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Do I want to blog about my Mom’s health, surgery? 12:48 AM Oct 10th
Can’t sleep tonight. Too many things. Mind is racing. 3:40 AM Oct 14th
Doctor just gave us the good news! First time I’ve seen my Dad cry in years. 12:28 PM Oct 14th
Just saw Mom in CICU 1:21 PM Oct 14th
Had lunch with Kirsten. So good seeing her again. Asks if I Twitter? 2:19 PM Oct 16th
Mom finally moved to her recovery room. Time for me to breathe again. 12:34 PM Oct 17th
Heading back to NYC, but will be back in another week. 12:28 AM Oct 20th
Auditions, auditions, auditions. If I have to play “Part Of Your World” one more time… 1:20 PM Oct 21st
Has it really been a month since my last blog entry? 2:43 PM Oct 22nd
Just “re-lived” the Bernstein “Mass” at Carnegie Hall. So proud of my friends. So moved by the music. 10:22 PM Oct 24th
Well, I guess DST is next weekend after all. 11:52 AM Oct 26th
Carnegie Hall: Pollini playing Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. How classic(al). 2:34 PM Oct 26th
Hint #2: Last row of CH = leg room and behind-the-seat storage. 3:01 PM Oct 26th
Four encores! Including the G-minor Ballade! Grazie! 5:39 PM Oct 26th
Walking through Central Park.. Guess it has been a few weeks, there’s color on the trees and on the ground. 6:06 PM Oct 26th
Little girl, age 9 – “It smells like popcorn and horses.” 6:34 PM Oct 26th
Thank You, Matthew Weiner! -Can’t wait for Season 3! 10:55 PM Oct 26th
Pack-a-little, Post-a-little… Getting to head back down to Richmond for the week. 11:24 AM Oct 27th
The wheels on the bus keep going round and round. 100 miles to go. 8:37 PM Oct 27th
Being a ‘rent to the ‘rents today. 1:36 PM Oct 28th
Over at Steve’s right now taking a break from the parents. Soup’s On! 6:28 PM Oct 29th
Pumpkin & Coconut Brownie Ice Cream from Bev’s Ice Cream http://snipurl.com/4uzsi 8:07 PM Oct 30th
Happiness is a non-sold-out Bolt Bus. Two seats for the price of one. 7:31 PM Oct 31st
Off to MoMA for the last Member Preview Day of the new Miró exhibit. 2:06 PM Nov 1st
This exhibit keeps going and going and going… “Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement” 4:50 PM Nov 1st
Tracking a couple of friends in today’s marathon, and wondering how delayed the online results are. 11:58 AM Nov 2nd
Standing amid a sea of Silver, Blue, White and splashes of Orange! Inspiring!! 4:05 PM Nov 2nd
About to head out for some post-Marathon sushi with my brother and Maria. 5:58 PM Nov 2nd
Off to meet some friends for a morning-after-the-marathon breakfast. Could be interesting. 10:01 AM Nov 3rd
Times Square at 2:28pm EST – CNN Central http://snipurl.com/53wod 2:29 PM Nov 4th
Overwhelmed, but in a good way. The sense of Purpose and Hope was palpable in the midtown air (regardless of who you voted for). 6:14 PM Nov 4th
Just listening to the Cheering and Car Horns outside my apartment in Harlem!!!!!!!!!! 11:11 PM Nov 4th
OOPS! HA!!! ABC (in NYC at least) just interrupted their coverage for a Flomax commercial?!?!?!?!? 12:26 AM Nov 5th
Magnolia, Levain and Shake Shack all within seven blocks of each other… Is that a good or bad thing to know? 1:56 PM Nov 5th
At Lincoln Center about to experience Doctor Atomic.. And watching a lot of people trying to sell their tickets on the plaza… 7:30 PM Nov 5th
Intermission at The Met: People eating,drinking, chatting… leaving… 9:43 PM Nov 5th
Back at MoMA to catch the Kirchner once again before it closes… And the Van Gogh and Miró, of course 3:33 PM Nov 6th
Back at The Met tonight for the Berlioz. Technology and Art striving for their potential. I hope. 7:15 PM Nov 7th
Ah… The (Bittersweet) Hot Chocolate – with Marshmallow – from ‘wichcraft in Bryant Park http://snipurl.com/59hf1 3:52 PM Nov 9th
At Zankel Hall tonight for Jeremy Denk playing Ives Concord & Beethoven Hammerklavier. Monster program! 7:13 PM Nov 11th
Bravo, Jeremy Denk! Bravo! 9:52 PM Nov 11th
I was looking for an excuse to be lazy today: Thank You, Rain. 1:26 PM Nov 13th
