Kaia auditions

April 23, 2010

One of the things keeping me busy in the last couple weeks were the auditions we held for Kaia. Sweet Lorraine is going to be leaving us — I think this is our third sistah we’ve lost because her inability to find a good-paying job in the Bloomington area — so frustrating!

Anyhoo, we held auditions over at the BPP. Jane was my “helper” this time but we only had a handful of people show up so she was able to devote her time to listening.

I’ve developed a standard regime for auditions—the person sings their solo so we get a sense of their voice, style, and emotional range, as well as stage presence. I then teach them a simple round and we run that for about five minutes so they have an opportunity to really sink into a groove. Then we sing a little ditty about a prostitute. It’s true. I have BryBry to thank for it:

See the lady in red
She makes her livin’ in the bed (2x)
{Call-and-response scat}

Then you swap out different colors and make the lines rhyme—so like if she’s wearing green, “she likes it kinda mean.” Or what have you. Regardless, my POINT is that it’s a call-and-response kind of song with a little bit of funk. So we get to evaluate the funk quotient, ability to respond, and ability to clap and sing at the same time.

We sometimes also do the boring stuff like scales to see what kind of range the person has. This time around we needed someone with a solid low D. A low B would be even better, but we take what we can get!

We had a couple candidates from the first cut audition, but since range was so critical, we had Auditions 1.5 live from my living room. More scales (whee!), more of their solo singing but with the song in different keys, more playing around to get a better sense of the voice as well as personality. All of this (except personality, of course) is recorded on my faboo, much-worn Olympus DM-10 digital recorder so I can share the recordings with Jane.

Once past 1.5, the remaining lassies come to Auditions 2.0, which is an audition with all of Kaia. It’s an opportunity to sing together but even more so an opportunity to get a sense of group fit. I have this hyper-structured regimen I put everyone through so each person has the opportunity to stand next to the auditionees at one point or another. Sometimes I use an Excel spreadsheet to set it up. It’s nutty.

At the end of all that, we ask the singers if they’re still interested in joining. Then they leave and the Sistah-hood gets down to a nitty-gritty discussion of the candidates. What always happens is we end up talking about our vision of the group and (eventually) how these new people may or may not fit that vision. It’s a necessary conversation and boy, does it take a chunk of time.

With this go-round we were lucky to find Leslie Scott, our newest Kaiasistah. Her vocal timbre is startling similar to Tristra’s, so watch out for a renewed power in the middle register of our pieces.

She has a very steep learning curve ahead of her—we just threw 3 songs at her on Sunday and will have more this coming Sunday. We’ll review the stuff we’ve given her but we’re going to follow a very aggressive schedule of new material to try to get her/us up to speed for our June gig in Third Street Park. We need 90 minutes of material—which is a lot of music, considering most of our songs are about 2.5 minutes!

This all sounds very left-brain to me, and maybe it is. It’s not thrilling reading but I wanted to post something and this is top-of-mind. I can’t believe we’re going to lose Lorraine—she is irreplaceable. But I look forward to hearing what Leslie brings to the group and how we’ll change based on her talents and skills. A new Kaia, waiting to be born.

First audition in 23 years

April 26, 2009

Today I auditioned for Cardinal Stage Company. It’s a general audition for the season rather than for a particular show. I’ve been rehearsing non-stop for 6 weeks in preparation. 

I did the last 25 bars or so of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar for my song. For my monologue, I used a short piece entitled Tatiana that was written back in about 2004 by a playwright at the BPP—a playwright who neglected to put her name on the manuscript.

I worked with the lovely and talented Mr Richard Perez to go in with the best possible delivery I could within the time constraints I had. Rich is a great director—he hints at broader ideas or asks questions that lead you to a deeper understanding of the character. Many directors just focus on blocking and line delivery.

We had a breakthrough on Wednesday when I made a new connection with my character’s motivation and ended up sobbing for an hour afterwards. 🙂 I just worked on the song and the monologue lightly after that, knowing I wanted to keep that emotional connection raw.

So of course I went in there and couldn’t establish a connection at all. If I could have paused for about seven or 89 minutes mid-monologue, it would’ve been fine! But alas, alack, and Alaska, the show must go on.

Beforehand, I kept sliding back and forth between terrible nerves and a kind of steely calm. By the time I got in I was trembling all over. Fortunately both my audition pieces are intense, so the trembling worked in my favor!

