Monday, May 15, 2006

Raindrops on (sniff) roses and whiskers on (sob) kittens...

I made it through the first round, and then got unceremoniously ditched at the second.

I got up at six. Which, you know. Isn't loads of fun. I had heard Bec get in about three hours before (with a MAN! But that's another story) and was feeling slightly resentful (read: soul-cripplingly bitter) about my early start, but nevertheless arise I did.

Shower, wake everyone up with the hair-dryer, make up, pack bag with snacks (six million carrot sticks and two apples) drinks (twenty litres of Evian) two books (On the Road and some crime thriller) iPod, make up, cardigan (blue), hairbrush (brown), phonekeyswallet, and diary (black with Don't Panic written in large, friendly letters on the front).

Northern Line to London Bridge, Jubilee Line to Wembley Park.

Upon exiting the station at Wembley Park I cast around for the right direction to start walking in, and was helped considerably by being able to follow the groups of girls all walking in the same direction. It wasn't exactly hoardes, but enough so that it felt a bit odd. All these girls in their early twenties, dressed in their nicest clothes and carefully made up, walking the streets of Wembley at about eight o'clock on a Saturday morning. I felt like we would perhaps round a corner, be handed a string bikini each and perhaps some mud and find ourselves in the middle of some teenage boy's wet dream.

There was no such corner, to my considerable relief (it was very early and I had just washed my hair). By the time I reached the queue I had started chatting to another girl (Eloise) and we joined the queue together. Far from the thousands-strong lines of Pop Idol, the queue was only constituted of about ninety people. Eloise and I started chatting to the girls in the queue just ahead of us and discovered that two of them had come up from Plymouth and one from Essex. Looking around I could see that some had come in groups, some on their own, and some had brought people along for moral support. Parents, friends and boyfriends. That's dedication, I thought. I wouldn't ask anyone to come and stand in a queue with me for an indefinite amount of time. You could almost hear the boyfriends totting up the brownie points as every minute ticked by ("tick...tock...blowjob...tick...tock...striptease...tick...").

We stood outside for about an hour and a half, then were led inside and had our names ticked off the list and stickers with our name and number slapped on our chests. Actually we were allowed to do that ourselves, but I imagine the teenage boy from earlier wouldn't have minded that job so much. Into a room, seated in rows, handed printed copies of words to (can you guess?) The Sound Of Music songs.


Every ten minutes or so someone would come in and call out ten names, and those ten would be taken down to an audition room.

Waiting. Chatting and warming up as well, but mainly waiting.

At about eleven my name was read out (".. Leee-oh-nie?"), along with the other girls I had come in with. We filed down the stairs and through some doors, and into another room. To wait.

As we walked into the waiting room we passed a pleased-looking girl being ushered out by a runner, who was speaking into his walkie-talkie. "We have a yes" he was saying. "A yes." The girl smiled at us, relief shining from her face. I smiled back at her and started to feel the nerves spreading through me. The girls in my group and I hurriedly processed the scrap of information we had. A yes from whom? What did that mean? Was she the only one so far? Where was she going? Speculations and theories spread though the group as we desperately tried to create knowledge out of conjecture.

Waiting to go into that first audition room was very nerve-wracking. I don't really get nervous going on stage, I did a little bit when I sang my songs for the first time a few months ago, but that was a different kind of nervousness. I knew what was going to happen. I knew what I was dealing with and it was probably about seventy percent excitement. The only thing I can compare the feeling I had on Saturday with is the way I felt on the day I had my tattoo done. I had no idea what it would be like, how painful it would be. It was truly launching into the unknown.

I sat there, trying to convert the fear into excitement. Nervousness and excitement, I have been told, physically manifest themselves in exactly the same way in the human body. To overcome nerves, therefore, all one must do is convince oneself that they're not nerves but excitement. I am excited, I repeated to myself in my head as I was standing by the door. This is exciting. I can't wait to do this.