Coolness in progress at MoMA http://twitpic.com/lrk1 3:43 PM Nov 14th
I wonder if they’ll have the Basil Hot Chocolate in Bryant Park today… 1:34 PM Nov 16th
More cupcakes coming to midtown Bway & 53rd… (Magnolia recently opened in Rock Center) http://snipurl.com/5n42q 2:45 PM Nov 16th
Thank you, Mr. Carfizzi and Mr. & Mrs. (Grant) Murphy for a wonderful recital. http://snipurl.com/5nlok 6:27 PM Nov 16th
Well, I thought I got here early enough to get in line for the movie. Probably #100ish, and still 30 minutes till they open 7:54 PM Nov 16th
“Slumdog Millionaire” – SEE THIS MOVIE! Thank You, Danny Boyle 10:35 PM Nov 16th
Everyone seems to be seeing snow this morning except for me – and I like snow!?!? 9:31 AM Nov 18th
ReTweet: @BravoTopChef Get ready! Spike is back and so are his shenanigans. Make sure to follow our boy tomorrow during the show 2:12 AM Nov 19th
Best lunch deal in Chinatown – 5 dumplings for $1 http://twitpic.com/mqr2 4:39 PM Nov 19th
Warming up with a Café Mocha at Abraço http://twitpic.com/mr4z 5:35 PM Nov 19th
Hmmm… No line… very tempting… http://twitpic.com/mra7 5:55 PM Nov 19th
What I’m playing this afternoon.. http://twitpic.com/mxqr 5:14 PM Nov 20th
Dinner at El Toro Partido – Torta! http://twitpic.com/ne8e 4:54 PM Nov 22nd
O Christmas Tree Stand, O Christmas Tree Stand… (145th & Broadway) http://twitpic.com/nvns 9:15 PM Nov 24th
On the Acela down to DC for the holiday weekend http://twitpic.com/o4xg 7:13 AM Nov 26th
@BravoTopChef Thanks, Andrew! 11:02 PM Nov 26th
Eat Well. Stay Safe. Happy Thanksgiving! 11:31 AM Nov 27th
Horse-Drawn Carriage rides in Carytown this weekend http://twitpic.com/osvq 5:21 PM Nov 28th
Then down to Cafe Gutenberg for dessert http://twitpic.com/ouyl 9:05 PM Nov 28th
My dessert: Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Float http://twitpic.com/ouz6 Yes! Beer (stout) and Ice Cream (chocolate gelato) 9:08 PM Nov 28th
Back at Bev’s Ice Cream – http://twitpic.com/p3kx Chocolate Chai with… 7:30 PM Nov 29th
With a Cranberry chaser – http://twitpic.com/p3lk 7:31 PM Nov 29th
My parents’ church actually has TWO late seating breaks during the mass. 12:22 PM Nov 30th
Who knew that my parents liked Vietnamese food? http://twitpic.com/p928 12:49 PM Nov 30th
Anderson Cooper swimming against Michael Phelps on “60 Minutes” tonight. 7:44 PM Nov 30th
Back on the bus back to NYC. Thankfully no one got trampled once the driver opened the doors, but there was definitely a throng. 7:29 AM Dec 1st
Take a Moment to Remember – World AIDS Day 2008. 9:44 AM Dec 1st
Happiness is a D (or A) Train across the platform. 3:49 PM Dec 1st
Anyone else going to the World AIDS Day “Bacharach to the Future” Benefit at New World Stages tonight? http://tinyurl.com/5jrv2j 3:54 PM Dec 1st
Condee Rice playing Brahms? I knew she was a good pianist, but… The Quintet is a LOT of notes! http://tinyurl.com/5q96px about 16 hours ago
Just saw a cop tie an elderly man’s shoes – I love New York City! about 11 hours ago
It’s beginning to look a lot… http://twitpic.com/ps3q about 8 hours ago
I really should be asleep by now, but just came up with an idea for a new – and long overdue – blog entry. about two hours ago
Well, I guess I am going to finish this blog entry tonight, well, this morning. -Who needs sleep? 27 minutes ago
Done! Publish. less than 5 seconds ago
The mezzo-soprano was in the middle of spinning the second phrase of "La flûte de Pan"…
Pour le jour de Hyacinthies,
Il m’a donné une…
…when the gentleman turned to his female companion and whispered something along the lines of "Oh, she sings well, no? And in French too!" The requisite head nods of agreement and self-confirmation soon followed. I was seated in the second row of the small hall, and this couple was seated in front of me… In the front row. During the pause before "La chevelure", the woman picked up her program, then pointed out where the next sets of texts and translations started…
Il m’a dit: "Cette nui, j’ai rêve."
