Thursday, November 20, 2014

Regrets, Second Chances, and 'Star Search'

Everybody knows you were the real star, Ed. There was no need to search.
My first big audition as a kid was for the popular talent show of the 80s and 90s, ‘Star Search.’ I don’t remember how old I was, but I do remember my hair was cut short (the beginning of the white-girl-fro that kept me a virgin until my 20s.) So, I was at least 8 or 9. I loved to sing and was not new to performing. You may know me from my stint as a front row performer in “The Talent Sprouts” from 1985-87 as ‘Skidamarink-a-dink-a-dink’ soloist. (A title I gave myself.)  By 8, I had taught myself to play the piano and was performing regularly around the house, so, to my parents, this seemed to be a way they could really support me. My dad heard on the radio that they were holding auditions at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix and asked me if I wanted to do it. This was a special thing because it is one of the times in my life that stands out to me where my dad was really excited for something I was going to do. He was going to drive me the 30 minutes to the Biltmore on his day off, he was going to wait with me, and he was either going to dry my tears or deal with an impossible diva for several years. Or both. (Hint: it was both.)

I was so excited! ‘Star Search’ was my favorite show.  I can still remember the adrenaline running through me as a I envisioned my 4 star rating, a pat on the back from Ed McMahon himself, and that side-eye smirk I’d give to the talentless twit I’d inevitably beat out. I could be on TV! When my dad said he’d take me, I had to tell somebody, so I ran through the house to tell my neighbor and ran full speed into the sliding glass door. It hurt pretty badly, but no matter. I had to shout it from the roof tops! “I WAS GOING TO BE ON STAR SEARCH!” Then I threw up. Maybe from the excitement, but probably from a concussion. This should have a been a sign to work on my nerves and excitability, but I had visions of stardom in my eyes. 

I still remember the drive to the Biltmore in our brown Subaru. It was a long drive into a part of Phoenix I had never been. I wore my coolest outfit sewn by my grandmother and definitely brushed my teeth. (Anything for Ed.) I chose to sing the title theme from Beauty and the Beast. The movie was all the rage at the time and Angela Lansbury sang it too, so it seemed the appropriate choice for 8 or 9 year old me. The Biltmore was an intimidating, much-too-fancy-for-me place. There were other kids there in outfits much superior to mine. (Their grandmothers must have been more talented.) They’d put on make-up and had long beautiful hair. I didn’t even own make-up or hair. I began to get nervous. Were there really other children who could sing like me in Arizona? Where did they all come from?!
#Doppleganger #Hotfor8 #Lansburyhair


With words of encouragement from my parents, I signed in and waited my turn. There were other kids around me doing, what I now know as “warm-ups” but then, I was like, “Why are they wasting their voice? I’m saving mine for Ed.” They all sounded pretty good and for a moment, I worried. Again, my parents encouraged me to ignore it and focus on my song. So I did. And when it was my turn, I walked into the conference room where my parents were not allowed and up on to the makeshift stage and to the microphone stand. My karaoke music began to play and I… began to shake uncontrollably. This was literally my first time singing into a microphone alone. The lights were so bright, I could barely make out what was in the room. I squinted and saw what looked like a panel of 3 judges. They were intimidating and for some reason wore sunglasses in a very dark room. I remember being absolutely convinced one of them was Murphy Brown. Not Candice Bergen, but Murphy Brown herself and I got even more nervous. It was time for me to sing. My throat was so tight that I was barely able to get out the first phrase. So, I sang louder but this made my lips quiver with nerves. Don’t stop! I thought. Think of Ed! I embarrassingly squeaked through the rest of the song. It was the most terrified I’ve been in my entire life and it may be the most pathetic rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” there ever was. I finished to a few sporadic claps and I ran out of the room with tears in my eyes. I met my parents in the hallway. “I did sooooo bad!” I said still shaking, still teary eyed. Of course, they consoled me, but I was devastated. I’d ruined my ONE chance to be on ‘Star Search.’

My dad had left, presumably to see what the judges had to say and when he came back, he said, “good news! They really want you to try it again and maybe hold the microphone this time!”

“No. No, thank you.” I said. At the time, I was thinking that I had done so terribly that they were going to let me try it again to see if I could sing and not be so unbelievably pathetic a 2nd time. So, of course I was not going to give them the satisfaction of making me look like a fool!

“Are you sure?” My dad asked. “We're here now, Andrea. And they want you to try it again. How often will you have this chance?”  

I started to cry again. “Please don’t make me do it,” I pleaded. I was just too scarred from the whole experience to try again. I obviously was a terrible singer. So, we left. And I was never on ‘Star Search’ and I have been left to fight my way to stardom the old fashioned way, as a waitress in a restaurant.

