Have you heard of this phenomenon, this college unified auditions thing? No, well where in the hell have you been, folks? It's the latest craze! Dozens of colleges and universities from all over the United States gather in three cities; Los Angeles, New York and Chicago to audition thousands upon thousands upon thousands of theater major hopefuls.
I cannot hear out of my right ear.
My daughter was one of these hopefuls and I can honestly tell you that I was not one of these hopefuls. I knew what was in store. I remember cattle calls. I remember auditioning for a Dick Clark/NBC movie of the week called, "Reaching For The Stars" along with 8000 other women in Los Angeles, hoping to be one of the new Monkees. What I forgot is how loud theater geeks (and I say that with the greatest affection - having been one) can be.
The first day was last week with one college audition. We arrived in the late afternoon - after a horrific hour and a half trek in the rain. And waited with 40 other hopefuls and their mothers. And their mothers. And their mothahs at a hotel near LAX, that could best be described as a time warp of 1976 decor and recirculated air. To start, the dean of theater for this particular school was 45 minutes late, and they had insisted that we all arrive 45 minutes early - so already I am out 3 hours of my life. And there is no bar open in this hotel for me to get a little something to tide me over the moms who are listing their daughters' and sons' resumes at rapid fire rates. In my own little mind I could hear the theme from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" playing.
When they asked me if I had a son or daughter, I replied neither, and added, "as a matter of fact, I'm supposed to stay away from all events involving minors...but I won't tell if you won't tell." No one got it. I felt alone. I was happy.
Then we go in the room and hear what we get for our $47,000 from a person who is both rude and charming, disinterested and charismatic - all at the same time. Then he shoos us parents out of the room. And I again head downstairs to see if they've opened the lounge. Who knows, maybe George Clooney is in there, waiting to catch a plane. Right? No such luck. And so I head back upstairs, where I am greeted by Bambi (funny, she looks exactly like me, only bendable and has the longest eye lashes on the planet) who hugs me and tells me she is so excited. I go sit near the other stage parents pretending to like them. I figure we'll be out of there in no time and I will never see these people again.
Wrong. And then wrong again.
Five and a half hours later. You heard me. Five and a half hours later, we are done. And I take Bambi down to the car hopping and skipping (like she found the open bar), prattling and giggling about how cool the guy was and how well it went.
While she was auditioning I listen to the audition horror stories from the other schools earlier in the day that we somehow missed out on, and I'm glad Bambi didn't hear I somehow blew it so I didn't have to get the look. You know the look? I am about the cutest, coolest mom in the world with the best damn job and round about three years ago I began to not know anything about anything. And I get the look. And it is only the beauty of pharmaceuticals that keep me from acting on my natural impulses when I get those looks.
"They cut my daughter in mid-song. They asked my son if he had anything else. They told my daughter to back up 3 feet and start over."
Are you joking me? If you think this is bad, wait until you get them in the real show business where you are not paying them to take your kid, but they are supposed to pay your kid for work in the arts, I wanted to shout. Well, I wanted to shout a little softer than I did.
And while the parents are jabbering on about where their kid spent the summer (mine went to Yale, but when asked I said "juvey") I am watching these kids deliver monologues to the wall, fists raised, chests heaving. I am watching the splits happen simultaneously in three different corners of the room. I am listening to really bad show tunes belted out as if they are alone in their showers...like me. I decide I will escape to the restroom before Mom Cindy can make her way to me to tell me all about her daughter's accomplishments, you know, cause I don't have my own kid.
As I walk into the restroom, I see a young girl crying on one of the tufts, handily leftover from the 70s. She looks up at me and I smile and ask if it was rough. She laughs and says, "they timed me." I asked how old she was. 17. Dude, you are from a major university. You have set a time limit. You have rules of engagement. You are a freaking grown-up. If you cannot get control over an audition or tell a child no thank you - without resorting to passive aggressive childish maneuvers - then go into teaching damn it. Oh. Wait.
Fuming I leave the restroom. Bambi hops over to me and my fury dissipates like a Bronx promise, and she says, "I'm number 24". Choking slightly I ask what number they're on. Five. Kill me.