Another set of head nods accompanied by some still-audible murmurings of the English translations, which I then realize were colored with a Germanic accent.
The whispering, the head nodding and program shuffling continued throughout Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, and I eventually realized that I was not alone in my irritation at the apparent lack of manners on display. Other audience members in the immediate vicinity started to look over at them too. At one point, I was about to put my hand on the shoulder of the gentleman as a way of silently saying, "Please, could you be more respectful of the Artists… Who just happen to be performing just six feet away from you!?" However, I was afraid any sort of gentle physical contact would have prompted an ever more audible and demonstrative response, so I refrained.
After "Le tombeau des naïades" came to a close, there were a few moments of silence followed by a well-deserved and freely offered round of applause. As the applause died down, I was able to confirm that the couple sitting in front of me were indeed German – well, perhaps even Austrian. The woman then turned around looking for some friends who were seated a couple of rows back, motioning them to come join her in the front row since the seats next to her remained unoccupied. Apparently, her friends wished to stay put for the time being which resulted in the woman making even larger gestures in exasperation. All I could think to myself was, "Good. They’re not to join her. That would just give her more people to talk to during the recital."
The house lights dimmed once again, the door stage left opened, and the Artists walked back onto the stage. Of course, this only prompted the couple in front of me to re-shuffle and re-open their programs to the texts of the Schumann, followed by more audible whispering and head-nodding. As the pianist played those first two pensive quarter notes chords, they were still whispering, talking to each other. I just had to take action. While gently placing my hand on the man’s right shoulder, I whispered….
"Silence, s’il vous plait."
Why I suddenly started uttering in French is beyond me, and I even ended up laughing at myself, to myself – inaudibly! – for a split second. However, my very gentle protestation seemed to do the trick. Silence.
Seit ich ihn gesehen, glaub’ ich blind zu sein;
Wo ich hin nur blicke, seh’ ich ihn allein;
Wie im wachen Traume schwebt sein Bild mir vor,
Taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel heller, heller nur empor.
Sadly, halfway through "Du Ring am meinem Finger", the women raised her program up to eye level, pointed to something, and then nudged her companion to look at what she was looking at: the pianist’s program biography. And, yes, during the brief piano postlude that completes Frauenliebe und -Leben, they started conferring with each other again, long before the pianist extinguished the ringing of the final notes by releasing the damper pedal. Intermission.
As I re-setttled myself in my seat, I noticed that the woman’s friends had gone ahead and joined her in the front row for the second half of the program. What is the German for "Please, be quiet"? Fortunately, the other couple seemed to be on their better behavior. Truth be told, it seemed that the husband did not really want to be there, and he remained slouched – and silent! – in his seat throughout the Harbison and de Falla song cycles. The woman and her companion also seemed to be a bit more settled during the second half, although, I could tell they were questioning exactly what an "aerial" was during "Ballad for Billie I" – more finger-pointing and whispering. Then there was the rhythmic head-nodding and hair-bouncing during the more dance-inspired selections of the Siete canciones populares Españolas, "Jota" seemed particularly motion-inducing. Even I will admit to air-playing along with the right and left hand patterns of the guitar-invoking accompaniments from time to time, but at least the pressing of my fingers against my jeans produced no sound unlike the slight jangle of the woman’s earrings or the scuffing of her blond curls against her companion’s nylon jacket…
Dicen que no nos queremos
Porque no nos ven hablar;
A tu corazón y al mio
Se lo pueden preguntar.
This was my second vocal recital in as many days. The night before, I had attended Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall. This night’s recital was being held in the more intimate(!) Weill Recital Hall, and featured the mezzo-soprano, Sasha Cooke, filling in for an indisposed Joseph Kaiser. Song recitals hold a special place in my heart. While I was in college, I discovered the true Joy and Beauty of the Human Voice, and I subsequently devoted a good chunk of my studies to Classical Art Song Literature as both an Accompanist and a Singer. I accompanied voraciously. There were a few times when I had up to 15 voice majors to play for during the end of semester juries. -I still have the three-ring binders filled with all the Xerox copies of all of that repertoire! I even sang a few juries myself. I was also blessed with a wonderful Song Literature teacher and departmental Vocal Coach who was more than happy to let me sit in on other singer’s coachings from time to time.
