“I want to audition for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical!” He announced.
It was a late summer evening, and a mailing announcing a local theatre company’s line-up for the 2018-2019 season just arrived. I heard him talking, but I paid his words little attention.
The hot summer months slowly faded to cool fall nights, and his verbal reminders tickled my ears often – instructing me to take his request seriously. I was assigned the task of checking the theatre’s website every week for updates. In mid-October, I finally saw the posting he had been waiting for – auditions for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical will be held in early November.
Atticus isn’t a stranger to the stage. He’s performed in several Christmas programs at church and two musicals for his school. But this isn’t church or school. This is a theatre company, where many children, and adults, will be auditioning for a few available roles. I warned him several times that he may not get a part in the musical.
The website said he should be prepared to sing and dance. He should also bring sheet music, a headshot, and a resume. Neither one of us knew how to prepare for an audition. Thankfully, his choir teacher was willing to help Atticus pick a song, acquire sheet music, and rehearse the number. They settled on Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.
I also enrolled Atticus in an audition workshop. The class was a brilliant move because I know the more prepared he is for the unknown, the more capable he is of dealing with it – it turned out to be helpful for both of us. I learned how to create a resume for him, and he practiced talking to the accompanist, walking to center stage, and waiting for the director to speak to him before introducing himself. He said it was the most boring three hours of his life.
Audition night finally arrived. I asked Atticus if he was nervous. He answered, “Yes.”
We approached the door of the theatre and he timidly walked inside. The lobby was packed full of adult actors, child actors, and parents – everyone scrambling to complete the information request form and to see the rehearsal schedule. Atticus quickly became obsessed with the show schedule and wanted to read the dates and times aloud. I had to rein him in and remind him to remain calm and stay focused.
At 7 p.m., everyone was called into the studio. Parents were allowed to stay, so I took a seat in the very back, top row, and Atticus sat beside strangers in the front row.
The director introduced himself to the crowd, thanked everyone for coming, and said he had over forty people audition the previous night. He then instructed the actors to take their sheet music to the accompanist, walk to the middle of the stage, introduce themselves, state the song they are singing, then sing. When the instructions were complete, he asked for volunteers. Atticus raised his hand almost immediately, but he was a little slow on the draw. He was the eighth person selected to audition.
Atticus took his music to the accompanist then walked to center stage. He stood silently while everyone waited for him to introduce himself. I tried to will him to speak, but he didn’t. He didn’t speak because the audition workshop taught him to stand center stage until the director spoke to him – and that’s how he rehearsed for this moment again and again – he completely forgot the director told them to go to center stage and introduce themselves immediately. The silence was deafening to me. Eventually, the director spoke, “What’s your name?”
Atticus introduced himself, his song, and began to sing. I saw the director tapping his foot and bobbing his head. He seemed to be enjoying Atticus’ performance. And I have to say, I thought he did a good job singing. The director eventually cut him off, and he returned to his seat to watch the remaining actors.
When everyone was finished singing, they lined up all the actors on stage to look at their dancing abilities. “Oh, no!” I thought. “This might be disastrous.” Atticus suffers from a motor planning disorder which prevents him from learning new movements as easily as most people, so I knew dancing would be a problem. They rehearsed the steps several times, and he was giving it all he had – kicking, punching, turning, stepping. The short thirty-second choreographed piece had several intricate movements that he struggled to master in such a short amount of time. But he turned at the right time and stepped left/right at the right time, so there was a bright spot – however dim it may have been.
Once the audition was over, the director talked to everyone, addressing the actors. He said that some people will not be called back. If you can’t sing and can’t dance, you won’t be called back. It’s a musical – you have to be able to sing and dance. But if you’re passionate about performing you shouldn’t let it deter you. Keep auditioning and don’t give up. He closed by saying, “If you don’t hear from us by 10 p.m. tonight, you will not be called back.”
We left the theatre in silence. When we got to the car, I asked Atticus what he thought about the audition. He said he thought it went well, but when they wanted him to dance, he became discouraged – then he changed the subject to NASCAR.
I silently talked with God. I prayed that Atticus would be given another chance to prove he’s capable of performing in the show. He said earlier in the evening that he’s willing to accept any part – no matter how small. He said he will just be grateful for the experience.
Forty-five minutes after we left the theatre, my phone rang. They wanted to see Atticus at the call back. Atticus couldn’t believe it. “They want me to go to the call back?” He asked. “OK. I have a call back.”
Up next: The Call Back