Callbacks were scheduled the day after his audition, and Atticus couldn’t wait to return to the studio. I reminded him that he isn’t guarenteed a part in the musical. He experienced the sting of rejection a few months earlier when he didn’t land the job for a commercial callback he was hoping would pan out, so I didn’t want him to get his hopes up too high.
As soon as we stepped into the lobby of the theatre, Atticus spotted a woman sitting by herself. He ran up to her and exclaimed, “I got a callback!” She chuckled and said, “Congratulations! So did I!” He was bursting with excitement and ready to bounce off the walls. I pulled him aside and said, “Everyone here tonight got a callback. You don’t have to announce your callback – they already know.” He said, “OK. I didn’t know that.”
While we waited, I tried to prepare him for what to expect. “They’ll probably have you read from the script. They might ask you to sing again.” I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was just trying to prepare him for anything – and I was silently praying they wouldn’t make him dance again.
At 7:00 p.m., the actors and parents gathered into the studio. The parents sat in the top row of the theatre while the actors sat in the lower rows. The director called them forward and said they would be working on choreography first. I hung my head in despair.
The choreographer separated the actors into a front and back row. She made them continuously switch lines as she reviewed the exact steps they performed the previous night. Atticus once again struggled as they stepped, punched, turned, shuffled… a step behind here… a second behind there… I silently thought, Maybe the crowd on the dance floor will hide his flaws. Then she separated them into groups of six to get a closer look at each person.
Atticus practiced on the sideline as he waited for each group to take their turn – trying with all his heart to follow their movements. He wanted a part in this play so badly, and he knew dancing is his weakness. Still, he had trouble punching with his left arm – instead punching with his right.
When it was his turn, he took center stage with five other boys. The choreographer rotated them so every person had a chance to perform in the front row. Atticus was slow to turn at times, but most turns, and steps to the left and right, were on time. He still couldn’t grasp the intricate steps and arm movements but I saw improvement.
Two moms, sitting in the row in front of me, watched the kids dance. One of them pointed toward the dance floor then turned and whispered into the other’s ear. They both laughed. I typically don’t pay attention to people around us, but this struck a nerve. Are they laughing at Atticus? I thought. Their laughter occupied my mind. If they only knew his struggles. If they only knew how far he’s come. Would they even care? I don’t know why they laughed, or what was said, but I couldn’t help thinking they were laughing at my kid. I wasn’t laughing. I knew all Atticus needed was a chance. If he can get a role, he will learn the steps during rehearsal. Repetition is his friend! All he needs is a chance!
The never-ending dance segment finally concluded and the actors were divided into small groups to perform a song from the musical. The director walked around each group listening to individual singers. How nerve-racking it must be to have someone stop and place their ear inches from your mouth while you’re singing! I hoped Atticus was giving his best vocal performance ever!
Once the singing was complete, they read scenes from the script.
The director finally told everyone to go back to their seats. The callback had ended, and he thanked everyone for coming. He once again told them that not everyone will get a part in the musical, but to continue to audition if this is what they really want to do. He said, “You will hear from us by 6:00 p.m. Thursday if you get a part.” Then he said goodnight.
I tried not to think about it the next two days, but Atticus did something he doesn’t usually do – he kept asking me if I had heard anything. I hadn’t. I saw the disappointment on his face every time I told him no.
Around 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening, my phone rang. It was someone from the theatre offering Atticus the role of Teddy – if he wants to accept it. “Yes! Atticus will be thrilled!” I told him. I guess the choreographer watched his dancing and thought, “We can work with that.” And they can! I know Atticus will go to every rehearsal and give them every ounce of energy he has. He will work just as hard, if not harder, than any kid there, and he will learn the choreography. Repetition is his friend!
The news thrilled Atticus. He was ready to go forward with the biggest commitment of his young life – five rehearsals per week – and seven to eight hours on Sunday. He couldn’t wait to get started.