When I saw the program for Sasha Cooke’s recital, it was like seeing a couple of old friends. I had studied the Debussy, Schumann and de Falla songs while I was in college. (The Harbison cycle, "North and South" was written a couple of years after I had graduated.) Although I was looking forward to hearing Liszt’s "Petrarcan Sonnets", and the selection of Rachmaninov songs on Joseph Kaiser’s originally scheduled program, I had heard the Liszt earlier this season, and the Siberian baritone had more than satisfied my Russian romance requirements for the time being. Being familiar with Ms. Cooke’s program allowed me to put my program and translations in my bag, and just sit back and enjoy the recital. Just Watch and Listen. Alas, I found myself watching and listening to other things during the course of the recital. -Thankfully, there were no errant cell-phone rings during Ms. Cooke’s recital, unlike the night before during Mr. Hvorostovsky’s concert – at least four times! – and always during the quieter sections!!!
Being a somewhat-former somewhat-performer myself, I really do try my best to be the Perfect Audience Member (PAM, for short). I arrive at the hall early enough to get seated, and if I know I am sitting in the middle of the row, I will make sure to take my place early enough in order not to inconvenience the others in my row sitting to the side of me. I dress appropriately. -Although due to an oversight on my part – "Oh, the recital starts at 7:30, not 8:00!" – I was not able to run home in time to put on more presentable clothing, and I ended up feeling a bit self-conscious as I sat there in the second row in my half-zip fleece pullover. I turn my cell-phone off – even "vibrations" can be heard. If needed, I keep my paper-wrapped Ricola’s in my hand ready to go at a moment’s notice. And if I’m not that familiar with the repertoire, I read the program notes and translations beforehand so that I can devote my full attention to the stage, and not have my head buried in the program reading along and cross-referencing the song text with the translations.
As I sat there listening to and watching the Artists and my fellow Audience members, I began to wonder just why I was being distracted by the low murmurs and the shuffling of the programs? If I really was paying full attention to what was going on on stage, then I would not and should not have been distracted by anything else going on around me. Right? Was I no longer the PAM I prided myself on being? Had I suddenly become one of Them?
With vocal recitals, in particular, I find myself from time to time wanting to advise some of my fellow audience members to Look Up and Listen. Stop reading along. Stop trying to match up each German word with the corresponding English word. The Singer is Singing. Communicating. Just let the Singer Communicate with You, to You. A related annoyance occurs whenever I attend a piano recital where Ravel’s "Gaspard de la Nuit" is being played. Inevitably, there will be people reading the texts and translations of the poems (if provided) that inspired the triptych, seemingly trying to match up the French and English(!) syllables with the piano figurations. But again: Why do I notice such things?
After a bit of theorizing – and, boy, did I come up with some far-flung theories – the answer to that question suddenly became quite obvious. If I was on that stage, I would want an audience filled with PAMs. A bit narcissistic, yes, but not an unreasonable request. Whether I was playing a Beethoven sonata, a Chopin ballade, or accompanying a singer or instrumentalist, I would want – and hope – the audience to Listen. A Musician’s life has good a deal of isolation built into it. A practice room can truly be the most "separate" place anyone can know, an inherent loneliness. Before a piece of music – or even just a brief phrase of it – can be shared with others or just your teacher, it must be pored over, dissected and repeated many times over, and the only ears that ever hear it during that process are your own. At times, it can seem like you are forcing yourself to listen to the music. Or vice versa. But then you reach that point where you want another set of ears to take in what you have been creating and re-creating. Music is Sound, and Sound is meant to go through the air. To borrow another analogy: If a pianist plays Chopin’s "Revolutionary" Etude, and there is no one in the audience to hear it…
I guess I should give my fellow audience members a break, or at least not allow myself to get so upset when such distractions occur. I was already feeling slightly uncomfortable sitting in Weill Hall dressed in a more casual manner than I would have liked, but then to have them right in front of me – and right in front of the Artists – well…
As the encores started, something almost miraculous happened. -I noticed this night before during Hvorostovsky’s recital too. Yes, there were a few mutterings throughout the audience as the pianist began playing the introduction – "What piece is this?", "Ah, very nice!" – but once Ms. Cooke started singing…
Yeshjo f paljah beleyet snek,
A vody ush vesnoi shumjat,
Begut i budjat sonnyi brek,
Begut i bleshjut, i glasjat…
There was no translation to consult. There was no program to rustle. There were just two Artists on stage. Playing and Singing. Sharing and Communicating. And for a few minutes – during Rachmaninov’s "Spring Waters" and the haunting aria from John Adams’ "Doctor Atomic" – the hall was filled with PAMs. Listening. Receiving. Remembering. Smiling.
