I have about 3 blog posts in the works, but lately I have been in such a funk that I cannot focus on the content they are about.
There is a confession to make here. I am a former Disney Cast Member. Being one was a badge of honor, performing the roles I had the opportunity to was a gift I cannot even begin to explain, and the joy I had on a daily basis almost outweighed the pain that my body was developing.
When I left, it was because I had limits and expectations on what my life should be that were completely based on what other people thought and what I thought it should be. Not because leaving would make me happy, but because I needed to “grow up.”
There were blessings in leaving: being close to the members of my family who were already diagnosed with Celiac when my diagnosis happened, being able to spend 8 hours with my Grandmother the day before she passed, getting to perform in a variety of productions in the Chicago area while meeting some incredible people, and only being 3 hours from my family. There have been some bad things as well, but that is another tale.
Except, I never really let it go. Every year like clockwork, from 2007-2012, I flew back to work for a week as a seasonal cast member, to recharge my batteries with the love and happiness that I had doing the job I did there, to see friends, to make new ones, and to soak it all in.
April 14, 2012 was my last day as a cast member. I donned my blacks for the last time, took my voyage, and then said “goodbye.” Not because I wanted to, but because the rules on being seasonal had changed, and there was no way I could make it work while living in Chicago.
I miss it. People tell me I need to do what makes me happy and what I am good at, but to be honest with you, I am not sure what that is. I know the things that I enjoy doing, but I know my happiest time was when I was going into work every day and performing. I could be in the grumpiest mood, not feeing well, swear that I was living in a sauna, but as soon as the music started and I stepped onto whatever stage it was, it was like my world receded and for however long I was on stage, there was only that.
If this does not make sense, I apologize. Tonite was a night where I just needed to put thoughts down and get them out. If you want to read about my adventures eating GF as a guest as WDW try this.
And I am going to leave you with the last thing I do on every trip to my happy place:
Normally, my audition routine is audition for everything. Sometimes there is a show that I am really passionate about, that I will devote more time to, but I will still audition for other shows around it because, hey, you never know if you are going to be the right show. But then, comes “The Show.” The show that does not get done very often for whatever reason, that for whatever reason, you need to do on a personal level. For me, that show is THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
I know, I know. It is sugar on top of cotton candy on top of saccharine. It is the last Rogers and Hammerstein musical and people like to poo poo it. But for as long as I can remember, the movie has been the top of my favorite list. Growing up, I watched that movied EVERY time it was on, and when my family got a laser disc player, I rented that all the time. I honestly do not remember if my mom ended up buying it or not, but I know I chose it as my rental often.
I sang “Edelweiss” when my Grandmother died. My great-uncle got me a book that is autographed by Maria von Trapp. Heck, when I was a youngster (before I remember, but it was one of my favorites), my grandparents took me to see a community theatre production of TSoM. Right around the time they started singing “Do a Deer….” in a place different from the movie (after several other songs were in a place other than my beloved movie), I stood, in all my curly hair/frilly dress glory, and yelled at the stage; “You’re doing it WRONG!”. Yeah. I kind of had the movie version memorized. But, knowing that all I can play in the show is a nun, and knowing that lightning has been known to hit in the general vicinity of a theatre when I am a nun (ask me about EVITA someday), well……yeah, I still want to do the show.
But here is the dilemma. I am afraid that if I put all of my eggs in one basket, I will end up without a fall show. Yes, this show would make my heart happy on SO MANY different levels. BUT. The actor but. The BUT that is born out of the knowledge that the possibility is out there that you may, or may not, be the right “fit” for the cast or the directors vision. And going in, you don’t know what that fit is going to be, many times it depends on the people who are also auditioning. So, there are 2 other auditions, one that I have written off, primarily because it is Tuesday and I need to get things done.
The other audition is for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. It is being put up by a group I have been trying to get into for 3 years. I know that as a Tower, I have a shot at being a Cagelle, which would be a lot of fun. But….
And it is that gosh darn “BUT” that is making my life miserable right now. I think I have figured out what I am going to do, it scares me, but you know what, if it so happens that I don’t get a role, any role, in show A, I know there will be more auditions right around the corner.
Hi, I’m adding this after the original post: So, here is part of my quagmire. La Cage auditions first and will have their first audition that week. SoM auditions the following weekend. La Cage runs Nov 9-18. SoM runs Nov 9-Dec 9. There is a difference in travel distance, with La Cage being closer. My heart is still saying SoM, but if I don’t get it, I cold be showless for an extended period of time.
