It all began with a self-defense class. Whiskey was living with his dad and associating with criminals, leaving mom and I all alone in a big house, a couple of good looking, single females with no protection outside of a complicated alarm system and a Louisville Slugger at the bedside. So mom signed us up for a lady’s self-defense class in some part of the city we never ventured…we got lost the first and third time we went.
As usual, I took everything way too seriously and turned it into a competition of me vs every other person in the room. I was winning. Not that that matters, but still…worth noting. Mom was…not winning. As mom does, when winning is no longer an option, she set about trying to throw me off my game by being hysterical, grossly overemphasizing her guttural screams as she fended off imaginary purse -snatchers. Any right-minded thief would certainly be disturbed into leaving, at the very least. My mother was a natural actress. Me…not so much.
We’re driving home from the final class when we pass some random school with a giant sign out front announcing auditions for a children’s theater production of “The Secret Garden.”
“You LOVE that book!” mom gasps, “You have to try out!” and she cuts a hard left into the parking lot. “This is going to be SO great. You already know the story backwards, probably, and you’re such a natural actress…”
She doesn’t stop talking long enough for me to protest. It’s probable I was still high from all the winning I’d been doing in the ultra-beginner self-defense for middle-aged ladies class, but I don’t do a tuck and roll exit from the Honda Prelude. Also, mom has always been really great at convincing people they can accomplish really stupid things.
So we go in. The auditorium is big enough, by school standards, and warmer than I expected. Which is to say, I’m suddenly sweating profusely. There’s a lady at a folding table wearing a name tag and tending to lists and plates of cookies.
Despite “forgetting” my resume, I get signed up. I’m set in a line surrounded by other little blonde girls trying for the lead. They are doing weird vocal exercises. They are stretching. I’m already stretched out, because karate, but I’m getting the sense that there is a league here, and I am NOT in it.
Moments later, I’m brought up with a group of six or seven other kids to the stage for a reading. A script is thrust into my hand. We all sit in a semi-circle of chairs on the stage. The lights bore holes in me. A casting director asks if we have any special talents. The girl next to me is extremely proud of the worst English accent I’ve ever heard. “I know self-defense?” I offer. I’m reading the script frantically, as the first few characters run through their line.
There’s a stage direction about dancing. English accent is delivering a line about being so happy she could dance. I read further.
Oh dear God it’s a musical.
My mom has a pathological hatred of musicals…why would she do this? Was it revenge for all the winning I was doing in self-defense?
I feel a sudden urge to vomit. I am trapped and utterly helpless. I scan the crowd for my mom but it’s all just anxious looking white ladies making “SMILE” gestures at their kids.
I find my mom. I mouth, “It’s a musical.”
I cannot sing. Mom cannot sing. Whiskey thinks he can sing, but Whiskey CANNOT sing. We are not a musical family.
Mom’s trying not to laugh but she is visibly shaking.
I mouth, “I WILL KILL YOU.” She snort laughs and the other stage moms stare at her in horror. She gives me a thumbs up and motions that I should smile more. The other moms seem satisfied with this.
The director gets to me…in more ways than one. I stumble through my lines. I try on an accent because, what the hell, I can feel my heartbeat in my teeth so why not go full cockney? My eyeballs are way too hot. At some point it ends. I am not forced to dance. Or maybe I am but my mind mercifully blocks it out. I walk away with my mom, into the cold of night, and never look back. Like someone who has stumbled upon a masked orgy, I am grateful to simply escape intact and unbound.
We never go back.
In case you’re wondering, I did not get the part.
But weirdly enough I did end up in Anything Goes a couple years later. They asked me to lip sync during the songs.