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The Promised Land
part 4
by Feech


        There are probably about half the number of people in the theatre as compared to the initial audition. In a way, this makes it less threatening and more excitingly intimate, knowing about half of _us_ will be joined in the show and even those who are not will have spent that much longer before an audience (of sorts). In another way, the presence of a number one can actually sort out and count out makes for an intimidating closeness. We don't know who, among those surrounding us, will matter in the future. We don't know who is a stranger we are tied to for just a few hours, and who will be an essential _family_ member for the next few _months_.

        So, supposedly, we forget about all that and just do our best to read the parts.

        They will give us some of the music from _Chess_ to look over and sing this time, as well as parts to play off of one another until they have considered all of the combinations that occur to them.

        I myself am going through the motions of reading a part with Andrea Dowling.

        In fact, in going through the motions, I suppose I am _doing_ it, and somewhere in me the analysis is coming up somewhere near the mark of not-half-bad.

        But-- _Andrea Dowling_...

        Keep going, November, just keep _going_...

        No, don't _just_ keep going. Want the part. Get the part.

        But I want to curl up and give up, right now. I must look laughable next to Andrea Dowling. She seems to be having fun. I noticed her tense face when I first spotted her, and began tumbling into this odd sort of dream-state, but now with the director's eyes on her she seems to be having the time of her life.

        Why _I_ am not following her example is a good question; goodness knows that I may as well look good while I look stupid. Or whatever.

        I keep going.

        Of course I do. I'm _performing_.

        Goodness knows my family, when I ever lived with one, had a hard enough time getting me to stop once I got started. I used to even overdo it a little bit in college, having those precious few chances to actually act and sing in front of people who _wanted_ me to. Not that my family didn't want me to, just that they didn't solicit it, almost force it, like a director does.

        Maybe the masochistic fascination I have with acting is actually some sick sort of rape fantasy. It would make about as much sense as "devotion" and "fulfillment."

        Yikes, I did that wrong. No, November, there is no "wrong" in audition, just self and comparison to vision.

        This kind of energy is nothing like actual performance energy. This is built of fear, not shyness, but a fear and an _anger_ that helps my shyness along and promotes all three. I'm afraid that because of one small slip I won't get a part. But then, just because of one small slip, how _dare_ they fail to consider me? How could they possibly decide against me for (insert reason, imagined or not, here)? I know why. I'm not good enough. I look silly here. I ought to be ashamed for having shown up. Around and around and around.

        Did I say I only wanted to be called back?

        Well, as long as I'm here, I am at an audition, so I may as well _audition_. And that includes all the turmoil that comes with it.

        I know some people can, but it never seems I can get into a character during these things. It takes preparation for me, and I didn't want to study the musical ahead of time in case of getting too far into a character image that is not pleasing to this particular producer and director. So I count on my skills, which, for better or worse, gives me plenty of time to think behind the lines.

        I'm not going to get a part.

        But I have, as of today, I will be able to tell my actor friends if I ever make any, auditioned _with_ Andrea Dowling and _in front of_ Alexander Leaf, who is producing the show along with Lawrence Kelly.

        I can't believe this place. It's jam-packed with all these incredible people and they _called me back_.

        With that to go on, I dive into the third time through the section, now read with another actress, as German keeps the groups going. I sneak another glance at Mr. Leaf every chance I get. I can't help it. I'm such a habitual starer, and I keep staring even when it's embarrassing thinking that they might be noticing my staring.

        I have noticed a number of scents that are familiar from the initial audition, and filed away faces to go with what names I have heard and what scents connect to whom, but they are all on reserve in my brain, against the strong possibility that by this time tomorrow not a one will recall that I exist.

        Adjust tremors in voice, keep going, pause, react. I'm getting good at this. The only problem comes now if I fall into too much of a pattern and don't show the potential I have to be worked with.

        In another pause, a stop in the reading during which German is giving my nervous co-reader a little tip (a bad sign, I have found-- if the director is patronizing you, it's about time to be chalking up the whole thing to experience. He's getting you ready to go back out into the world, not to work under him--), I stare some more at Mr. Leaf.

* * * * *

        At my height, when Grandma first came home, I was approaching her almost at the level of her seat to my chin. I pattered over eagerly, figuring on one well-placed "please" to get her to feel sorry and come back. I knew what Grandpa had said, I knew it wasn't her fault, even knew the impossibility of a "cure". I just thought, somehow, that if Grandpa and I were _going_ to try, then there would be something to try _for_. I did not understand, and still do not fully comprehend, precisely what they hoped to accomplish at the hospital by checking for brain waves. It seemed obvious even to a little girl that a chair does not have a _brain_, as in the body part they showed in diagrams on the old children's health shows.

        Grandpa rose from his seat right behind me, and as I reached up and clasped the rounded ends of the armrests on Grandma's new form, he grabbed me gently and quickly around the middle and pulled me back.


        I took a breath to ask why, but he was already tempering his voice and continuing:

        "No, November, Honey, don't touch."

        Again, I readied a "why?" and again, he continued:

        "November..." He sighed... "I know you want to touch Grandma, but-- but. But, this _chair_ is very fragile. You see. See the varnish on the wood? What would happen if you climbed on it? You know what can happen and how things... furniture can scratch. You have to try to remember, okay? This is not a toy."

        I stared up at him for a few moments, arranging this information in my mind alongside all I had ever learned of Grandma and of rocking chairs.

        It did not make sense to me.

        I am sure it will, one of these days.

