song is like singing for 10-15 seconds. Uh, yeah. At this point, the dancers started showing up for their sign up and it was pretty obvious who was a singer and who was a dancer. Every actor in the room who thought they had a hot body suddenly realized, they really aren’t a dancer.
About 15 minutes after that announcement, I was put on deck. I did exactly as I was told; when the door opened, I went straight to the accompanist, gave her some quick instructions on where to start, took my place, starting singing, stopped singing, left the room. It was the most anti-climactic musical moment of my life.
I was 90% happy with my singing except my voice cracked a little on a high, sustained note.* Waiting in that loud, hot room with a dry cough really did me in a little. That was a note that typically would have been no problem for me, but I almost lost my voice to these allergies two nights ago. The rest was great, I ended strong, I think I conveyed some of the story of the song in EIGHT BARS and showed some character. Uh, I guess.
And then I left. Total, I spent two and a half hours waiting for my chance to sing those eight bars and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I mean, I know how I feel about my performance and I’m at peace with that, but I’m not sure if I’m completely glad that I went. I think I am. I guess if I hadn’t gone, I’d be wondering “what if” and that sucks.
I’m grateful that the session runners and the four folks in the audition room were all very nice and friendly. I’m glad that Aubrey’s dad was able to spend the day with her so I could go alone (I usually drag her to auditions with me) and that I forced her to finish her school work yesterday so we wouldn’t have to do any today. And I met a nice young actor/singer named Jane who was actually a fan of my comedy. I was so flattered that she knew who I was and even knew my material. I also bumped into my friend’s nephew, Scott Takeda, and he’s currently in a movie about BDSM! Everyone in the room was kind. I think Asian American actors are kind to one another in this city. We have to be. We still really need each other.
So it definitely wasn’t a day wasted, but it was time consumed, for sure. I can’t wait to find out who will work in the show. I hope I know some folks who get in. I’m quite certain I won’t be one of them, and that’s ok. It’s all about the journey, right (CLICHÉ!)? But yeah I’m glad I went.
*I was so hungry when I finally got to leave, so I drowned out the worry over that voice crack with a box of Kyochon Chicken Wings. You should try that next time something shitty happens. It really works.