And, yes, she sang very well. And in Russian too!
*I would be sorely remiss if I did not mention the fine pianists who performed along side these fine singers: Ivari Ilja did the honors for Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Pei-Yao Wang was Sasha Cooke’s musical partner.
-Flying out of Washington-National in the middle of a snow storm. -The plane’s departure delayed due to de-icing. Twice. -Getting off the plane in Savannah, Georgia, and discovering that it felt like summer – it was only March. -Buying pralines from various vendors along River Street, then discovering that they were giving them away for free at the convention hospitality booth. -The mile walk between the hotels. That’s really all I remember about the 1994 Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention. My first set of Spring SETC Professional Division Auditions.
The most recent SETC Convention was just held in Chattanooga, Tennessee; it was their 59th Annual Convention. As I was preparing my opening remarks to the actors and actresses auditioning, I was all set to say that it was my 20th Anniversary year with SETC. Well, after thinking it through, I realized it was more likely my 15th year. Then after consulting the "Past Conventions" listing in the convention program, it turned out it was only my 12th. I guess it only seemed like I’ve been playing the Spring SETCs for 20 years already. *For anyone doing the math: I haven’t played for all of the Spring SETCs since 1994. Due to work commitments, I’ve missed three of the annual conventions. Strangely enough, the three years I missed (1997, 2001, 2006), the conventions were held in Florida (Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando). We’ll have to see if that pattern continues in the future. (I also play for the smaller Fall Professional Auditions, so I’m guessing that may have contributed to my 20-year syndrome.)
My first SETC actually came about after I had lobbied for the job. That year, a number of theatre students I played for at Virginia Commonwealth University had made it through the state screenings, and were passed on to the regional level. I just wanted to see if I could play for them. As it turned out, the pianist who had been playing for the auditions the previous couple of years was not available that year. After a few brief phone conversations, as well as some recommendations – including a particularly glowing, unsolicited one from the Theatre VCU secretary – I was hired for the gig. It was basically a blind and deaf hiring. No one in the central office had ever heard of me, let alone had heard me play. And, truth be told, I had no real idea what I was going to be in for once I got down to Savannah. I had heard tales of the "Big Convention", but I had never experienced one myself.
Besides the travel woes, the weather and the pralines, there really is not much more I remember about my first SETC Convention. Oh! I do remember that a group of students had gotten mugged while walking along the River Street Waterfront, and they took a collection up to help them with their food, clothing and other expenses. But as for the specifics of the actual auditions themselves, well, there’s actually not a lot I remember about those. I think I had a grand piano in the ballroom. It was the usual three days of auditions, with about 250 people auditioning each day. And I was asked to come back the following year – and the following years – so I guess I did a job. What I tend to retain about my annual SETC adventures are the airports, the hotels, and, yes, the food.
There aren’t that many specific auditions or auditionees I remember from the past 14 years. Yes, I can remember being generally entertained from time to time, but as for which song and monologue went with which number, name and face in a particular ballroom, hotel and city, well, all bets are off. However, there is one young gentleman who totally caught me by surprise by actually including me in his audition…
(to the tune of the Gershwin’s "They Can’t That Away From Me")
The way you play my pitch
The way you hit those keys
I think you’ve found your niche
Oh, no, they can’t take Jose away from me.
…Or something very close to that – and he continued on through the bridge and final refrain. It also turned out that the monologue he performed before the song was directed towards me, but since I was multi-tasking – getting the tempo and other info from the next person – I didn’t pick up on that until someone told me he had customized his whole audition package "towards" me. His monologue, I believe, was one of Shakespeare’s Fools. Alas, since everything had happened so fast – and since I was sort of in shock – I was not able to follow-up with him to thank him, nor to see how many callbacks he ended up getting.
