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Serendipity, signs, and signatures

So I haven’t been in a production for over a year. And every time friends ask me when I will be singing again it has started to feel awkward. I cannot say deadlines anymore because things have let up at work. There are the dogs but I don’t want them to be the reasons. I have felt it was time to join a production again but all the auditions I have seen posted or heard of weren’t for me. They were for rock musicals. Pop musicals. Plays. Or they wanted dancers. Or singers who could dance. I didn’t want to do that. I’ve given up dancing years ago. Despite the recent dance class I took, I don’t think I want to be in a production that asked for me to dance.

So I have been trying to avoid going to Manila for a while because of the weather. Aside from the advisory issued by Phivolcs that Manila is due for a big earthquake, being caught in traffic in bad weather is really something I would not want to experience again. I woke up around 5 in the afternoon to find a message telling me I had to be ready by 6 in the morning the next day. Apparently, the shoot I thought I was not gonna be part of anymore still included me.

So I was away from Facebook for a week.

Then my boss’s secretary asked me to message her through FB because she couldn’t understand what I was telling her in our email exchanges. I told her to call me instead but she didn’t. So to get it over with lest I be accused of trying to delay it, I reactivated my FB account again. After finishing a design, I thought I might as well reward myself by checking out what I have been missing.

One of the first things that I saw as soon as I logged on was a call for auditions. It was for a musical. I read the announcement at 8pm and it was for the next day. And the requirements were: 1. Recent headshot. (Don’t have that but I can squeeze in one because I was going to shoot pictures for my boss the next day.) 2. Resume (Checked if my resume needed updating and saw that it didn’t. I haven’t performed for over a year!) 3. For the auditionees to sing a song by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, or Hamlisch. Everyone of which I had a song from. Lights lit up for me when I saw that one. They were looking for a specific sound and I knew I had that. It was a style of singing I can do. No mention of dancing. It was a done deal. I had to go to this one.

From what I could tell from the poster, it was going to be a musical about the Filipino hero Apolinario Mabini, also known as the great paralytic. Definitely a good sign. Paraplegics don’t dance. Maybe inside they do. But I don’t suppose they’ll be taking that route or they would have mentioned dancing and movement in the audition calls. The book is written by one of my favourite playwrights.

It was decided then. My boss’s event needed me to be there by 8am the next day. I expect it should be done early enough because the auditions will be from 6pm to 8pm. Plenty of time. I can squeeze in a quick pictorial and have my picture printed with my resume. I just have to catch a nap some time in the day because I wasn’t going to be able to sleep anymore. while feeding the dogs, the whippets ran after a cat and were gone for more than a few hours in the forest. I went and looked for them for 2 hours in the rain. When they finally came home, it was almost time to leave. I just had to trust that I could find a point in the day when I can rest and recover.

That was very optimistic of me. After so many delays and a monumental headache growing by the minute, I noticed it was 6pm already. Very little time left at all. I thought of not going anymore. But I knew that musicals that I am qualified to join are few and far in between. In my younger years, I would have convinced myself it was better to just let it go than give an awful audition. That I should be in perfect form when I audition. Now I know better. Now I know that one is almost never in perfect condition to sing. That that is where technique comes in. That you just have to trust that you know your instrument well enough to get you through an audition or a performance. It’s funny because I have been relearning my old audition pieces recently knowing that most auditions for productions are already over by this time of the year. There was just something serendipitous about this whole affair. I would have been ashamed of myself if I didn’t push through with it.  I would feel like a coward. And a cop out.  I hastily excused myself from the end part of the shoot. The better parts were done already by then and they said it was ok.

I looked for a printing shop and had my resume printed. I just had to trust that they’ll let me audition without a picture.

