The Very Bad Audition

When we are young, a lot of experiences can both open our eyes and open paths to our future.  In the end, nothing we do is really all that inconsequential.  When I entered high school at Friends School of Baltimore, I was a total geek.  Now, if you have read this blog you know that geek is a word I use with pride when I refer to myself.  I was really into comics, video games, and letting my imagination run wild.  I was getting good grades and, for the most part, I was pretty much enjoying school.  However, I was still a shy and solitary kid.  I had my friends, two of whom I had spent eighty percent of my social time with for years.  When it came to public speaking, I shriveled up in what was probably a close cousin of a panic attack.  My mother told me point blank that she was worried about whether I would be able to speak in public in the future.  However, thanks to my younger brother, she had a solution.

And so, it was that I was sitting in the auditorium, waiting for my turn to audition for Tartuffe.  On a side note, Tartuffe is an excellent satire by Moliere which is also called The Hypocrite and The Imposter.  I definitely felt like an imposter while I was sitting in the old red-cushioned steel chairs.  I had no desire to perform, I was just there to get over a fear.  I took my turn up on stage, auditioning for the part of Damis, an angry young man.  The monologue I delivered that day was intended to be angry, but I could feel my knees shaking and it must have been clear how scared I was.  Director and English teacher Tom Buck thankfully saw that I was not cut out to be an actor and passed the role onto one of my classmates.  Walking away, I realized that I did not want to act but I realized that I did not need to audition to be on the Stage Crew.

The Stage Crew met after school and on Saturdays.  They welcomed me with open arms and it was cool to hang out with sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  For the first time, I felt like I was actually in high school instead of in the fourth year of middle school.  I started to form friendships outside of my little friend group or the youth group at church.  I started to grow as a person and I realized that I had a passion for the building part of show business. When they asked who would run the lighting board for Tartuffe, I volunteered when nobody else stepped up.  I ran that lighting board for the next four years.  You got up to the board through a Spanish classroom in the rear of the auditorium, so they eventually gave me a key to that classroom.  There were definitely some awkward collections where I had to walk through Spanish or Russian classes.

I eventually became co-Head of Stage Crew and then Head of Stage Crew.  I also started to dabble in the design part of things as I eventually designed the lighting for each show.  Although I was a little distant, I felt a fellowship with the cast of the all of the shows I worked on.  Things really kicked into gear when we all put on Fiddler on the Roof and I teamed with Michael McVey as well.  By the end of my time at Friends, I had kind of become friends with Tom Buck, sadly a teacher I never had in high school.  My only regret was that I realize now that I never trained anybody to take over for me because I wanted to be the go-to guy until the end.

My experiences in Friends School Stage Crew inspired me to seek out more experiences with show business.  I got into community theater down at Fells Point Corner Theater.  I volunteered a lot of my time running sound for all sorts of shows.  Eventually, I started working for Mobtown Theater and, at the age of 16, I joined their board of directors.  Suddenly, I had all these new experiences outside of Friends School and new friends most of whom had graduated from college years earlier.  Those experiences were magical, and I felt like part of the greater theater community of Baltimore City.  It drew me away from Friends, as I spent a lot of my time in Fell’s Point rather than on campus.  I felt a little more disconnected from my classmates which I feel like I eventually remedied but I feel good that this was a positive path that Friends helped put me on.  In fact, that connection to community theater later sparked a connection to the school paper and helped reignite the love of writing that I still have today.

Of course, I then went on to major in Stage Management and minor in Sound Design in college.  I took that degree and I got a job for years and years in a regional theater in New Jersey.  All of that grew from one afternoon I spent trembling on the stage of the auditorium.  I am a little sad that that auditorium does not exist anymore as it has been completely remodeled but I am happy that the Friends students of today and tomorrow will have an excellent facility to experience what I did.  Not because they should all go off and major in theater but because going to that audition ended up accomplishing my goal.  By connecting with the people in Stage Crew, eventually being in charge, and then finding my voice in community theater, I became better at talking to people.  I felt more comfortable speaking in public and communicating my ideas.  I do not hold back like I did as a young kid.  For that, I feel very thankful.

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