We finally get out of there and drive home in the pouring rain. Next morning is day two and we are up at six am and off to LAX. Another hotel. This time the 80s were well represented. This time there are thousands and thousands of kids and parents sporting large anoraks, sensible shoes and SuperCuts@.
This day we are auditioning for two schools of about 35 presented and there are hundreds of kids at each audition. Each session is four hours long. Uh - huh. For each school they ask us parents to come in for an information session, sell us on their school, tell us what their curricula is, and then shoo us out and so they can destroy our kids' self-esteem individually. Kidding. Each college and university was doing the best they could to preserve what we parents work so hard to tear down each time a report card comes. Each school was well represented by caring and deliberate people. It's just, what do you tell little Johnny or little Mary who have traveled from Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Texas - when each school is offering only 4 spots? Or 8 spots? Or 28 total - including boys who sing and dance?
What I was really struck by that day was Bambi's and all the other kids' tenacity and belief in themselves. It was unshakeable. They knew their stuff. They were warm and gracious to one another and they genuinely cared if someone felt slighted, or hurt or their talent disrespected. I remember a group of actresses like that from my "category" days. This was when every thirty-something-petite-brunette-comedic actress went in on the same auditions. I admired that in all these kids.
Day three. Oops. Same parents and same kids from day one. And I am trying to remember what I said to whom and who I will have to make nice with...when they suddenly make it easy for me, by spying me, smiling tautly and leaving me a wide berth. Hee hee heeeeeee!!! Two more school this day. Lots more show tunes. Lots more bad audition dresses. Lots more parents spraying Entertainer's Secret into little Timmy's mouth. and yet, the bar is still not open. OK, I realize it's nine a.m. - but it is probably five p.m. SOMEWHERE in the world!!!! I'm getting a headache when I decided I need to take an aspirin. I refuse to pay four dollars in the gift shop for an Evian and shake out my last two Tylenol and head into the bathroom to cup my hand under the faucet.
When I open the door my hair blows back, pinning my ears and popping the cochlea in the right one. The girls are changing into dance attire, re-applying bad make-up and doing a sing-off. These daughters of who I will refer to as simply the Bad Intimidating Tiresome Caustic Hag moms (or BITCH moms for short) are trying to one-up each other in warming up for Carnegie Mellon tryouts. Carnegie Mellon, who is taking a total of four kids from all of the United State of America and who are seeing a total eleven of that rare delicacy known as boys who dance, act and are still singing show tunes at 17. Girls! You're all pretty and none of you have a shot in hell, I hate to tell ya'. But they can't hear me because, and this is the honest to God truth, one is singing Tonight from West Side Story while another is singing something from Rent and another is doing vocal exercises - doing the scale starting high up where only dogs can hear and sliding entire span of an entire keyboard on the word HAY.
SHUT UP!!!! YOU ARE FREAKS!!!! THERE ARE NORMAL PEOPLE TRYING TO VISIT THIS HOTEL!!!!
I couldn't hear a thing, but I could hear well enough to tell that that did not come out of me. It was Bambi who was standing in the center of the bathroom covering her ears with both hands and shouting at the top of her lungs. They stopped. For a second and then...
We ran for our lives.
Day four was more of the same and then Day five more of the same and finally today - day six. After each school I got the lowdown. I needed to hear exactly how it went. Exactly. So OK you walked into the room annndd??? Poor thing. She gave me the blow by blow, forced to relive it all so that I could feel better about hiding that nasty mom's audition schedule under her jacket and enjoying her frantic search all the while her little Veruca Salt was screaming into her face, "you are so stupid! You are so stupid! I hate you! It's not like you even have a job! Find that damn schedule!"
Today, on the last day, we bolted out of the hotel and ran down the up escalators, gasping for breath as we raced to be the first to tag our car, apparently happy it is no longer a Toyota Prius.
All in all? It was an amazing experience. We had a lot of victories. We are hoping that we have a lot of academic choices. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, to have given my Bambi something that was not available to me - the chance. The chance to be able to stand and deliver. The chance to perhaps fail. The chance to succeed. The chance to dream. The shot at a quality education in a profession I love. It was worth it.
My hearing is returning. I survived the stage moms, and didn't even get a lousy t-shirt. Oh! And I finally found the open bar! It was at my house all along! Cheers! (clink clink wink wink).