I think it worked. I walked in and smiled confidently. It was a small room. There was a three sided box thing with lights brightly shining on it and a T marked in white tape in the middle. Facing the box was a panel of four people, and a camera. As directed I stood on the T and faced the camera. I told them my name and which song I was going to sing.

"Alright Lee-oh-nie. Go ahead. Into the camera, please."

I started to sing, looking into the lens and trying to connect with the tiny piece of rounded glass looking back at me.

"Thank you". She interrupted me about fifteen seconds in.

"We've decided to put you through to the next round."

I thanked them and left the room, facing the rest of the girls, all of them staring at me, wide-eyed. "Well?" said Eloise.

"It's a yes! I got through."

They all well done-d at me as another girl, Suzannah, was ushered in to stand on the white T and sing to a machine.

She came out, I was still there, waiting to be taken up to the mysterious place where, I presumed, the smiling girl from earlier had gone. Suzannah was also a yes.

We went up together, accompanied by the same runner. Into "holding room B", where we had our polaroids taken and were instructed to have a seat and wait. We were to let them know if we were going anywhere. An hour or two, she said, we're not sure.

This was at about eleven fifteen.

Sure enough, there was smiling girl, looking slightly less smiley and slightly more bored. There were another twentyish girls, chatting, reading, looking at their words. I noticed one girl sitting next to an elderly man who I supposed to be her father. They were both staring straight ahead, wrapped in their own thoughts, not speaking. Two girls talking loudly about "the industry". A pretty girl with dark hair and a slightly orange hue to her. A blonde girl sitting up very straight, laughing with her mother. Girls, looking variously defiant, nervous, bored.

Suzannah and I found seats, still slightly exhilirated from our recent successes, but feeling it fade in the face of a room full of them. We walked to the place to get coffee, through large, empty, carpeted rooms with slightly tinted windows. Unused bar areas, echoing with the ghosts of a thousand conferences past.

Coffee in hand we got back to the room just as Eloise walked through the door to holding room B. She grinned her way over to us, not yet feeling the boredom that was beginning to set in. Out of the ten we were the only three to be put through from our group.

I would like to say that the next eight hours were a blur, but unfortunately I can remember them minute by painstaking minute.

I ate about twenty million carrot sticks. Talked to complete strangers in those eight hours more than I usually talk to my housemates in a week. I saw two people I know from University, and one I know from home. Discovered connections and mutual friends, degrees of separation leading us to surprising coincidences.

It was a very peculiar feeling. Waiting indefinitely. Not like waiting for a delayed flight or even for exam results. We didn't really know what we were waiting for, and how imminent that unknowable something was. I tried to read my books, but couldn't concentrate. The adrenalin that had coursed through my body earlier on had subsided, leaving me feeling drained and dazed, but everytime I remembered that I was waiting to audition again I would get another flush of fear, which would then subside again until the next one.

Eight hours. In one room.

At about six o'clock Suzannah and Eloise were called, and I went to ask the lady at the desk why I wasn't in the same group as they were, as I had been before. She said something about different people seeing different casting directors. I listened to her but didn't really register what she said, only the tone of assurance she said it in. Satisfied that I hadn't been forgotten, I sat back down. My back was hurting and I was exhausted.

Finally I my name was read out and I went to take my place on the row of chairs designated for the girls about to audition. We knew that it would be an hour and a half after our names were called before we actually got to audition, and that it would take another hour and a half for them to get through all ten of us.

More waiting.

Next to me were the blonde-sitting-up-straight girl and the pretty dark-haired girl from earlier. As I started talking to them I clicked instantly with both of them, and we sat and talked and laughed. The blonde girl was Joanna and the brunette was Meliz. They were both trained up to the hilt, music schools and conservatoires, exchanging information about who they knew and who taught them. I was struck by how much that didn't appeal to me. Overhearing the girls earlier try to out-talk each other about "the industry" made me feel a bit sick, and although my new friends had no pretensions I still had no desire to be involved. They asked me about my singing, and I told them about my songs and my jazz experience. I'm a singer songwriter, I said. Not professional, though. Not yet.

