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The audition: beating fear and taking chances

by Meagan Francis on March 9, 2014

Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for reflection and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan

I am about to out my deep, dark, dorky side here. You’ve been warned.

Meagan black wig cropped

A much younger me backstage during a production of “Sweet Charity”

When I was a young teenager, I got bitten by the Broadway bug.

And it was a serious bite. While I’d always loved showtunes and musicals – I spent the better part of my fifth year of life belting out “Tomorrow” in crowded stores at the top of my lungs – getting cast as Kim, the ingenue, in my high school’s production of Bye, Bye, Birdie at the age of 14 really kicked my fever into high gear. 

This is how obsessed I was: I’d spend Friday nights listening to my aunt’s extensive collection of musical theater albums (she let me borrow 10 or so at a time on rotation) and choreographing imaginary dance scenes in front of my mirror. I forced my poor nephew Mario to act out the part of all the child characters in the Sound of Music at once so that I could be Maria. I mean this was all happening between the ages of 14 and 16, people, when I was supposed to be doing things like chasing boys and at least putting some effort into looking cool. 

But I didn’t care about cool. I cared about the show. I happily spent my summer breaks playing chorus parts in large regional high school productions with all-day rehearsals. In our hometown, where the small size of the school pretty much guaranteed me a principal role, play practice was my happy place, and if I could have chosen, I’d have had our rehearsals go on all day. 

Who needs friends when you've got Rodgers & Hammerstein?

Who needs friends when you’ve got Rodgers & Hammerstein?

It’s hard to come up with even one other thing I’ve ever been quite as passionate about as I was the theatre. I loved all of it: the music, the costumes, the often corny dialogue and questionable plots. Despite the 47-year age difference and the fact that he’s gay, I totally would have married Stephen Sondheim. (I’d probably still have an emotional affair with him, come to that.)

Over time, musicals became less and less central to my life. I did some shows when Jacob and Isaac were very small, as a way to get out of the house at night after being home with them all day, and the rush never went away. But at some point the rehearsal schedule became too difficult to fit into my quickly-growing family, and I just stopped performing. 

But over the last seven years or so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to wiggle back in. I’ve built a steady work-at-home career that allows me the flexibility to do things like act in plays. My kids are getting bigger and bigger and more and more independent, and Jon’s work schedule has gotten more and more flexible, too, making it easier to set aside time for practices.

And yet, I haven’t taken the leap.

At least half a dozen times I’ve heard about an audition and gone so far as to prepare a song and arrange for the kids while I’m trying out. And then, at the last minute…I just didn’t go.

Why? Well, sometimes my last-minute back-outs were for legitimate reasons: I’d realize that the timing was bad, or that I wasn’t crazy enough about the show in question to give up months’ worth of evenings and weekends to rehearsals and performances.

But mostly, it was fear. Oh sure, I’d tell myself that it was more important for me to be at home in the evenings or that I needed to focus any extra time on my business or that I’d really rather save my weekends for lounging around the house. But there was a smaller voice telling the truth: I was afraid I’d screw up the audition, or worse, that I’d nail the audition, get a part, and screw up the performance.

It’s funny to think of being scared of an audition, since I used to find them really fun. But over the years, I’ve gotten out of practice, and the rustier I’ve gotten, the more that fearlessness has faded. I know that just doing it is the answer to taking some of the mystery and fear out of the process, but I just keep putting it off.

the lights are waiting...

the lights are waiting…

Well, no more. Today the local community theater is holding auditions for a production of The King and I. I’ll be there, and I’m telling all of you so you can hold me accountable.

There aren’t too many roles for a fair-skinned strawberry blonde in a show that centers around life in a palace in Siam, and I doubt I’ll get the lead. But even if I don’t get cast at all, I’m trying to remind myself that there’s value just in getting out there, facing down something scary and doing it anyway, and dipping even the pinkiest of pinkie toes back into something I once loved so much. 

I’ve come a long way from that girl who spent her free time memorizing Broadway lyrics and dreaming of the stage, and I’m not sure that theatre will ever be as front and center in my life as it once was. Or, maybe it will. It’s hard to imagine a passion that strong just fading away, and I know that even as my children, my marriage, and my work have made my life richer and fuller than they ever were then, there’s still been a small piece missing.

