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Winter 2004

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Performance Anxiety

Performing groups are big at Skidmore, and this fall the Skidmore News staff went undercover to report the gritty truth about the experience of auditioning.

Flashdance
“So we’ll do an eight, four, two, two, one, one, two, two, four, eight, OK?” If speaking in numbers seems foreign to you, you’re not a dancer. Me, I’m here undercover, at an audition for Rithmos, Skidmore’s jazz and hip-hop dance group.

The tryouts are scheduled for 11 a.m., and there are over forty hopefuls here, including three men. The studio is a sea of Lycra; those wearing tights and shorts seem slightly edgier than those opting for simpler stretch pants and a tank top. I’m the only one wearing Flashdance attire, complete with an oversized shirt and gaudy earrings.
Upon entering the dance studio, each dancer is given a preprinted number so the judges can evaluate each individual. Shortly after 11, Janet Simone ’04 introduces herself as the president of the group. She briefs us on what to expect for the next few hours: we will stretch, do an aerobic warm-up, and get an introduction to the first routine. This first routine, Simone adds, determines the first round of dismissals—the dreaded cut.

As soon as she says the C-word, eyes widen throughout the room. Simone sees this alarm and promises us that nobody will be judged during warm-ups. Despite her assurances, a nervous few skulk out before the judging commences. I swallow hard and shift my weight. Nobody really notices the missing ones until we line up in numerical order and find several gaps in the digits.

This is how it works: routine, cut; routine, cut; routine, cut. Each cut is followed by a routine of increasing intensity, demanding more flexibility and funk. For me, warm-ups prove to be my only strength. I keep pace with the others during the push-ups, sit-ups, and stretches, but when it comes time for the first routine, I’m hardly dancing at all. Though it may look like a lot of sporadic gesticulations and provocative pelvic thrusts, dancing is, in fact, hard work.

By the time three dancers are selected as the newest members of Rithmos, six hours have passed. I don’t make it past the first cut. I leave with sore legs, bruised knees, and a stiff neck, but with a new appreciation for rhythmic movement.

—Catherine Rogers ’04

Hum a few bars
I have never been more aware of the fact that the classrooms in Filene aren’t soundproof. I’m at auditions for the Accents, trying to stay cool and undercover. I’m wearing my favorite jeans, for good luck. I’m wearing dangly earrings and a big bulky sweatshirt. The earrings are to help me look sexy (like the Accents always do at their jams), and the sweatshirt is to keep me from looking like I’m trying too hard.

Through the flimsy wooden door of Filene 207 I can hear the current auditioner belting out a song. I bite my nails, realize I look nervous, and ask one of the dozen freshmen girls lined up against the wall what she’s singing.

“For my first song or my second song?” she asks.

We have to have two songs? Fudge monkies. It took me long enough to think of one song that I could legally sing outside the shower.

The girl smiles and hands me an audition sheet. It asks my name and class year, what I’m singing (yup: song one and song two), and what musical experience I have. I’m asked if I can play a musical instrument. And then I’m asked when I first learned about sex.

When I first learned about sex? What does that have to do with a cappella?

The other girls seem too busy warming up their voices or drinking from water bottles to be bothered by this. I take my cue from them, finish the form, and mentally run through every show tune I have memorized. Two songs is a cruel twist.

After two hours, my name is finally called. The Accents sit in a semicircle, with one at a piano. They smile and are extremely friendly. When I tell them my song choice, they seem genuinely excited. They do a really good job at pretending they don’t mind when I forget the words. After I sing three lines of the second song, I stop, because I know it sounds horrible, but they still tell me I did a great job. Next, the girl at the piano plays a series of notes, and I’m instructed to sing them back. Then I have to find the middle or top note in a chord that is played. Even after ten years of piano lessons, I have trouble with this task, but it is over soon.

I can’t help it. I go back the next day and check the call-back list. I know I didn’t make it, but the Accents were surprisingly cool. In any case, I know my dangly earrings would have looked great on stage with them.

—Debra Kamin '05

Inside the black box
By the time I arrived on campus this fall I knew that theater auditions this semester required students to perform a monologue up to two minutes in length and a small portion of a song.

My audition is Thursday at 7 p.m. I’ve prepared a monologue whose character is thirty years older than me.
Two stage managers hand out blank bio forms to actor-hopefuls in the Bernhard lobby and guide auditioners to the Black Box theater. Here, we will perform our monologue for six people: two faculty directors, each with their own assistant, and two student directors.

I pace the carpet outside, get water, go over my lines quietly, get my nerves under control, and try not to look anyone in the eye. When they call my name, I pad silently through the green room and step into the Black Box. It’s very quiet here. Under six pairs of eyes, I introduce myself, give my monologue, and sing my song. I sing “I Spy,” by Guster.

This is my only audition this semester. My one shot. I tell myself it’s not important, tell myself I’ve done this before. The more comfortable I am, the more confident I will be. Comfortable and confident lead to good acting. When I finish, I walk out a confident boy and hope I get called back on Saturday, to read for a show.

They call me back, for a play about Galileo, and I show up at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The directors want actors to read lines for several different characters in several different scenes, so they go until late afternoon. Callbacks are tough. I don’t have very much time to prepare each scene before I have to perform it in front of people I want to impress. But the directors are friendly, and really try to get you to show them what they want to see.

Saturday night I find out: I got four roles in Carolyn Anderson’s production of the Brecht play The Life of Galileo. See you at the theater.

—Andrew Westphal '05


 


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