I was so happy to be able to say that and to know it was true, and to know also that it's what I want to be doing. What I want. The way I want it.

Eventually I auditioned. I was exhausted. Another room, another camera, another unbearable build-up of shuddering nerves. Fifteen minutes of audition: singing various things in various ways; vocal tests; technical questions.

I left the room and I knew I hadn't got through. When I said as much to my friends they protested, but I wasn't being self-deprecating. I knew, and it was alright, I didn't really mind. I haven't got the training of the other girls. I don't know what they know and can't do what they do. It's like somebody asking me to run a marathom. I couldn't do it. It's not that I could never do it, it's just that I don't have the training. My body won't do it. That's alright, though. Not something to be ashamed of, just a fact.

We waited for everyone to audition, then they informed us that four of us had made it through to the next round. Both Joanna and Meliz had made it, and they were so thrilled. So very pleased, and I was genuinely happy for both of them. Joanna cried as she hugged her mother, and Meliz looked completely shocked to the core as she processed the information. I left them to their celebrations after hugging them well done and exchanging numbers with both of them.

I went home, got changed into my maid's outfit and went to a party. I arrived at about eleven.

It wasn't a wasted day. I made friends. I found out that I know where my heart lies, and that it isn't with musical theatre. My confidence isn't knocked, I am more resilient than that. I can't afford to treat it as a set back, more as part of a learning curve. I felt slightly disappointed, but when I think of Joanna and Meliz's happiness and excitement I know that I wouldn't have felt that. I would have felt worried that I was getting myself into something I didn't want to be involved with.

I am still tired, because of the party (it was, as predicted, great) and because I went to a song writing workshop yesterday. Which was great and inspired me with lots of confidence, and gave me lots of ideas.

This post has turned into something of an epic, and my fingers hurt now.

Thanks for all the luck-wishing. Also to the people who called me to ask me how it went, especially those phonecalls from far away. I really appreciate it.


Blogger Dancinfairy said...

Wow. I think all that waiting would have pushed me over the edge.

Well done on getting through the first round and sorry you didn't get any further but I am really pleased that it has helped you get focused!

Glad the party was fun :o)

3:07 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

at least you did it though, it might be for the best it worked out that way, you'd have all the songs stuck in your head forever

4:14 pm

Anonymous Adrian said...

Wow. Sends less like an audition and more like a test of endurance.

Well done you. I'm not sure I could have done something like that on my own. Well I can't sing either so that would have been a showstopper but you know what I mean.

4:22 pm

Blogger Ant said...

I kept remembering about your travails this weekend and have been waiting for this account with baited breath...

Well done for getting as far as you did - sounds like you took the right lessons from it.

But geez - eight hours! If that had been me, they would have just found a grinning skeleton when they called my name...

4:36 pm

Blogger Léonie said...

DF - Oh, yes the party was much fun. A whole other post in itself.

Monkey - I cannot even begin to express how much I am bored with hearing those songs. So very, very. I couldn't do it.

Adrian - I actually think it was better that I went on my own. I would have felt horribly guilty if I'd made someone else endure the twelve hour craziness for my benefit.

Ant - Have you ever seen Airplane? The bit where he's telling the story to the little old lady and when the camera pans around to her and she's just a skeleton? That's what it was like. Or at least it would have been had I not been sustaining myself with carrot sticks.
And you thought the marathon was hard.

4:58 pm

Anonymous Adrian said...

That’s true, but what are friends for?

Plus you had ... um ... carrot sticks. If that’s not enticing enough, I don't know what is.

5:02 pm

Anonymous Impish little sister said...

I know what you mean exactly... anything that involves a) wearing a number on your chest b) girls in jazz shoes and leg warmers is not for us!