It’s been a long time, but it’s never too late to rediscover something you thought you’d lost.

So think of me this afternoon, will you? I’ll be standing on a stage, singing and probably sweating and shaking and wishing I’d invested in more than a handful of voice lessons over the past decade-plus. But I’ll be there. Because at some point, there are no more excuses to be made for getting in your own way.

And the scariest thing to contemplate is living without taking risks.  

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen March 9, 2014 at 8:12 am

Good for you! I grew up loving hockey, learned how to skate my last year of college, breaking my thumb during the first class time on ice. Fast forward almost ten years and two kids later, and I went to a hockey practice for the first time. One of the scariest things I’ve done. That was in 2009, and I’m still playing. And I’m still learning to break/stop….

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Christine March 9, 2014 at 8:50 am

I can relate to this in so many ways. Except with me it was dance. I danced 6 days a week, all day on Saturdays during my high school years. I even went to college for it. But I had a few bad experiences with it in college and when I graduated I just stopped. I miss it so much at times but I tell myself the same things you did. That it’s more important to be home with my family, etc. Last fall I started taking a dance class but it has been cancelled so once again I’m right back where I was. Where we live there are not a lot of opportunities for dance that are worthwhile. But we are moving back to Washington DC this summer and I hope that I can summon up the courage like you did to go attend some classes and get back into it. Right now I feel as if a part of me is missing.

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Meagan Francis March 9, 2014 at 10:55 am

Christine, I’m hoping the “other” Christine will weigh in! You have similar stories – she was a dancer who left off after having children and is wiggling her way back in now.

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Christine W. March 9, 2014 at 10:54 am

You know I’ve had a similar trajectory w/my own involvements with performing (and hey, I see another dancer named Christine already responded to this post too). I admire your getting back out there and sharing the (perceived) fear with us Break A Leg!!! I look forward to hearing how it goes!

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Meagan Francis March 9, 2014 at 10:55 am

Ahh! Christine, look at my reply to Christine above. We are truly on the same wavelength this morning!

I’d love to hear how it’s going with you now, by the way!

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Stephanie Precourt March 9, 2014 at 11:38 am

I can’t wait to hear about it!! We are doing our final performance today. I’m excited for the next audition…

Steph

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Sarah Powers March 9, 2014 at 12:10 pm

So exciting! Merde! ;)

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Carrie March 9, 2014 at 2:38 pm

From one once-passionate-no-longer-performer to another: Break a leg, girl!! :-)

You’ve inspired me to get brave about my old/new passion: writing. (I may even dust off my musical instruments soon, too.) Thank you!

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Kirsetin March 9, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Go get it, girl!!

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Meagan Francis March 9, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for the well-wishes and “break a leg”s, everyone! The audition went well and while I was pretty nervous during the singing part, I lived to tell about it. I’ll report back when I know more, in a week or so!

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Amanda March 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm

I too, love musicals. I had small parts all 4 years in high school, and I LOVE live theater. Our little district doesn’t do musical performances and it is actually making me want to move, so my daughters will be able to participate. Congrats on your audition and maybe I’ll run (literally, coming around the corner) into you this week.

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Asha Dornfest March 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Holy crap. A) You’re awesome and I’m cheering for you. B) I grew up on Rodgers and Hammerstein. C) The King and I is my favorite. D) Yul Brynner gave me a ride on his shoulders when I was about 7 or 8.

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Meagan Francis March 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm

“Yul Brynner gave me a ride on his shoulders when I was about 7 or 8.”

What.

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andrea frazer March 10, 2014 at 1:28 am

Your story growing up could have been mine, down to the all the musical singing as a teen. Unlike you, I never did get a lead, but I LOVED just doing the chorus. It made my soul so happy. Just yesterday I met up with an actress friend at a fundraiser for our kids school. She does plays, and she reminded me how much I miss the theatre. When I get a better routine down with work, I’m going to dip my toe into that arena again. I get tired of writing with an objection. How fun it will be to write from my heart, and then hear it read in a round table. Who knows where that will lead? Timely post! I hope it works out for you!

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