Audition was worth a few knee-shakes

July 25, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

When Donna Fechter, county solid waste coordinator, told me to audition at West T. Hill theater for the role of "Rose" in an upcoming performance of "Dancing at Lughnasa," I was a bit taken aback.

Playwright Brian Friel described Rose as "simple-minded."

I walked away thinking, "Am I simple-minded? Maybe I am simple-minded, and darn it, I'm OK with that."

I hadn't been in a real production since high school. I ditched acting in college to accept a policy debate scholarship. Since then I've had a handful of small parts in the Gridiron shows, which are like a roast of local politicians and politics. I played a cow, a football fan, a fellow reporter, a go-go dancer and a Green Peace activist.

C'mon, after being cast as a cow -and I played a darn good cow - I figured I had nothing to lose. So, on Tuesday I auditioned for "Dancing at Lughnasa." Jennifer Brummett, assistant features editor, was going, and so I thought, if nothing else, I'll have at least one kind audience member.


There were roles for five women. The play is set in 1936. Events of that summer changes the lives of five spinster sisters forever.

It is lively. It is witty. It's Irish. Director Tim Culhan wants the actors to perform with accents. Hmm ... My last attempt with an accent was my performance in "Lion in Winter." I did well except for one line where I would accidentally switch to an Indian accent. It didn't help that whenever I did it the man I played opposite would break into "Apu" from the Simpsons.

I was still determined to go through with the audition. It was a challenge, and it is only by facing and conquering challenges that self-esteem is gained.

I showed up at 7 p.m. with my hair combed, which is a big deal in Liz's world.

Quickly, I realized that many of the people there already had read the script. Doh! Brummett offered to loan me a script earlier in the week, but I didn't have time to read it.

Reading cold will give you a few shakes in the knees. I read for Rose, and for one of her sisters, Chris. There is Kate, the matriarch; Agnes, the family rudder; Maggie, the jokester; simple-minded Rose; Chris, the lonely romantic who has an illegitimate child, Michael, who narrates the story.

There is also Gerry, Chris' boyfriend, and the girls' brother, Fr. Jack, who returns from many years as a missionary in Africa.

All of the people that showed up to audition were excellent. Sitting there, watching the others, I felt as though I had gotten a free performance.

Lots of people stay at home and watch "American Idol" or "Last Comic Standing," and they think, "Oh, I can do that," or "If they came to Danville, I would try out."

Community theater gives everyone a chance to perform.

I had loads of fun pushing my comfort boundaries. Here's a little secret: All those people, as experienced as they were, probably had at least a tiny case of the nerves. It is a natural, human response.

I didn't get cast in the show, but I am still gung-ho about lending my real talent to the performance. I'm a great audience member. I can watch the same show 1,000 times in rehearsal and still think all the jokes are funny and the dramatic moments touching. I'm also teaching Brummett, who was cast as Agnes, how to knit.

Sure, I was a tad disappointed. Who wouldn't be? But, I'm even more proud of myself for getting back out there.

The West T. Hill season has five other productions. Next time, get off the couch and give it a go. What do you have to lose?

* "Dark of the Moon," auditions Sept. 13 and 14.

* "Here's Love," auditions Sept. 26 and 27.

* "On Golden Pond," auditions Dec. 13 and 14.

* Cheaper by the Dozen, auditions Feb. 20 and 21.

* The Secret Garden, auditions May 9 and 10.

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