I know what I need to do. I need to practice every day. Twice. I need to practice as I will perform, with my pages snapped into a black binder, printed in large enough font for my aging eyes. I need to practice, practice, practice. I’ve known this since I was fifteen. Probably longer.
I need to practice in front of various audiences. I need moms. I need straight moms. I need men. I need friends who aren’t shy to say what they see, to direct me, to edit, to critique. Once upon a time, I had this sort of team all around me every day. Now, I am re-inventing myself after years away from the stage. This is the kind of support I must re-create. Re-form. Find.
I need to plant my feet firmly on the ground while I speak (read) my piece, confident that each line I deliver will serve to deepen the judges’ conviction that of all the talented writers and performers who audition for Listen to Your Mother, I must be among those invited to participate in their show. My voice must be heard. My words must be shared because my essay rocks. Every word I say must – subtly – underscore this point. I know all this, and yet …
There are bills to pay, battles to fight, my birthday, homework and a third grade school project to manage, dates to arrange, babysitters to hire, and I haven’t been on stage in a really, really, really long time. So …
I read aloud for my loving partner. I shave my essay sentence by sentence, taking it down from six minutes to five. I retype. I revise. I reprint. I get bolder. I mark out whole paragraphs, still trying to bring down my time. I bow my head, talk fast, and find at last that I fit under the wire. Barely. Just.
Five days before my audition, I rehearse for one colleague – a man, a director – it’s the first time I’ve read these words aloud outside my own home. He is not afraid to tell me what he thinks, thankfully. He reminds me how to perform. “Show, don’t tell,” he says – not in a writerly way, but in an up-on-your-feet sort of way. He tells me not to use different voices when I recount my daughter’s words as opposed to my own, but suggests that each character be expressed with a different affect. Yes. This is what I need. Is it too late? Is it too near my audition for his advice to take hold in the dustiest part of my brain?
I practice in front of two more colleagues two days before my audition – “Diversify your audience,” I say in my head! They laugh. They cry. They are my allies, my friends. Neither of them is yet a mom – but soon, soon. The only mom who’s heard my words, the only mom I’ve read this to, whose child breathes outside her own body – is Kelly, my loving partner.
One day remains.
What if I read my piece – from my freshly-printed, loose-leaf, large-font pages on top of my daughter’s red plastic school folder, in a small photography studio – and my judges are not on my side? What if I say (as I do) in the beginning of my monologue that I believe any two women should have the right to marry if they choose, and my judges vehemently disagree? It isn’t about what’s right or wrong for me – I have strong convictions, strong beliefs, and I’m willing to tell anyone where I stand. But what must I say to be cast in their show?
These doubts crowd me.
I am an actor. Again. And as an actor, I am at the mercy of these judges – as warm and upbeat, as nurturing and feminist-friendly as they are. I want them on my side.
I open the door and walk through. I smile. They are warm and kind, yes, funny and friendly.
My inner critic takes the volume up a notch. Do their convictions on marriage and faith figure into their decision about who they put on the stage?
Inside the studio, I hand them my monologue and my signed release. I warmly shake each of their hands, and quickly challenge myself to not allow my perception of their response – whether I feel them traveling with me on this parenting journey as a lesbian mom in the throes of a national marriage debate, or not – to impact how I perform. I challenge myself to not retract out of fear they’ll turn me down. Will this challenge make me come on too strong? Or will I – by using the proverbial fourth wall – more easily move into my story and occupy my own words with heart and aplomb?
Afterwards, they thank me and say within a week, they’ll let me know either way.
There is no laughter, no tears. Are they on my side? How can I know?
… Less than a week later, I learn I’m in! I’m in!!!!! Here is the full Chicago cast for Listen to Your Mother, at the Athenaeum Theatre on May 5, 2013. I’m still in shock. I can’t believe it’s true. Thank you to Peaches & Coconuts for the nudge to submit – YOU ROCK. And THANK YOU to the organizers, Melisa and Tracey. Wow. Just – Thank you.
Addendum (2/18): Tickets are now on sale! So if you’re planning to come, click here 🙂