Hi! How is everyone doing out there?? How is life? How has your summer been? Mine has been pretty interesting and pretty low key. It’s a very interesting mix. I feel like I should pick up where I left off with the Disney/Universal trip, but that has been so long ago, that I don’t really remember where I left off except that Disney Onstage = Awesome for Glutards, Disney Backstage = Not So Much and that Universal was a blast, but a total food wash.
So, what have I been up to?? Well, near Memorial Day the studio where I was taking Burlesque classes
had a Graduation Recital and I got to perform with a group of my fellow Beginning/Intermediate students in that while the gradates prepped after their individual numbers for their finale. I only went down to a bra and my second pair of panties (the routine had us removing the outer pantie), but it was exhilarating. I felt strong, sexy, and confident, three words that I do not feel that often and rarely at the same time.
Not too long after that, actually ON I went up to Northern Wisconsin for a friends weekend. It was a fun weekend with friends and I got to see her marry the love of her life. How can that NOT make you happy??
I think not long after that, I did a 20th anniversary show for a friend’s theatre company. It was not everything that was promised when I showed up to the first meeting, but in the end, I had a lot of fun with some talented people and got to share the stage with some friends. And I hope, beyond all hope, that the next time I ever sing “Seasons of Love” is because I am in a production of RENT. Can I please call for a ban of that song in any and every musical revue show? It is honestly the entire reason I never saw RENT until about the time the movie came out.
The big highlight of July was cheering on a friend in her international beauty pagent here in the Chicago area. She rocked out, won “Most Photogenic” and was an amazing advocate for her platform, Celiac Awareness. I met her at the Gluten Free Cooking Expo that I have been volunteering at for YEARS and I love my “cupcake monsters.”
August started with a bang. Almost quite literally if you consider the gun that was fired in show. Anyway, I had been asked by a director I have auditioned for several times to take place in a musical revue that he was putting together as a fundraiser for a local theatre company. Of course I jumped at the chance to work with him. Then I saw who else he asked. EVERY other person in that cast has, at one point in their life or another, played a lead or a main supporting character with solos in a show. Some of these performers I had seen on stage and just wanted to learn as much as I could from them. And then there was me. The tall chorus girl in the back. But in this show, I wasn’t going to be a chorus girl. Every single person in the show was featured in at least 2 numbers. What did that mean for me? I was going to be singing Magenta in “The Time Warp” from ROCKY HORROR SHOW, and Mazeppa in “Gotta Get a Gimmick” from GYPSY. Plus ensemble in 4 other numbers. **GULP** Nervous. Scared. Floored. Honored. Determined. Terrified. What if I got there and I was the weakest person in the show? What if I got there and the director realized he made a mistake? Well, I got the sheet music about a month early and did everything I could to start working on my parts so that when the time came for rehearsals to start, I could be (somewhat) professional and at least know my music. I knew it would be tweaked as I worked with the director and knew what he wanted, but I could know words and pitches.
11 Rehearsals. 22 people put on a 2 hour show in 11 rehearsals. We sold out 97% of the house over the run of the show. I came into the rehearsal process determined to be friendly, but to keep my head down, work hard, learn by observing others, and not let all of my crazy energy out. And for the most part, I think I succeeded. I don’t know how my performances went. I know they felt great, and each night they felt stronger and stronger. I don’t know how well I succeeded in everything else I wanted to accomplish, or even hope to accomplish. But I know this. I came out of it with a bunch of new friends and the knowledge that I got to play with the big boys and I held my own.
Ok, seeing as how I just posted a blog about the good of IOA (minus Harry Potter, which deserves its own post), probably not too much. But before that it has been a while. And the reason for that is because I was in a 20th Anniversary Revue for a theatre company I work with on occasion.
The show had some technical difficulties and struggles, and I admit that I was initially disappointed by what I was asked to do in the show. I know I had a bad attitude during some rehearsals, which is something that I have absolutely NO pride about. My number one goal going into every rehearsal is to be positive, to learn as much as I can from other performers, to be a sponge, and the one guideline that I really try to abide by — BE POSITIVE!!!!! Negative energy brings more negative energy, and I dislike feeling negative!
I did this show because I needed a show that would make me happy. My last show in January was rough and I actually took a break during the spring because I needed to shake the negative juju. But it must have still been a bit stuck on me. So it slightly discolored the experience of sharing the stage with some of my favorite people.