The audition panel consisted of Mike Price (in whose talent I stand in awe), Randy White (in whose artistic abilities I stand in awe) and two other Cardinal Stage official-types that I’ve seen before but could not place. There was about 5 feet between me and them. I’d been expecting just Randy and maybe one other volunteer hanging out in the audience, with me 25 feet away on stage (this was at the MCPL auditorium). Let’s amp up that tension, shall we?? 🙂 

I did fine on the vocal side of Gethsemane but didn’t communicate the message as deeply as I wanted to. The monologue was the real heartbreaker, though, since I’d been able to play through the sobbing with Rich but had nary a tear in the audition. So while my mouth and body keep going, my brain is spinning at a zillion miles an hour, saying, “Remember, Rich said to just try to re-connect with that trigger” and “Should I fake the crying?” and so forth. Not conducive to calm delivery, but this sort of thing happens all the time in live performance. I thank all the people who taught me “the show must go on” in all its forms!

Talking with BryBry today, I realized it’s been about 23 years since my first “real” audition. Previous to that I auditioned all the time for school and community theatre, but my last high-pressure audition was at the IU music school. I had made the cut to get in, but this audition was with Robert Porco, head of the choral department.

I often think of that audition because he took the time to work with me. My audition piece was Care Selve, a gorgeous Italian aria. He had me go back and sing it again, this time singing the second half “as if you are singing to your beloved.” I knew immediately what he meant—my delivery had been technically flawless but emotionally void. I fell into the song and he nodded yes, yes. 

When we finished, he leaned hard on me to join The Singing Hoosiers (IU’s premiere choral group) but I had a class conflict that couldn’t be avoided. He kept at me again and again. I suppose it’s a sign of my idiocy that I couldn’t find a way to get where he thought I should go. The first of many “bad career moves” in the music school.

As I walked home today, my mind was racing with a deconstruction of every single note, word, and gesture from the audition. I just kept telling myself, “I did the best I could.” That was true. I wish I could’ve done better. But, as I told myself, the only way to get better is to do a lot more auditions! I had no idea until tonight that it had been as long as it had. No wonder I was a wreck!

All I want is to be good enough to make it into the chorus or to get a bit part. I know if I’m given a chance, I’ll get better from there. Each audition was one at a time so I have no idea how others did or how I stacked up. Since it was a general audition, I won’t even hear anything back from them regarding callbacks or rejections for some time. How’s that for I-Hate-Ambiguity Lass?? 🙂

I thank Brighid and Grandpa for sustaining me, and especially Rich for opening up whole new creative vistas! I pray for more opportunities—successful ones!

Five Days In Berlin

November 23, 2008

Circa 1989. Co-wrote, -produced, -directed, and acted in Bryan‘s senior thesis work for Indiana University.

Isn’t that a great title? Bry’s idea. The piece was actually a collection of shorts that had a theme holding them together. It included everything from a documentary on the environment to a “what’s wrong with kids these days” scene that we had our moms do. (When my ma momentarily forgot her line, she ad libbed the now immortal line, “That darn government!”)

I love/d working with Bry because we bring such different things to the table. He tends to think in careful, thorough steps whereas I go leaping and bounding ahead in pursuit of Big Ideas. We complement each other creatively and also have lots in common, such as a healthy dose of sarcasm and a healthy respect for dessert. The work we did together in the late ’80s is just about the only thing I remember from those awful years.

A bunch of stuff with Bryan

November 23, 2008

1986 – 1990s. The joys of living with an aspiring filmmaker (now an Emmy-nominated documentary editor in the L.A. area). We wrote and performed a number of video productions.

I recall an amusing commercial done for a class, a scene I wrote and performed as a send-up of the pretentious artists we knew, a scene he wrote that I performed in that was based loosely on our friends’ lives, and an incredibly pretentious scene I wrote, starred in, and co-directed based on me me ME.

With equipment from CATS, we produced Bryan’s own little bit of college angst, I Am Seventeen, where I was ensconced in a bedroom webbed ceiling-to-floor and wall-to-wall with cassette tape. At the end I wound myself up in it. It was all Very Deep.

Bryan and our friend J.T. they filmed me doing a totally improvised steam-of-consciousness piece as “Cherry Blossom,” a hippie cooking show host. There were a number of other set pieces, both improvised and written, that I performed in during those years. Shameless.