Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#5.5 Metro Stage Company: Bat Boy

I was visiting my family in New Jersey when I got an email inviting me to audition for the role of Reverend Billy Hightower in Bat Boy: The Musical.

This is literally the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to me as an actor.

For one thing I have not performed in a singing role since I was Kenickie in Grease my senior year of high school.

For two things, even when my singing voice was at its peak, I was the bottom bass of the men's quartet, not a tenor like the role of Hightower requires.

And the director mentioned she had gotten my name from Company One, whom I'd just auditioned for. I have no idea what in the hell they could have told her that suggested I could sing tenor.

I thought I'd be able to forget about it when I looked at the rehearsal schedule they forwarded me and told them that I'd probably be too busy with personal projects. Instead, they told me that they could be flexible.

Ken Cheeseman told me that if someone wants you to ride a horse for a role, you tell them that you can do it and then you sign up for horseback riding lessons the next day. Actors can't refuse roles, especially not ones with stipends, unless they are artistically or morally repugnant.

I wanted to play the role, but I couldn't. It wasn't a matter of trying or learning - I am not physically capable of playing a tenor. I can't pretend to hit the high notes anymore than I can pretend to be black or a foot taller or a woman. Someone had to have made a mistake.

I asked Facebook what I should do. Predictably, they said the same thing my mom said: "Do I even have to encourage you?" "Do it!" "You just have to try."

I looked up the song I have to sing as soon as I got the email. I played the song for my little brother - the only person I talked to about this audition with any musical experience - and asked him what he thought. He just shook his head.

I didn't have the privacy or free time to practice the song until the day of the audition. I looked up singing warm ups on YouTube and did all of the routines I could remember from Mrs. Mac from high school and Robbie McCauley from Emerson, including doing lip rolls while I pretended to drive around the room in a little putt-putt car. I warmed up for about three hours. My voice felt free and clear.

And then I started singing/yelling the song. My voice cracked on the G-flat. It was like running into a wall; humiliating and almost as painful. I laid down on the floor.

Is this a joke? Maybe it’s all been a joke, ever since Company One asked me in to read for the 40 year old man. Maybe they all think it's funny to ask me to audition for roles that I could never be cast in. Why else would they do this to me?

I will never be a sailor because I get seasick, and I will never be a singer because my voice is too low for anything but the bottom bass part in In the Still of the Night.

But I'm not a singer. I'm an actor. I'm a great actor.

The audition was in a rehearsal hall at the Huntington Boston University Theatre, the same place I auditioned for Book of Days. The difference this time was that the door was locked. I was irrationally upset by this. I was sick of obstacles. I just wanted to get in and get out. I pressed both intercom buttons beside the door, then I remembered that the director gave me the phone number for the assistant director.

She let me in and gave me an information form to fill out. When she stepped back into the audition room, the accompanist began to play the piano, and I heard someone start to sing the reverend's song. Actually sing it, not pretending. There must be a special hell for non-singing actors where they can hear someone else singing their audition piece better than they ever will with complete clarity. Something in me surrendered as I wrote "Sure" next to the question asking me if I would be in the ensemble.

The singing man stepped out of the audition room and through the exit without stopping. I didn't even get a glimpse of him. I sat down and rolled the sheet music in my hands until they came for me.

The music director and the producer introduced themselves to me. The director, who was my contact through all of the emails inviting me to audition, was not present. They asked me for my headshot. I didn't bring one. They asked me to come. Somehow I didn't think I needed one.

The music director saw that I was holding A Joyful Noise and asked if I was planning on singing it. I didn't know I had a choice, especially since he was the one that sent it to me.

I sang. Or warbled. I straight up dropped the octave when it got too high for me. He stopped me halfway and thanked me.

Yes. They definitely confused me with someone else.

Still 5 headshots remain.


  1. This is what I feel like when I go to auditions for straight plays.

  2. Well, it could've been worse... Like, Jean Valjean worse. (Which can be taken as "you could've had to audition for a notoriously high and difficult tenor part" or "you could've been sentenced to 19 years of hard labor for stealing a baguette," both of which apply.)

    I'm proud of you for being brave enough to humiliate yourself. Hard work and guts, man.

  3. "There must be a special hell for non-singing actors where they can hear someone else singing their audition piece better than they ever will with complete clarity."

    This made me smile. I'm proud of you for trying, even if it was hard for you. You ARE a great actor, and some of the best of those fake their way through music (don't. watch. Grey's Anatomy. musical. episode... not that they're good actors).

    It could definitely have been worse, and you braved the challenge the best you could.