Sunday, August 8, 2010

Audition day

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 3:30 am to get ready, check out and drive to the Izod center to be there by 5. The TV types who run the show want good crowd shots of all the hopefuls waiting in the gradually lightening morning, practicing their songs to the delight of all, and generally being excited when a camera rolled by.  Me, I sat as long as I could, reading a novel until the crowd was let in around 8. If the photo to the left were bigger, you might see me sitting about eight feet higher up the grass, on the cement block base of a street light.

Once we were all seated in the giant stadium, some people came out onto the floor and explained how the audition process would happen, told us to not take it personally if we were rejected and above all, to have fun. They had us do cheesy but fun crowd chanting stuff. My favourite thing was when the guy on the floor told the crowd to 'throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don't care'. I almost couldn't believe my ears--that was a line from the universally-panned, so-bad-it's-good, what-were-they-thinking American Idol movie 'From Justin To Kelly'. I have seen about half an episode of American Idol, but I HAVE seen From Justin To Kelly so many times that yes, I can quote many lines. Go figure.

After a while of that, who should come out but Constantine Maroulis, a previous AI runner-up. Don't know from which season, but it was the same season as Bo Bice, and I remember this because I was reading a book with characters named Constantine and Bo at the time. He got the crowd to sing 'Living On A Prayer'. From what I could see, way up in my seat, he's a skinny white dude with long dark hair and skinny black pants. I liked him better than who came out next--Ryan Seacrest. Now, I have no problem with whoever he may be personally, but his show personality indicates a  biological human grown in a test tube by aliens who don't understand that human is more than the sum of its parts. Thus, I call him Test Tube Man. Cameras did some filming of him saying Ryan Seacresty stuff with some of the auditioners, then show crew set up tables and partitions as temporary booths for the judges to sit in.

He explained how the actual auditions would go: One section of people will be on the auditorium floor at a time, according to the seat number on his/her ticket, and starting with the inner/lower sections first. Each booth has a judge (the famed judges on the show are in the later rounds of auditions, not the open audition we're all at). Four people will take turns singing a few bars of his/her chosen song to that judge, then the judge will give quick feedback to the four, and indicate who leaves and who stays for the next round of judging, possibly asking the more promising singers to sing for longer. None of the auditioners will be miked to the thousands of ears in the auditorium.

I was seated in section 240, a purple section in the upper right-hand corner, so I and most of my fellow upper-sectioners would be waiting for hours. Once we realized this, there was a mass exodus to the lobby. After a moment's hesitation, I followed. In the lobby, I saw people jamming quietly with guitars, talking and practicing their songs in wall cubbies with a friend. Now, I usually keep my singing to myself or those who specifically ask for it, but I wanted to break out of boundaries today, and though I had no friend to practice with, I found a cubby to practice my songs alone. After a couple of songs, a petite bright-eyed girl slipped in and asked if I wanted to practice together. She'd auditioned before and made suggestions, like skipping verses and cutting straight to the chorus, which is usually the strongest point of a song, and I helped her decide which of her potentials to sing.

I went back into the auditorium for a while, nearer the floor where I could hear the auditioners a little. I sat next to someone's mom who was taping her daughter Lexie's audition. She was so excited, shaking a little as Lexie approached the judge's table. She shook more and more as her daughter sang one, two, then three songs for one of the toughest judges present--and pretty much broke down when she saw the judge present Lexie with the golden yellow piece of paper that indicated going to the next round of auditions. I''m not given to touchy-feely with strangers, but she seemed to need it, so I hugged her.

After that, I went back to the lobby, attracted to the sound of a group from which emanated singing and guitar strains. I spent a couple hours there, singing with the growing crowd almost every song. sometimes we'd forget the words, but it was all right and fun. The main guitarist looked like the little brother of a friend, and the leading man, Francesco, was a real entertainer who should go far. I asked him if he was a plant, employed by the show to help the crowd relax, and he joked about being a stripper but denied his plant-ness. I hope he gets on the show--he was GOOD. We sang Don't Stop Believing, Billionaire, Breakaway, Yesterday, My Girl, Kryptonite, Come Together, Hallelujah, Twist and Shout, Home, I'm Yours, Shout (a little bit softer now), Hey Soul Sister, Hey There Delilah, Billie Jean, Play That Funky Music, Sexyback, Put A Ring On It, Lean On Me, One Week, Wake Me Up When September Ends (to which I bravely sang alone when everyone else forgot the words), Dock of the Bay, Brown Eyed Girl, Daughters, Killing Me Softly and many others. And I relaxed.

After a while, the group evolved, losing some members and gaining others, eventually breaking up to get lunch or something. By that time, there were many such groups to choose from, so I went to another group. In this one, a circle formed around a person in the middle singing his/her song. Instead of just watching and wishing I were that person, I made my way to the inner circle, trying to meet the leader's eyes so he'd pick me to go--and he did. I'd picked 'Colors of the Wind' and as I sang 'if you walk the footsteps of a stranger' I opened my eyes, looked into his--and nearly cried, in a good way. Then I realized people were singing with me, just as I'd dreamed.

Later on in another ring, after waiting my turn, I stepped into the ring, tapped my foot and launched into the fast, hilarious and utterly inappropriate-for-a-girl 'What's A Guy Gotta Do (To Get A Girl In This Town)?' Immediately, pleased recognition flared in the eyes of the woman across from me.

Soon after that, I headed back into the auditorium, having heard on good authority that my section would in fact NOT be third to last to audition and therefore would be on sometime soonish. Before I knew it, my section was standing up to get in line down on the auditorium floor. By this time I'd been up for at least 12 hours, many of them standing. My legs wobbled slightly as I picked my way down the stairs and waited in line on the auditorium floor, part nerves and part  suppressed exhaustion. Most of my nervousness had been burned away, so when it was my turn to sing, it was actually easier in a way to sing for just the one judge instead of fifty people in a circle around me. I sang my ten seconds, the other three did theirs, the judge kindly told us our voices needed more developing (which was about what I expected) and we left the floor. I was so tired that at that point, I was actually a little relieved that things were going as I'd expected--I'd made no plans for if I'd gotten to the second round of auditions. Besides, though I thought it was worth a try, I didn't go to the audition to get onto American Idol, not really.

I still haven't been able to fully articulate what I really went to the audition for. But it was never about winning, getting on TV or becoming a star, and this much I do know: every time I opened my mouth to sing, every time I stepped into a song ring, found a new guitar circle, when I practiced with a stranger or hugged Lexie's ecstatic mom, I knew I had gotten exactly what I'd come for.

And if you see Francesco next season, vote for him!


Laurie said...

It takes a lot of guts to audition like that especially when it involves driving somewhere you've never been. My hat is off to you!

Anonymous said...

So interesting reading your blog, visualizing the inner workings. Loved your description of Seacrest. FYI, Bo was on season 4. He is a great performer.

Courtney said...

Congratulations to you! What an amazing feat for you - you go girl! :) You should feel very proud.

Diana said...

Wow! What a great read! That must have been quite the experience!

Sounds like you got a good day of singing in!

(and thanks for naming me in your top 15 blogs! I hope to get to posting something about that soon)

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