Otherwise, what I tend to remember are "trends". The end of "Soliloquy" made a huge comeback in popularity the year the Lincoln Center revival of Carousel opened. There was even one young gentleman who, as he was placing his music on the piano, asked me, "Do you know this? It’s from a new show." After making sure I only rolled my eyes inside my head, I just responded that I did know it, and made a semi-obvious gesture towards the copyright date on the opening page. Then there was the year of the Damn Yankees revival where I believe "Goodbye, Old Girl" set the record for the most performed, most repeated song. There was at least one actor who sang that song in each group of 25 auditions, sometimes two; and in the final group of the day, of the convention, there were four renditions of that song, perhaps even five, with at least two back-to-back. I had blocked it out after a while, and had had the accompaniment memorized by rote by the middle of the second day of auditions. It had even become sort of a joke among the people auditioning. One guy didn’t even bother giving me a tempo indication as he put his book on the piano, "I guess you know this one by now." The most recent trends seem to center around the Kristin Chenoweth and Sutton Foster Songbooks: "Taylor, the Latte Boy", "The Girl in 14G", "Not for the Life of Me", "Astonishing", "Show Off", and, of course, "Gimme, Gimme". And, yes, playwrights also seem to inspire trends from time to time. If Christopher Durang, Jane Martin (the long suspected and speculated nom de plum of theatrical administrator, Jon Jory) and Neil Simon had a nickel for each time one of their monologues had been extracted, well, they’d have a lot of nickels. -Too bad William Shakespeare’s benefactors and heirs(?) had not set up some sort of royalty agreement in place at the time of the Bard’s death.
I guess it’s a good thing I don’t remember more about the thousands of auditions I’ve played over the years at SETC and elsewhere. God knows, I kick myself enough during the process whenever I have a bad audition, I would go crazy trying to retain all the details of even just a fraction of the auditions I’ve played – the good, the bad, the ugly, the downright awful, the painfully oblivious, and the refreshingly brilliant ones. Although, I have to wonder if somewhere down the line, something in my head will snap, and I will be found walking around Times Square re-enacting the audition packages I’ve experienced over the years. So, if you happen to come to New York City, and run into a shaggy-haired Filipino with a sign around his neck reading, "Will sight read for food," and reciting the "Tuna Fish" monologue from Laughing Wild, and sprech-stimming "How Could I Ever Know?", well… Just remember: He likes the Monkey Cake from Amy’s Bread, and the Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies from Levain.
As I looked out through the window – a window in dire need of some cleaning or at least a good strong rain – just staring somewhat blankly into the distance seemed to muffle the din of room. Observing the buildings in the distance, the brightly clouded sky, the water towers on the rooftops across the street provided a pleasant distraction. At least momentarily. At least for me. Shuffle-hop-step… Reverse Cramp Roll… Push… Pull-back… STOMP! Over and over. Again and again. The roomful of Hopefuls – at this moment all men – were learning or, at least, attempting to learn a tap dance combination. Not easy stuff today. Very aggressive, very athletic. Very loud. Thankfully, I always keep a set of ear plugs – two sets, in fact – in my bag, so those helped to protect my ears from any possible auditory damage. Alas, there’s only so much noise they can keep out, and since I still had to hear the "sounds" in conjunction with my own playing, I could not totally isolate myself from the twenty pairs of tap shoes making contact with the studio floor.
I noticed the small length of pink ribbon sitting at the top end of the keyboard, just resting quietly on the highest B-flat. Previously, it was used to tie up a small bag of macarons that I had bought at lunch. I just happened to come across a recently opened café on 36th Street: a sliver of a place which consisted of a counter, a display case, a set of chairs and a small couch. More of a café in spirit, if not in execution or square footage. Besides the macarons – one violette and matcha green tea (which always seems somewhat redundant labeling to me) – my petit déjeuner included a baguette layered with a few slices of jambon and gruyère, sliced cornichons, moutarde and beurre. A Ham and Cheese Sandwich which the café’s management called a "Paris". Alas, when the order was called back to the kitchen, it was a "pair-riss", and not a "pah-ree". Ce ne fait rien. At least the proprietor was a true Monsieur.
As I played the brief excerpt of music, the piece of pink ribbon proceeded to do its own dance. Not only was it rocking along to the shuffling boogie that I was playing, but it was also succumbing to the room-quake caused by the 20 men dancing just a few feet away – the literal repercussions of each footfall. Between repetitions, it would settle back into place, although, if a breeze would come through the window, I would watch to see if it would get blown further down the keyboard or onto the floor, but it managed to stay put.
After the teaching phase was done, it was time for the Hopefuls to dance for the judges: the assistant choreographer and the casting director. The assistant choreographer’s assistant, the "dance demonstrator", for today went through the combination one more time before each Hopeful went up for their final exam as it were. He counted off the tempo, "5… 6… 5, 6, 7, 8…". I started playing. As he danced/demonstrated, he called out the names of each step – a vocabulary still somewhat embarrassingly foreign to me after many years of playing dance auditions. Some of the Hopefuls just watched and listened, others moved their feet along with the demonstration checking to see if their movements were in sync. Still others just closed their eyes, running the steps in their head, hoping (and praying) for the best.
