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What Goes Up Must Come to Something

Lamkin It's every actor's worst fear: Your mouth goes dry, your hands get clammy, and -- worst of all -- your mind goes blank. The dreaded "actor's nightmare." If it happens in a show, there are fellow actors to save the day. But what if it happens at an audition?

It was time again for the Southeastern Theatre Conference's preliminary auditions, at Hinds Community College in Jackson, Miss. In addition to a monologue, I decided to do a song: "As Time Goes By." The day before the audition, I found out that a girl from my acting class with the time slot before mine was doing the same song. Songs are often repeated at regional auditions, but back to back? I went through my sheet music for alternatives. "On the Street Where You Live," from My Fair Lady? Tired -- and I did it last year. "Food Glorious Food," from Oliver!? No, I'm petite and they'd only cast me as a kid. I had to use something I knew, had the sheet music for, and that was in my key.

Then I got what I thought was a brilliant idea: Since my classmate was starting with the intro, I'd start with the bridge. I ran through it with the pianist, and it sounded pretty good: "Moonlight and love songs, never out of date/Hearts full of passion, jealousy, and hate/Woman needs man, and man must have his mate/That no one can deny."

In theory it was a good plan. The trouble was, I had been working only on the prologue and first verse. That didn't mean I knew the rest, no matter how many times I had seen Casablanca.

My moment to shine came. The monologue went great (a selection from Strindberg's Ghost Sonata), the pianist vamped, and I started to sing. The first line came out okay, and then, well, I "went up" -- the words went right out of my head, off to never-never land. I thought, "If I just keep singing, the words will come back!" They didn't. What came out was pure nonsense that went something like: "Moonlight and love songs, never out of date/People la-la-la…that we hate/Woman and man, going on a date/That's the la-la-la…."

It was difficult to show my face back in my audition class -- many of my classmates had been to the audition or heard about it -- but I did. People were nice, said it was cute, but I just wanted to put a bag over my head. I didn't know what to say. The experience got me thinking about what happens when we go up. At the time, Shirley MacLaine was in the news with her latest paranormal memoir. To be funny, I started telling people I had had an out-of-body experience. I played with this idea and wrote a comic monologue in which a Beverly Hills woman goes up in the middle of her audition and then proceeds to tell the judges where she went: "I was summoned to a high mountain in Peru by my Guru Baba Zwingli-Bahingli ('Barb' to her friends), only to find that all she wanted was my recipe for Transcendental Tofu Pot Pie," etc.

I tested the new monologue out in class and actually got some laughs. After grad school, I used it to get a museum theatre job at the Philadelphia Zoo that lasted three and a half years. I wrote and developed several plays for the zoo's Treehouse Troupe, in addition to three commissioned plays for other area museums, an award-winning one-act, and several workshop productions.

That nightmare audition not only led to an acting job but it got me started writing plays. More important, it taught me that life experiences can be an endless source of creative fodder. Thankfully, the worst ones can be the most inspiring.

--Patricia Lamkin

Patricia Lamkin is a freelance writer in Hollywood. She is a regular contributor to the Design Magazine of The Beverly Hills Courier and writes film reviews for the website The213.net. She is currently finishing a full-length play, to be produced later this year. For an archive of Lamkin's published articles, visit her blog at www.renaissance-red.blogspot.com. She is not currently pursuing acting.

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Comments

I really enjoyed reading this article and would love to read the monologue that she wrote!

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