I’ve always loved the theater. The feeling of being on the stage, acting and singing, is freeing. Throughout high school, I was part of only one production. I concentrated more on writing my stories, so it wasn’t until the summer I graduated that I decided to audition for “Show Boat.” I knew who I had to compete against.
The theater crowd was a small group of people who cohabited a bubble. On round one of the auditions, I remember walking down the aisle, and in the front, the theater crowd huddled and looked at every non-theater person with all the friendliness of a needle to a balloon.
During the auditions, the theater crowd talked, ignoring the director’s demands for silence. Okay, I thought, I’m going to have to bring it. The director called my name and I walked onto the stage with my chin high.
“What are you going to sing for us?” asked the director.
“I’m going to sing ‘I Turn to You’ by Christina Aguilera,” I said.
I took it a step further by deciding not to have backing music. I looked right at the theater crowd when I sang, and some of them gave me curious glances. I knew the high part was coming and the echo from the microphone was going to take my voice places.
“…for the ooooone whoooo, I can TUR-UR-UR-UR-URN to, oh-oh-oh I, turn to YOUUU…”
Everyone in that theater, including the theater crowd, looked at me, and several people leaped to their feet in applause.
The director was so impressed, I was called back for round two. I didn’t know which character I’d land, I just wanted to be part of the show; however, jaws dropped when my name was called to audition for the lead: the White Southern Belle, Magnolia. This was shocking for two reasons: one, the theater crowd already named their own Magnolia. Two, one of the themes in “Show Boat” was discrimination…I’m Puerto Rican.
On the second round of auditions, I was called to the stage to read with Magnolia’s love interest. The nerves kicked in because everyone was whispering. I closed my eyes and remembered to relax. The chemistry with the actor was there, and he said his lines. All I had to do was reply with, “What did you say mister?” Unfortunately, it came out like “Wot deed you soy mistah?”
Ugh! I suddenly developed a distorted version of a Southern accent! I don’t know where it came from. The director stopped me and said “Thank you” and I was back in the audience. The theater crew smiled. I wasn’t going to get the part of Magnolia. Okay, I ruined it for myself. However, I was called back for the day of casting, and gasps abounded when I got the part of Julie LaVerne, another big role. I even had my own song! No matter what anyone said (or what “accent” I developed), I believed in myself, and honestly, that’s the best role in the world.
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