* * * * *

        The Thim and Rosemary Kelly Theatre is filled, in the audience space, with neat lines of blue canvas director's chairs. In one of them sits German, for short bits of time. Mostly, however, the budgie-morph is either closer to the stage and barking out directions, although he could easily be heard from anywhere in the building, or speaking to some staff member or other on the middle aisle while keeping one part of his attentiveness tuned to the stage.

        In the chair next to German's sits Alexander Leaf, nationally known playwright, world traveler, and... SCAB. I did not know that about him until today. I have never seen anything like him.

        It seems that the pet dog I scented during the initial audition belongs to Alexander. It is a Dalmatian, confirming my identification of another, similar scent on that day, for it turns out that Andrea Dowling's Significant Other is the large Dalmatian-morph that can be heard belting out his particular musical assignment in the backstage area for that section of the appraisals. I had seen him on the first day, but I had not seen Alexander. It seems that Lawrence Kelly went West to visit his niece and is leaving the rest of the cast selection up to German and Mr. Leaf, the knowledgeable Theatre Men.

        I do not know what Mr. Leaf is. If he were at a costume party, I get the feeling that people would be constantly approaching him and either declaring jubilantly that his was a great (insert obscure fantastical or literary creature of viewer's choice here) costume, or asking him "What are you supposed to be?"

        He has a shell over his back, except that it is not any kind of shell I have ever seen depicted anywhere before. It seems rigid, and very thick and black and brown (depending on the angle of the lighting), yet it is segmented. The segments themselves seem to be some sort of SCABS ornament, in an odd sort of way, since they allow for no real bending. His back is hunched, but it is impossible for me to tell whether or not he is old.

        He pets his small, quiet pet Dalmatian with claws of extreme length and blackness, claws seeming to bend yet presumably actually giving slightly at their attachment points to his armored fingers. When he smiles, some teeth show, but alongside them sprout blackish fanglike protrusions that give his grin an almost comical, almost frightening appearance. He smiles often, and it is a relief to me to see that his dog trusts him and sits unconcernedly on its chair.

        Whether his face is actually covered with scales akin to the shell on his back, or just very dark and extreme in texture, I cannot tell. I swear that I can make out eyes in his expressions, yet I cannot tell whether the eyes actually show, or simply manage to glint a bit past layers of shell. Perhaps his real eyes are somewhere else entirely from the spot to which my own are drawn.

        Next to German, he cuts an impressive figure. The two men together almost make me glad that the equally impressive Mr. Kelly is temporarily out of town. Three imposing, authoritative men could be a bit much for me to pretend any kind of confidence around, I think.

        "ALL RIGHT!" Calls out Mr. Ross, causing several actors and a crew man to jump and Mr. Leaf's dog to turn his head and blink affrontedly. "HERE'S THE DEAL!"

        The auditioners who have been working with the musicians backstage begin trickling out from behind the flats, and soon there is an attentive and rather anxious-smelling group surrounding German and his clipboard.

        "I have been told," he says, deep-voiced and bird-harsh, "that we are all done with our song series, and we have seen what we need to see. Therefore, if you would all stay nearby for the next hour, we will be solidifying the cast list today. Be back on this stage, as noted, in _one hour_, please. Thank you all."

        German waves us toward the doors. I notice Feech again, coming into the audience area and reluctantly sweeping with her cane through the group to talk to German. Andrea Dowling is immediately taken up in an animated conversation with a gangly, vibrant mule-morph who must have just come in. In the rush of people out the doors to get a bite to eat, I get suddenly lost.

        I don't know where I am, except that it smells like a theatre. I don't know any of these people, except that they are conversing and hungry and, most likely, somewhere in that half-hyped and half-exhausted state that I myself am floating in. Why we are all in the same boat, I don't know. Why I tried this at _all_, whatever it was, I don't know. Who, among all these people, I will ever come to know in any sort of intimate way, I do not know.

        Do any of them live around here? Did they travel to get here? Where is _here_?

        What is performance? Why did I even _get up_ this morning?

        After the meal break... I know.

* * * * *

        Sitting on one side of me is the bullish-looking person I saw on the first day. It turns out he is a wildebeest-morph; I read with him earlier. He is watching me concernedly, gripping the edge of the low stage and leaning over the script on his lap to try and catch my eye. I know that's what he's doing, but my vision is fixed on Mr. German Ross, because I still cannot believe he did what he just did.

        Alexander is talking to that mule-girl, Eppie; Feech and one of the other crew members are muttering to each other behind German somewhere, and while I take in all this, as well as the identities of the people sitting and standing on the stage around me, I keep my eyes and ears focused on German. I keep waiting for him to take the script back.

        I'm finally here, and I don't know what to do.

        I _can't_ do it, I think. I can't I can't I can't. I lied to you all when I auditioned in the first place. I am _not_ a... professional...

        November Divosijli-- Florence.


        No one ever tells you, in college, how _different_ it's going to be when your apartment is your own and you're alone and the only thing you have to show is the _results_ of a background the producers never experienced, and you have never seen any of these people before except _on stage_ if at all, and they _put you in a starring role_ before they even get a chance to try you out.

        The bluish-furred man next to me is Anatoly. That's all I am aware of; I will remember his own name later.

        On the other side of me is a man with black-black hair and a nervous scent. He is staring at his script as if he doesn't know what to do with it, either. I see this without seeing it. I am staring at the director.

        German passes out the last of the librettos and looks at me, in a seeming quick glance that lasts a little longer once he realizes how dazed I am.

        He winks at me.

        This is the first time that it occurs to me that a director might hate auditions, too.

        He's just as relieved that it's over as we are.

        _We_ are.



        The cast.

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