Three names were called out. The first three Hopefuls were lined up left to right. This time, after receiving a nod from the people behind the table, I started the count-off… 5… 6… My left hand hit the first octave of the descending bass line… 5, 6… My right hand started playing the offbeats… 7, 8… And we were off. The three Hopefuls picked up their left foot for the first step, then three taps made contact with the floor a fraction of a second later, while three pairs of eyes and ears watched and listened and evaluated. Two hands, ten fingers played along, emphasizing the rhythms, accenting the downbeats to help keep everyone from rushing. Eight short measures of music, 12 seconds later, it was over. Well, at least for a few seconds, just enough time for the three Hopefuls to catch their breath before running the combination one more time. And then it was over. Another three names were called out, the next three Hopefuls lined up, the nod from the table… Line Up. Dance. Repeat.
By this time in the day, this whole routine had already been completed three times. The day started off with a group of women and a group of men before lunch, and another group of women after lunch. We were dancing the final group of men for the day before moving onto the singing portion of the process. Due to the number of people that were called back, that needed to be heard, the singing part of the day was a flurry of 16-bar cuts of pop/rock songs, or at least something resembling a pop/rock song for some of the Hopefuls. Lots of Billy Joel and Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, Janis Joplin, etc. Towards the end of the session, I found myself just playing what was put in front of me, not really recognizing the titles, the melodies. It had all become a visual and aural blur.
After the last singer had come back to the piano to reclaim his "book", the three-ring binder filled with the copies of his music, I began to put the piano back in order. As I lowered the fallboard, I noticed the length of pink ribbon still sitting quietly on the upper keys. After the countless repetitions of the dance music, it was still there. After all the dance-induced rumbling, it’s shiny finish still reflected the dull, yellow-gray output of the fluorescent ceiling lights. It reminded me of the café I had discovered on my lunch break, and of the two dainty, delicate and delicious pastries that were placed in a small cellophane bag that was then tied and sealed with that piece of pink ribbon. I continued to close the fallboard, leaving the ribbon undisturbed, content in its stillness. I wondered if it was afraid of the dark, of being closed off from the rest of room. And I wondered – No! – I Hoped that the next person to open the piano, after catching a glimpse of that piece of pink ribbon out of the corner of their eye, would suddenly think to themselves, "Ah, macarons."
Gimme, Gimme – You’ve Got That Thing – Vanilla Ice Cream – Her Face – Stranger to the Rain – I Could Write a Book – The Hostess with the Mostest – Sweet Thursday – Almost Like Being in Love – Could I Leave You? – Rain – A Summer In Ohio – Home – As We Stumble Along – It’s an Art – I Believe In You – Goodnight, My Someone – I Can Hear the Bells – What Do I Need With Love? – Easy Street – Days of Plenty – A Little Bit In Love – Someday – You Should Be Loved – Sailing – Your Daddy’s Son – Don’t Tell Mama – Dance Ten, Looks Three – I Won’t Send Roses – Some People – I Could Have Danced All Night
When I woke up today, it was just so nice not having to be up and out of bed and functioning by 8:00am Central Time. However, I am always amazed – and proud of myself! – for being able to switch over my bodily waking-sleeping schedule like that when I need to do so. I have no qualms when it comes to admitting that I am not a "morning person", but at least I know I can play one in real life from time to time. In Memphis, I basically worked six to seven hours each day – well, there was a lunch break in there too – but the monologues and the other periodic breaks helped to ease the built-in stress and fatigue that comes with any set of auditions.
Gimme, Gimme – How Could I Ever Know? – Keeping Out of Mischief Now – Here I Am – The Life of the Party – Heartbreak Hotel – Miss Byrd – Don’t Do Sadness – My White Knight – Solla Sollew – Those Were The Good Old Days – Easy Money – Dancing Through Life – It’s a Perfect Relationship – And They’re Off – Old-Fashioned Love Story – The Streets of Dublin – Our Time – Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun – The Girl in 14G – The Devil You Know – Comedy Tonight – The Beauty Is – Into the Fire – One Track Mind – Dancing All the Time – Fools Fall In Love – I Wanna Go Home – Younger Than Springtime – You Can Always Count On Me – A Wonderful Guy – Gorgeous – My New Philosophy – Maybe This Time
All in all, it was a pretty good batch of auditions. Thankfully, the ratio of Good to Bad was very much in favor of the Good this year, but, at least from my perspective, there weren’t as many "WOW!"s as I would have liked. However, I did find myself giving some very hearty nods of approval from time to time. I was particularly impressed with one young man who sang two simple, non-show-off-y songs. He sang them well with a perfect sense of style and with no personal interpolations. He was not trying to prove something. He was just being himself. Very honest. Very refreshing. Very smart.
