So I had a thing for musicals back in high school. It wasn’t so much that I was very talented, but I think I was there for the rush of being on a stage. When the lights hit you, it’s just that butterfly in your stomach feeling that just gets ya’ going. You can’t describe, but you just want it. It’s not a drug – maybe a mild upper, or really just something to look forward to.
When you’re young, you’re too dumb to realize that these things will never leave you. You take it seriously, even though in ten years nobody will care what you were, or what you did in high school.
I was auditioning for the role of Schroeder in the musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. I was admittedly nervous, unprepared and shy. I sat in the school’s atrium with my Catholic schoolboy uniform.
One pair navy socks, one pair black shoes, one pair navy pants and one white golf shirt. My grey-infused white skin didn’t pair well with my uniform. Made me look like death row ghost. Lost, scared, unhappy and bitter with humanity.
Yet for some reason I wanted to be in this musical. My singing ability was sub-par, but I figured it was worth a shot. On a shady afternoon – with other Catholic school kids waiting there turn for their audition – it was my time.
I walked down the dark alleyway of theatre seats, dimly lit and with a tasteless checkered carpet. I knew this theatre like the back of my hand; I could walk my sentence blindfolded and still find the centre of the stage. I walked to the side of the stage, pitter-patted my way to the centre, and stood smack-dab in the middle of one singular spotlight.
“Ok, please read along with me. I will play the role of Snoopy. You will be Schroeder. Your lines are in italics.”
“Yes, the italics, do you see them there?” she asked. I could see the front row; everything else was pitch black.
My Drama teacher and my English teacher sat looking at me emotionless. They were cold; it was uncomfortable.
“Sure,” I said.
I read my lines and my hands shook. You could notice from a mile away. My voice cracked and sweat dripped from my forehead. I could feel ice, I could feel my heart beating, breaking my chest. I read my lines. I read my lines. I read my lines.
“That was great. Can you sing for us now?”
A precision rocket could have landed on my face and I would have saved myself the agony of singing in front of an audience. No vocal coaching, no assistance whatsoever. I had sung this song in the shower and wanted to cry every time I thought of this moment. And here I was, causing myself this pain. Causing each and every bit of terror. I was a volunteer, waiting to be executed in front of a team of university-educated teachers. I was holding my hands above my head, bending forward and taking a bullet to the back of my skull.
Let my brains paint your world; let the chunks of skull be used as a gift-store souvenir. That’ll be $2.75.
To hell with this shit.
“We’re ready now.”
“Ok I’m going to sing a song called In The Water I am Beautiful.”
I sang this song for my audience. I sang it and my voice boomed and I sang it like it was my own song. I had attempted to recreate the recording that I had listened to a thousand times on the bus ride home. For that moment when I sang these words, however terribly – nothing felt quite like this. The ceilings were high and I could hear my voice echo back to me. I watched my audience stare at me without any emotion, wondering if they wanted me to stop.
I sang maybe one minute of the song, messed up the words and clinched my fist and toes ‘till my nails bleed. I finished this audition like ripping off a band-aid, and it felt amazing.
I walked off stage, leaving all of my dignity for everyone to think about. Know that feeling you get when you know people are talking about you? I had that, except times a bajillion. I left the theatre, and closed the doors behind me.
Two days later the roles were posted on the door of my drama class. I tried to forget the experience of auditioning for this musical, and decided I’d check out if I had made the cut.
Talentless, boring, lame and just plain not cool – but for this year in particular – I had the lead role in the school play as Charlie Brown.
By Michael Burton
01. We Found Each Other in the Dark
02. Natural Disaster
03. The Grand Optimist
04. Little Hell
05. Fragile Bird
06. Northern Wind
07. O’ Sister
09. Sorrowing Man
10. Silver and Gold
11. Hope for Now