Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Suite Friends

 Tonight, I am meeting friends for dinner, something I used to do a lot before COVID. In the timeline of my life, these friends are new friends, most acquired through my experience in a show I auditioned for more than four years ago (see post below).

But they feel like old friends -- or, as I often refer to them, my Plaza Suite family.

An audition is an audition is an audition, but no two shows are created equal. If you're lucky, you get cast, maybe even in the role you want. With a little more luck, you connect with the rest of the cast, which enhances the experience immeasurably. And, if you're really lucky, you forge the kinds of friendships where you're still meeting for drinks or dinner four (or more) years later with castmates who've become friends who feel like family.

Color me really lucky.

One of these days, I hope to be on stage again. But on this particular day, I'm looking forward to sharing a table with dear friends with whom I once shared a stage.

Last night, I went to an audition for the first time in longer than I can remember. It was only the second play I'd auditioned for since college (I usually audition for musicals) and this one, like the last one, is by Neil Simon.

The particular theatre has changed a lot since I started doing shows there, but I suppose that's to be expected since nearly three decades have passed since my first audition at that theatre. The last set of renovations included a new administrator, a face lift and a name change that was widely unpopular among some of the long-time volunteers. Some said they'd never return, but that's a pretty challenging promise for a volunteer actor in a small town.

An audition is an audition is an audition. Same table in the lobby, same clipboards, same cast of characters (or at least a version of the same crew), each waiting his or her turn to impress. In the meantime, some hold court, others size up the competition and a few linger over their clipboards, trying to remember their resumes and wondering why they thought this was a good idea in the first place.

This was perhaps a ridiculous idea, as I don't really have time for a show. I barely have time for the commitments I've signed on for already, and I'm not completely sure I can still memorize lines. But my retirement has been forsaken for another full-time job. While that turn of events that is just fine with me, it's putting me at risk of being all work and no play.

So, it was time for a play.

Or at least to try out for one. I don't know how things will turn out. I didn't hedge my bets -- a first, I think. There is only one role I want because there is only one character I was drawn to enough to turn my schedule upside down for the next two months. The others would be fun to play, but I'm just not willing to put in the time. I have other characters waiting for me -- those of my own creation -- who, like a pet left home alone for too long are at risk of doing unspeakable things if I don't get back to them soon, and so I must chose my time away very carefully.

Still, it was fun to read with other actors again, to find the timing that earns the laughs. When writers do this, we don't know if the laughs (or the tears) come; reading, unlike theatre-going, is a solitary pursuit.

It was fun to immerse myself in the work of a playwright whose works make me laugh, even if now they seem a bit dated and perhaps a bit too on-the-nose given current headlines.

It was gratifying to know that, although I'm no longer the twenty-something who drove an hour to nervously audition at this theatre, now of another name, I can still convince myself to take a chance.

I won't know how this all turns out until the end of the week, but I'm okay with either option. I connected with a character, I took a risk, and I looked at a play from both sides of the page. Now I just need to see which side of the page I land on.

Stay tuned.

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