Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Old Age of Youth

Victor Hugo once wrote, "40 is the old age of youth".

I am now several months into being 40, and I'm starting to get what Hugo meant. A shift is happening, and I never notice it more than when I'm auditioning for a play.

Being an actor means you must be relentlessly honest with yourself about what roles you are truly capable of playing. I may have red hair, and I can belt "The sun'll come out tomorrow..." with the best of them, but that ship has sailed and no matter how much I might like to play the Little Orphan, it ain't happening. (The good news is that Miss Hannigan isn't so far out reach, though!)

Of course, even my 4-year old son could tell you that I'm too old to play Annie. But what about the more subtile aspects of casting? Shortly before moving to Texas in 2009, I did a show in Los Angeles by Charles Busch called Our Leading Lady. I was thrilled to play the part of Clementine, but unsettled that I was right for a character described by the playwright as "an aging ingenue". Ouch! It was humbling when another actor in the show saw me in costume and exclaimed quite sincerely, "You're perfect as Clemmie! You truly look the part of an aging ingenue!"

"Geez!" I wanted to retort, "You don't have to be so enthusiastic about it!"

Last week, a theatre that I really want to work with was casting A Midsummer Night's Dream. I contacted the director to see if I could audition. He is an absolutely lovely person who told me quite frankly (which I appreciated) that he really only saw me as Titania/Hippolyta, but that part had already been cast. He said that he was auditioning for Helena, though, and that if I STRONGLY felt that I could change his mind, I was welcome to audition.

Heck yeah, I could change his mind (or so I thought)! Helena has been a dream role for me, and while the age window might be closing on that character for me, it was still slightly ajar, and I was determined to squeeze through it! I once played Helena in a college workshop production, but always hoped to play her in a fully produced version. Helena is a young lover in Midsummer, and in my heart, I just knew I could still "bring it" as Helena. But then I went to the audition and saw an adorable 20-something waiting to audition for the same role. She was young and adorable and the perfect physical type for the role (very tall and slender). As I took in her 20-something presence, I realized I'm not that anymore.

I auditioned and felt that I did a truly so-so job, which was frustrating, given the preparation I put into it. But I scooped up my bruised ego and we drove home. As I sat with my audition experience for the next 24 hours, I realized that there was more to the italicized sentence above. I'm not that anymore, and that's okay. Though I was still holding out hope that I'd be cast as Helena, I began to loosen my death grip on that hope. Even if I didn't get cast, I could still cross "Helena" off my bucket list. Even though, the college rendition of the show wasn't fully produced, I still fully memorized and fully acted the part--every line. Helena and I had our adventure when I was actually a great age to play her, and I loved every minute of it. Helena would very likely be in my rearview mirror, but there are other great parts to be played still ahead of me!

A couple days after my audition for Midsummer, I got a call from a theatre producer in Rochester, NY inquiring about my availability to come up for a week to fill in as Girl 1 in their extended run of Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women. My heart thrilled at the opportunity to act in this two-woman show once again!

As it turns out, I wasn't cast in Midsummer, which wasn't terribly surprising. But as another well-known ingenue once said, "Whenever God closes a door, He always opens a window." And what beautiful light is shining through--Rochester, I'll see you in February!


1 comment:

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Exciting that you'll be going to Rochester to play your part again. Congratulations!

As to getting older, oh gosh, it's a shocker. I so often forget that I'm as old as I am...then I see myself in the mirror and I am reminded. HA!

40 can play 35, or maybe even 30...but against a 20 year old? Sigh...