Annette's blog

Sing it with me, “Down by the bay…”

Last night, I crossed an item off my bucket list: I auditioned for a play.

Perhaps you wonder, why does Annette want to be in a play?

It’s all about the writing. I read an interview with Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. He said being involved in theater fine-tuned his writing. Seems like a great reason to me.

Our local community theater is putting on a production of Gypsy, the story of burlesque performer, Gypsy Rose Lee. My husband and I had been talking about auditioning for Gypsy for a long time. But talking is not actually planning because to be truthful, I wasn’t really sure I would do it. When we got home last night, my daughter asked me why I hadn’t told her I was going to audition. The simple truth: I wasn’t sure I would.

My husband and I arrived at the Spokane Civic Theater a little before 6:30 p.m. I clutched my sheet music of “Down By the Bay,” tightly in my fist. I imagined a cozy room with the director, a piano and accompanist, and me. This wasn’t what awaited us. Instead, we were directed to a small stage and there were at least 50 people there. Ugh…

The auditions began at 6:30 prompt. The first to perform was a strikingly pretty young woman who obviously was not new to theater. She sang beautifully and that’s when I realized that although the website said newcomers were welcome, ages 7 to 70, I was the only newcomer there.

One by one, I watched all of the other hopefuls audition. My husband, always at my side, whispered words of encouragement to me. I always carry a small notebook, so I wrote notes to him, such as “They don’t pay these people, do they?”

When the director said, “Is there anybody else here to audition?” I knew it was go time. Fish or cut bait. This. Was. It. Did I have the courage to stand up and join the ranks of wanna-be performers? Or should I hunker down in my chair instead? My heart raced. My palms sweat. I stood up. I stepped over the pianist, who I believe is the music director, and gave her my one solitary sheet of music. At the last minute, I had chosen a tune sung by children’s performer, Raffi.

Then I stepped onto the stage.

“Hello. My name is Annette Poole, and this is my first audition.” I was greeted with applause. 

I said, “I didn’t realize I had to sing to be an usher. I’ll be performing “Down by the Bay” from Raffi’s Greatest Hits. Join in if you know the words.” (More applause and polite laughter).

The pianist played a few notes and looked at me. I looked back at her. She played the same note again and looked at me. I looked at her. Finally, mercifully, someone said, “That’s your cue.”

Oh.

I began to sing.

“Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow…”

And then it happened. I forgot the words. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this song. I played that Raffi CD for my children over and over again. I knew the words to “Down by the Bay.” Except at that precise moment, I didn’t. But the pianist kept playing, and I kept standing there, and thankfully, she got to the part of the song I remembered, and I belted out… “Down by the Bay.”

A roar of applause. I think I forgot to bow or maybe I didn’t know to do so in the first place. My first audition was over.

Later, the director gave me a script to read for him. In this scene, Rose tells one of the young performers to “Go to bed.” I’ve been a mom since 1990. Trust me when I say, that is a phrase I can deliver. And I did. It was one of four lines I was given to recite. I told the other actor who played opposite me, “I’m hoping for a non-speaking part.” He’s probably never heard anyone say that.

The great thing about this whole experience was what a breath of fresh air it was to sit in that theater and watch as the written word came alive. What a change from my real life. If I apply the litmus test of asking myself if I would do it again, the answer is yes.  

And I know you’re wondering: did I get a part? I don’t know yet. Callbacks are tomorrow night. But I think I did. Here’s my line: “Please allow me to show you to your seat.”

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, the beauty of failure.  

2 thoughts on “Sing it with me, “Down by the bay…””

  1. If you don’t get a role in this one, keep trying. Julian Fellowes is right. I took drama in high school, and successfully auditioned for three plays in my undergraduate college days (lead roles in two major productions, and as the “straight man” in a one-act, two-actor comedy. My Method Acting background is what keeps me close to the thoughts and feelings of the characters I write about.

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