And these really are some of my favorite people. I came to Chicago knowing exactly 1 person. The people I got to know were his friends. When that relationship ended, I was pretty much adrift for a year. Then I started doing theatre. I have 2 groups that I go back to because they are family, even though I try to perform with as many different places I could. And one group has more people that I feel like I can turn to when I need a hand up or to share a laugh.
The Hale Theatre Company is run out of one of Chicago’s many, many parks. The Park District used to have many theatre companies and even performed at the Theatre on the Lake building. Sometime, many years before I moved here, that stopped happening, and with budget cuts, I can only think of 3 park district companies that are still running — Hale, Munroe/Ridge, and Chase. This past season was Hale’s 20th season, and it has been run for those 20 years by Lauren Polenske and her husband, Michael Murphy. Sure, it has its flaws, what theatre company doesn’t, but their joy shines through.
It was here that I sang my first solo in a “Murph Made Musical”, played my first dramatic role, came back to experience GODSPELL, take part in another “Murph Made Musical” after taking a break from going a year and a half straight, then this spring taking part in the show that just closed. Since it was a revue of the musicals they have done over the past 20 years, most of the songs were sung by the person who originated the role. Being new to the theatre group, that meant that I had not originated any roles in shows. But I was still lucky and blessed enough to sing Golde to one of my dearest friends Tevye in “Sunrise, Sunset” from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, even though it aged me about 20 years! I also got to be the “object of desire” (i.e. walk sexily in front of the stage) during 2 numbers from A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
But the real joy was seeing my friends shine in songs that I never had the opportunity to hear them sing originally. Hearing Thom as Tevye, or Patrick as Fagin, or Robin singing Momma Rose, or hearing Heather sing “Oh Bless the Lord My Soul” again, or the highlight of the entire experience: hearing Thom, Murph, and Patrick singing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” and bringing down the house.
I really do believe that people are blessed with 2 families. The family that we are born into and the family that we choose. And to the people listed above, and many more — I cannot begin to tell you how much joy I have sharing the stage with you and how you have become my family here in Chicago.
And I hope we get to share the stage again sometime soon. I promise I will keep it positive!!
Now to get ready for my show in August and fall auditions!
I don’t know about you, but I am pretty hard on myself. For the longest time, I thought I could not sing because someone told me, “we don’t sing well.” I think believing that helped to form some of the mental blocks about myself and the roadblocks I put in my own path.
When I was a little girl (yes, I was little), I used to LOVE to sing. Did it all the time. My Opa would give me a penny every time I saw him if I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” I sang it a LOT! But eventually, the music in church that I couldn’t follow the melody if they gave me a 20 foot roadmap, and someone saying “we don’t sing” every Sunday, led me to believe I could NOT sing.
When I finally got a car, I sang in it ALL the time! I just belted along with the songs hoping I did not sound like a total tool. Worrying about what other people think is another issue of mine…even when there was no one in the car with me. One day, I was chillaxing in my parents basement with Teenie, singing along to Queen videos (she got to hear me sing, I gave her rides and I ALWAYS sang in my car. Still do), when she turned to me and told me “You can sing!” When I didn’t believe her she told me that I hit a really hard note. That was also a bass note. Hi, female, but still, kinda cool that my range went that low.
Talk about the confidence boost! I still did not believe I could really sing, but her encouragement got me to find a voice teacher one summer when I was between colleges and interning at a theatre. While I did not like how I was singing with her, looking back I see that what she was doing was trying to get me to place my voice properly. Best response was when I was singing at a Christmas service (in the pews), and my mom turned to me and stated, “you have a really nice voice.”
And then, I did nothing with it. Not a thing. Just kept singing along in my car. No voice lessons, no nothing. Until about a year after I moved to Chicago. I moved here wanting to act and do the things that I let fear stop me from doing. And I got a job hosting karaoke on the weekends at a local theme park. So I signed up for group voice lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music. Hated my teacher, but between her and the encouragement from the folks in the park, I signed up for private lessons. And I also started auditioning for musicals.
I was with my first teacher for almost 2 years, before she left for new adventures, and during that time I started to be cast fairly regularly in ensembles of various community theatres. It is amazing how much you can learn, when you are open to it and go in with an open mine. After that, I moved to an instructor who has really worked with me on standing correctly, speaking correctly (did you know you can talk wrong?), and placing my voice in the proper spot when singing. Currently, we are taking a small break while she rehearses for a show.
So, while I do not think my voice has grown into what it can be, it has grown. I still sing karaoke, but at bars, and I am back on the audition circuit. To continue growing my voice is a challenge, but I have learned that I CAN sing. And it is one fear that I have broken free from.