Doreen Firestone – “Confessions of a Serial Auditioner”

Dateline:  Late ‘80s – early ‘90s

                   The heart of The Great White Way, BROADWAY!

Scene:  Equity Headquarters (AKA the Theatrical Actors Union)

It’s a bone-chilling morning that begs the predawn sunrise to get off its sorry BLEEP! and aid the approximately fifty aspiring, anxious, fidgety, slightly delirious from lack of sleep actor-hopefuls that already line the city street, waiting (and waiting and waiting…) for their three minutes to audition for their chance to be in a Broadway show. And I, the “Serial Auditioner”, am one of them.

Me…with my frozen gluteus maximus permanently adhered to the hallowed concrete sidewalk.

Me…with said tush that won’t budge, lest I forfeit my coveted spot in the queue for my audition later that day, or earlier, depending on how my appointment time fits into the schedule of said day.  Now, this typical day is comprised of my full time, “survival” corporate job, organizing an entire tax department (now, what genius thought that was a good idea), and the other two auditions that occur within an half hour of each other, on opposite ends of town, that I will squeeze in, if it kills me, damn it!

Me…with my head crowned with my best “Melanie Griffith/Working Girl” coif and my brain abuzz with chatter between its two lobes, obsessing on how the hell I would pull the whole thing off.  And, bless my 20-something heart, 90% of the time I would succeed!

Now, do not be alarmed, but the following comparison to the Google definition of a “Serial Killer” will prove my former life status of  “Serial Auditioner”:

“Serial Killer:  One who commits a series of murders, often with no apparent motive and typically following a characteristic, predictable behavioral pattern.”

Just substitute “murder” for “throwing myself onto the stage, any stage, to get the coveted lead in a musical production, somewhere in some theater in some part of New York City, and there you are, or rather, there I was.

Ask my now husband, who works for the Treasury Department (the out-of-work, broke actress and the watchdog of US Banking, a match made in heaven!), who at the time was my bewildered boyfriend.  I was obsessed with my quest!

Oh, I remember that February day in 1993, when I excitedly got in line at the Winter Garden Theater to be among the over 500 hopefuls to be cast in the chorus of “Cats.”  Now, I had no desire to be in “Cats”, but I definitely was obsessed with joining the cast  of “Les Miserables.” I was so driven by that dream that I got intel where the music director of said show lived and I set up shop in front of his apartment building, waiting to introduce myself, his next great Eponine, the waif in Les Mis!  Upon being confronted by this rabid actor, he calmly referred me, with a shaken voice, to the “Les Mis” casting director and then hurried into the building, and probably called his real estate agent looking for a new address. Anyway, back to the Winter Garden Theater! I knew the casting director of “Cats” was casting “Les Mis” as well, so I showed up for the cattle call, where 500 hopefuls who look painfully similar to each other stand in a line, while strangers behind a folding table literally check them out, head to toe, deciding which ones are the “type” they’re looking for.  (Think police lineup and you’re a perp, but I digress…) Now you really can’t blame them for instituting this procedure of torture; after all, do you know how many hours it would take to listen to 500 individual auditions?  Excruciating!

And there I was, dressed as The Waif, from head to toe.  I’m still not sure why they kept me. I don’t have extensive dance skills. Maybe, maybe, they were thinking “She might be right for “Les Mis!” So I was asked to stay. Lucky Number 150, scheduled to sing at the end of the day, considering my previously mentioned daily juggling schedule. An audition would go for 1.5 minutes on average, so that meant at least a 3.5 hour wait for my moment in the sun. Now, a hungry, nervous New York City actor with stars in her eyes can be a ticking time bomb, in this case, not a danger to anyone, but herself. As the minutes crawled along, my self-talk grew more and more toxic, and my energy less and less, to the point when I finally entered the theater area to sing my exhausted heart out…

THE COVETED THEATER AREA OF

THE WINTER GARDEN THEATER!

I was totally ungrounded!  Disconnected from my precious life force that got me to that theater and had me stand on that demeaning cattle call line in the first place!

Well, suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty.  I don’t even remember what I sang (selective amnesia)  But, bless my broken heart, I’ll never forget the high note at the end. And neither will those beleaguered auditors. For when I reached for that high note, well, uh…

IT GOT SUCKED INTO THE STRATOSPHERE BY “THE GRINCH WHO STOLE ‘LES MIS’ FROM ME”!

(In other words…

it cracked.)

The return trip to my apartment in Hoboken was but a blur. Upon entry, I threw myself on the floor, wailing, wishing I were dead!  Too bad the “Les Mis” folks didn’t get to witness that performance. Then, they would have surely hired me!

But the worst part was the real story that happened that day. The day was February 26, 1993, the date of the first bombing of The World Trade Center. The day I was so obsessed with stardom and my epic fail that I was oblivious to the tragedy that had befallen my fellow man.

Looking back over that wonderful, crazy era of my career, my serial auditioning days, I see it was all very necessary. I had to learn that my obsession with being a star, simply for the sake of being seen, was my undervaluing the gift I had been given by God to use for the sake of humanity. Now, twenty-six years later, I have cultivated that gift, and so many more gifts than I ever imagined I had, and I am offering them to the world, with an open, exuberant heart, as the playwright and composer of my own shows, that I perform in and produce for aspiring hopefuls! And, thankfully, I have officially retired from my life of “Career Crime!”

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