Gimme, Gimme – I Am On My Way – That Dirty Old Man – Take A Chance On Me – Poisoning Pigeons in the Park – Wherever He Ain’t – On the Street Where You Live – Legally Blonde – I Want To Be A Producer – Not A Day Goes By – Waiting For Life – Enchantment Passing Through – Roadkill – Maybe I Like It This Way – The Music That Makes Me Dance – Bride’s Lament – Infinite Joy – Lucky to Be Me – Never Neverland – Beauty School Dropout – Take Me or Leave Me – Times Like This – Use What You Got – Mama Who Bore Me – One Hundred Easy Ways – The Highest Judge of All – Life With Harold – Coffee – Astoria Gloria – A Trip to the Library – Daddy – Notice Me, Horton – The Sadder-But-Wider Girl – Holding to the Ground – Ol’ Man River – Rita’s Tune – Someone To Watch Over Me
Of course, there were a few crash-and-burns, train wrecks, totally botched auditions – it’s just the nature of the beast, the luck of the draw. Some of these not-so-good auditions resulted from a bad choice of material – songs and/or monologues. Others were hurt by severe lack of preparation. Some self-delusion also seemed to be in evidence this year. Sadly, I could also tell that some people were the victims of bad advice, teaching and coaching; coupled with a lack of honesty, reality, from the people giving them pre-audition opinions and criticism. I would have thought that with the popularity of "American Idol" that people – well, at least actors – would be a bit more honestly self-critical in regards to evaluating their talents. -Especially after paying for headshots, registration fees, airplane tickets, hotel rooms, cab fare, etc., to just get to the audition. It’s a far cry from taking the R Train into Manhattan for $2.00.
Gimme, Gimme – Gooch’s Song – Tonight – A Quiet Thing – Nobody Does It Like Me – A New World – She Loves Me – So Many People – I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today – Lost and Found – Nothing – You Must Meet My Wife – Jimmy – Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat – That’ll Show Him – My True Love – My Rules – Look What Happened to Mabel – The Finer Things – Someone Like You – Where in the World – This Place Is Mine – Let It Sing – Forest For the Trees – See What I Wanna See – Not While I’m Around – No Other Love – Home (the other one) – Till There Was You – Lost In The Wilderness – Glitter and Be Gay – Art Is Calling for Me – Soliloquy – There’s a Fine, Fine Line – Should I Be Sweet? – Anything – Come To Your Senses – Kind of Woman
As I mentioned, there was a lot of Good this year, and, there was also a greater variety of songs and monologues being presented. Anytime you get just under 1000 actors in one place – or even just 20, there’s bound to be some duplications of material along the way. Again, it’s just the nature of the beast. However, there were more than a few times during the last day of auditions when I would take my first look at someone’s music, and say to them, "We haven’t heard that one yet." -Which, of course, would bring a big smile (of relief) to their face. There were even a few "Greatest Hits" that did make the rotation this time around: no "Maria" (from West Side Story, not Paint Your Wagon), no "Defying Gravity", no "Old Red Hills of Home", no "Green Finch and Linnet Bird". No "I Can Cook Too"!?!?!?
Gimme, Gimme – If I Can’t Love Her – Astonishing – Dear, Friend – Crossword Puzzle – Sara Lee – I’ll Know – You Don’t Know This Man – Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee – What Is It About Her? – All That Jazz – I Am Adolpho – Hold On – Lost In The Wilderness – Glitter and Be Gay – The Mason – One Night with You – No Man Left For Me – You Don’t Know This Man – Winter’s On The Wing – There Won’t Be Trumpets – A Cockeyed Optimist – What Did I Have That I Don’t Have? – If You Could See Her – Thank You for the Music – Much More – Schaudenfreude – Turn Back, O Man – Me – Is It Really Me? – (Not) Getting Married Today – On the Street Where You Live – Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm – Let Yourself Go
So, today is my recovery day. My first auditon-free day in over a week. A month from now, I will be repeating the same duties for the SETC auditions in Chattanooga. In the meantime, well at least for today, I shall watch the snow fall (yes, I’m happy about that), perhaps take a walk in it, watch the some TV, hang out with some friends. I don’t have to be "on" today. I don’t "have" to smile. I can giggle out loud.