Be Careful What You Ask

After Liza graduated from Sandy Spring Friends School, I began looking for other opportunities to participate in community theater. Remarkably, there was a small black-box theater less than a mile from our house. We had lived in close proximity for more than 20 years and I had never been inside, until I saw a flyer announcing auditions for the 2007 version of their annual one-act play festival. What the heck, I thought.

Silver Spring Stage, was (still is) located in the basement of a neighborhood shopping center. It was an odd space, with pillars inconveniently placed for viewing, but, presumably, critically placed for holding up the building. Thirty or so people showed up for the session I had chosen, and we took turns cold reading from some of the dozen or so scripts from the featured plays. The directors sat in the back of the theater and asked a few questions of each actor, then they chatted amongst themselves to decide which plays to have the actor read for.

I was chosen to play the part of an elderly man (no stretch) developing dementia (no comment). My signature line was “I’ve lost my Mary!” As rehearsals progressed I learned that another director had wanted me to play The Voice of God, who comments on the interaction of a young couple getting to know one another. Pauline, the director of the dementia play, won the coin toss. We had a decent run: several performances for each of two weekends.

Pauline also was directing an upcoming British pantomime (look it up on Wikipedia) for the British Players. The British Players were originally the British Embassy Players, but after 9/11 they couldn’t perform in the Embassy, so they broadened their outreach. Snow White was the panto that year, and Pauline, remembering my Voice of God audition, asked me to audition for the role of the Magic Mirror, which I did and was chosen for the part. When I wasn’t behind the microphone, I was onstage as one of the townspeople chorus.

Learning of my desire to perform more, and my basic ignorance about local theater opportunities, one of the other cast members suggested I audition for Hexagon. I had no idea what Hexagon was, but Lisa assured me that it was lots of fun, with many of the folks from British Players in the cast. Hexagon, I learned, is “Washington’s only original political satirical musical comedy revue,” and had been started in 1955 by a few Princeton grads. Princeton puts on an annual show called Triangle, but it is all male. Since this show included females, it was twice as good as Triangle, hence, Hexagon. This year Hexagon celebrates its 60th anniversary! (Click here for more information.)

Of course I auditioned for Hexagon! The audition for the 2008 show (Stars and Gripes Forever) included cold reading, singing, and dancing(!). When I got to the singing part, I had to wait on the small stage for a few minutes until the producer returned. Then I sang a cowboy song a cappella (that was before I had my guitar repaired). To my complete surprise, I got a call a few days later telling me that I had been accepted into the cast (in spite of my dancing skill).

A few weeks into rehearsal I asked the producer if she remembered my audition, and would she let me know what went into their decision. Had I wowed them by singing on tune without accompaniment? Was it the particular song I had chosen? Stage presence? Reading? I knew it wasn’t my dancing: I didn’t know a grapevine from a plié.

She replied that she remembered the audition. She paused for a minute to reflect, then said with conviction, “I think it was because you’re a male.”

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About Jesse

My name is Jesse Blatt. My first name is actually “Ramon,” but I haven’t used that name, except for official purposes, since 1970. I have a high school diploma and a PhD…nothing in between. I’ll get around to explaining that in a post sometime. From time to time I will be posting true stories from my past, though not in any special order. I’ve been fortunate to have had a dozen or so different careers, most of them very satisfying, some fairly frustrating, and none that I wish had never happened. In my many former lives, I have been a mail clerk, radio and TV engineer, radio announcer, electronics engineer, college instructor, psychologist, research consultant, Federal employee, supervisor of research professionals, computer programmer, web designer, instructional designer, construction site handyman, and carpenter, not necessarily in that order.
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