Sending millions of love to my lovely layneeeeeeeeee..........;

(no houmous left- its pasta and sauce and french tv for me tonight- who's hip now?)

imp xxxxxxxxxxxx

6:25 pm

Anonymous Concerned said...

Wow!! Incredible writing...I must say that I do indeed enjoy your writing........For those you who may know Miss Devylish....we are all awaiting a speedy recovery..she has since checked herself into a local hospital where she is suffering from delusions as well as severe depression. Let's all pray for a speedy recovery.......

8:17 pm

Blogger NF Girl said...

Fuck them. I think you would make a great Maria.

Then again, I also think you have far too much talent to settle for Doe-ing a deer all day long....


8:22 pm

Blogger Steve said...

Sorry you didn't get through, but good to see you're taking it in such a positive manner. It's probably better to just have to learn the words to your own songs than a bunch of "showbiz standards".

Also, an interesting insight into the background of these reality TV showbiz things. 8 hours! I guess you've got to REALLY want what you're going for to get through that.

You'll do great in the singing though. Don't worry about that.

9:53 pm

Anonymous Lorna said...

Well, it sure sounds like an experience...!
At least, as many have said, it helped you focus. I know exactly how you feel though. There is still a small part of me that gets *that* feeling with I think about musical theatre, especially things that I feel strongly about like The Last Five Years. However, I need to be honest with myself and know that opera is the way forward for me. It's difficult though, isn't it?

Lots of love and hugs :)


9:47 am

Anonymous Lorna said...

I wish I could edit comments - that was meant to be "when I think about musical theatre" not "with I think...".



9:48 am

Blogger Léonie said...

Impish - I know. We are not from Fame stock. We've spent all these years building up a reputation for being hip and cool and I go and ruin it by auditioning for reality TV. I am ashamed. I shall pop off and get myself an asymmetrical haircut and some oversized sunglasses to try to redress the balance. Pasta is nice, too. Not sure about French TV. I don't like the adverts.

Concerned - Thank you, I'm glad you enjoy my writing.
Miss Devylish is fine. I know this for certain and would appreciate you not using my blog to spread malicious rumours that have absolutely no basis in fact.

NF Girl - I wouldn't be able to do it, because I would definitely get bored of the repetitiveness and want to have a go at being the Baroness, her costumes are just way, way better. Also she has an evil glint in her perfetcly made up eye, and that appeals to me. But yeah, fuck 'em.

Steve - Yes I think you do have to really want it. There were points during the day that I seriously considered leaving but didn't simply because I had invested so much time in it already. These girls really wanted to be there, though, they wanted to be given a chance. Which is admirable.
I do wish there could have been more gossip to impart about reality TV but it all seemed to be very fair and nice. I'm sure once the cameras are properly rolling it'll be a different story...

10:03 am

Blogger Léonie said...

Lorna - Yeah it is difficult. I think because we both had such positive experiences in musicals at Uni. I just know it isn't for me, though. Partly because I haven't had the training and I don't think I can face drama school. For you, though, you have had the training so it's more of a realistic possibility. It's all about knowing where you're instinctively drawn, and for me it's performing my own stuff and for you it's opera. We should go with it...

10:12 am

Blogger Miss Devylish said...

Wow! What a day for you. I can't tell you how that sounds exactly like the day I auditioned for Rent when it came thru Seattle. I had a terrible cold that gave me laryngitis, but I was determined to try no matter what. I got there completely early, made friends w/ all the people near me in line.. we waited and waited, sang songs w/ the boy (who ended up being a boyfriend for 9 months after) who'd brought his guitar, and overall, only 1 person out of 600 made it at all. We were there all stinking day.. at least you were smart enough to bring food. I had no idea we'd be there so long. But congrats on trying and getting to where you did. I'm sure your current path is the right one for you. xoxo

6:21 pm


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