"Brittany AND Andrea got their starts on Star Search. Poor Brittany, though." - everyone.
This. THIS. This is my one regret in life. I don’t regret volunteering as my junior high mascot, I don’t regret cutting my hair short at 16 when I should have been dating, I don’t even regret wearing Birkenstocks during my formative years, but not taking that second chance in the Arizona Biltmore that Saturday afternoon in 1991 in front of Murphy Brown? I regret that day.  As I’ve grown older, there have been other auditions. Good ones and bad. And I’ve learned second chances don’t often happen in life, let alone in the audition room. At the time, I thought the second chance meant I’d done terrible the first time so I NEEDED to try again. Now I know, what that second chance really meant was that I’d done well enough, the judges saw possible potential in me, AND they didn’t think it would be a colossal waste of their time while having to see hundreds of kids that day, to have me sing for them, possibly the most boring song ever written, ONE MORE TIME. The Andrea of today knows that a second chance is the highest of honors in an audition room. I’ve never turned down a second chance since then. Second chances are the greatest of gifts from our creator. They allow us to grow and learn and, best of all, redeem. I wish I’d known this then. Who really knows what would’ve happened had I taken that opportunity that day? I’m not saying I’d be one of those rare child stars that had a successful movie career, remained well adjusted, and is now the loveable and hilarious young mom on a successful sitcom with 2 kids in real life and a husband whose career is really taking off named, Charlie Hunnam. (No offense to my actual husband-to-be, its just that most couples meet at work so I’m being realistic.) What I am saying, is I would KNOW that I did my best. I would KNOW I took every chance. I would have lived so far, with no regrets. I hope I can always remember to live this way, especially when I’m most terrified, because that means it will be worth it. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A monologue for the Everyday Ingenue

This is the full length version of the monologue originally delivered by actress, Meagan English as "Louise" in 2014's "Louise and Myra: Take an Acting Class." It was written by me with lots of love. 

You can watch the episode here. 

This monologue is inspired by the many monologues we, as actors are required to study. I wanted to pay homage to the playwrights who've allowed us to "show our range" throughout the years. Actors, feel free to use it as you wish. In fact, I dare you to. 

BECKY, early twenties, southern

I watched the birds that day. The sky was cloudy. There was a distinct chill in the air. I knew something was different. Mother was actin’ strangely when she came back from the grocery. Usually she was chattier than a Mo-hen. I suppose grief brings on reflectin’ for most people. She’d even forgotten the lemons for Grand-mammy’s marmalade. I was gonna make if for her… for her funeral. I suppose I thought that if I continued to make her marmalade that she’d somehow still be with us. How could I possibly have left for Charlotte then? When my family was grievin’ so. They needed me. Daddy needed me. Oh, Grand-mammy! (tears) She would always know what to do!

Harold had taken up with a band at a new club in Charlotte. They’d asked me to sing for ‘em. No one had asked me to sing for a livin’ before. I knew this was more than a simple proposition. Harold was lookin’ to marry me and I knew it. You can tell when a man’s got intentions. It’s a look in the eye. The way he looks at you. If you melt, then you’re hooked, line and sinker. And oh boy, did I melt with that boy. Charlotte was an opportunity that Palkeepawa Parish couldn’t offer me. If I had left, Lord knows I wasn’t comin’ back! Its like my Grand-mammy always used to say, “Becky! You were meant for more than this good for nothin’ town! You’re a star!” You couldn’t argue with Grand-mammy. Oh! How I loved that old Bitty! Why’d you have to go on and leave us, Grand-mammy!”

The birds were quiet. They weren’t singin’ the same songs. Hell, they weren’t singin’ at all. They sat gathered on the fences connectin’ the crops like they did each afternoon. They were just silent. I reckoned they missed Grand-mammy, too. I knew Daddy would be back with the preacher soon, so I began to tidy up. Lord knows I’m the only one who ever did it. (Laughs) Tidyin’ up always reminded me of singin’ old spirituals with Grand-mammy. (Sings) Swing low, Sweet Chariot, comin forth to carry me home… (After a moment) She’d always said that the good lord planted Grand-dad’s vocal chords right into mine. I loved it when she told me that. I didn’t know him, but I have to suppose he sang like an angel.

While cleanin’ I heard a car pullin’ up. I figured it was Daddy but as I looked out the window, I saw that it was Harold! ‘What on earth was he doing here,’ I thought! I rushed to get freshened up. I was in no condition to see my beloved. What a surprise it was! I ran down the stairs and out onto the front porch to meet him. He seemed distressed and his countenance was a bit dark. He didn’t reach for me like he always did. “What’s the matter, my darlin’?” I asked. He just shook his head as he reached into his pocket and handed me a letter. We stood there in silence as I opened it. It was his handwritin’. I’d recognize that chicken scratch anywhere. I’d smile at the thought if his demeanor wasn’t so damn troublin’. The first words were, “My Sweet Peach, Rebecca. I’m sorry…” I couldn’t read on. I just couldn’t. As I looked up, he’d began to walk back toward his truck and I yelled after him, “Dammit, Harold! What on earth did you do?!” He kept walkin’. Why today of all days? My world was cavin’ and there was no savin’ me if Harold left me. I ran after him before he drove away, cryin’ and screamin’, “Harold! Don’t you go! Harold! I love you, Dammit!” I reached the truck door and he looked at me with pain in his eyes. We locked our gaze for only a fleeting second, both knowin’ this would be the last time. And then, I took Harold’s hand, and he said, “I love you, too.” And then he left me there.

And the birds were never quite the same. Nothin’ was ever quite the same.