I tried to hail cabs for over half an hour. No luck. They were either taken or will not take me to Diliman where the auditions were going to be. I walked some ways to get on a jeep to get to a place where there might be more cabs. When I got off someplace, there were still no cabs passing by. I got on another jeep and got off at a place where I thought I’ll have better chances of catching a cab. Finally, a cab agreed to take me. He asked me where I wanted to pass and I told him wherever he thinks is the fastest way because I needed to get there before 8pm. He took a route I wouldn’t have wanted to take but I held my tongue because I didn’t want to get into a fight like I always do with cabdrivers. In the meantime, I was getting frustrated as I saw the clock approaching 8pm and we were still some ways from Diliman. All the while I counted what money I had. In my hurry to leave, I wasn’t able to get my salary so what little money I had I had to scrounge. I spent some for lunch and forgot to have it reimbursed. I had around 160 pesos left. By the time we got to the guardhouse at Diliman, The meter was at 170 already. I told the driver that he should just let me off because my money isn’t enough to get me to where I had to be. He kindly offered to drop me off at no extra charge because it was raining. Talk about the kindness of strangers. I thanked him profusely and got off the cab. I talked to my boss’s driver earlier and they were gonna pick me up on the way home.

I ran up the steps leading to the audition room and saw that the sign-up table outside was still there. I asked if it was over and they said it wasn’t. I hastily signed up and handed them my resume. I asked them who was going to be the stage manager for this production and they said it was going to be the stage manager from the last production I was in. I was happy that I might work with her again. She’s a darling and really competent at her job. A few seconds after they forwarded my resume inside the audition room, the door opened again to reveal Loraine and we squealed with delight to see each other again. It has been some time since we last saw each other. I saw a production she was managing last year. A play by the same playwright for this one. A play I loved so much I even wrote a review about it. I learned that nobody from the old production auditioned for this one. I reminded her they were doing the same opera in a more high paying production at a casino complex. I told her I needed to go to the bathroom.

I had to decide on which of my songs to sing.  Were I in better shape, I would have chosen the newer ones which I wanted to try out on an audience. But under the present circumstances, I knew I had to go to the song I’m most comfortable in. The one I can sing even on a bad day.  It sits squarely in my range and lets me do a good high note or 2 without straining too much because of the naturalness of the progressions.  There are songs that have about the same high notes but the getting there is difficult.  This one allowed for playfulness, forcefulness, and finally a tenderness that comes with being unsure about how one is perceived by the other person.  If I Loved You from Carousel is from the scene when Billy and Carrie have just met. Billy tells Carrie that he doesn’t really love her. After all, they just met.  But somehow he could see, just exactly how they’d be if he loved her.  Then he proceeds to tell her how it’s going to be if he loved her.  And how he’ll regret if she goes away without ever knowing that he loved her. IF he loved her. But he doesn’t. Because they just met. It’s a really beautiful song. Perfectly written with the words and the music coming together so well.  One can hardly go wrong with it.  Whatever bad performance of it can only be faulted on the singer. I have come to consider this my signature song.  The one I can sing at the drop of a hat and know that I can sing it well.

I ran off, did my business, and went through the more difficult parts of the song. I found that my voice was unwieldy. It was uneven. I was all a-jitter. I had to take several deep breaths to calm myself. It didn’t help much. When I thought I calmed down some, I went back to the sign up table to be told it was my turn already.

I went in, introduced myself, told them what song I was going to sing, and noticed that my nose was running. I turned around to wipe it. Took deep breaths and turned back to face the panel. I focused on a point above their heads and started sing only to find that the room was so dry. It had acoustic panels that stripped your voice of any warmth. No echo. Causing me to be disorientated because I’m used to hearing myself a certain way. I went on bravely and just trusted that they will hear something that they think they can use. When I got to the highlights I had sufficiently recovered from the dryness of the sound and I held my note long and well and swelled it. Only to pull back tenderly on the last line. We thanked each other and I left the room. I gathered my things and said goodbye to Loraine.

I knew I was pitchy in some parts. My tempo was rather slow. But I knew I was able to build up to something. I was up for more than 24 hours. It was a good job for somebody who had no sleep at all. That much I knew.

The driver picked me up around 11. I couldn’t leave because I had no money. I couldn’t even eat.

The next day I woke up to a text message. I passed the auditions.

Serendipity. It’s like a wave you ride. It demands a lot of trust. And sometimes you come through alive and well at the other end.

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