Don’t Let Them See You Sweat

I was at the callback for community theatre play last night.  I was one of two guys vying for the only male role.  As we were waiting for things to start, the other guy came up and introduced himself as “Paul”.  There was something vaguely familiar about him.  Soon after, we were all called in, did a warm up and introduced each other with our full names.  “Paul” was Paul Chato of The Frantics fame.

My first reaction was:  I knew I knew you from somewhere!  My second reaction was: WTF! I’m going up against Paul Chato?!?  I lose.

I mean, I had seen The Frantics at my CEGEP (grade 12 & 13, for non-Quebecers) in the early eighties.  I had listened to their radio show on CBC and later seen their TV show on CBC.   I felt like a little leaguer going up against Joe DiMaggio.

It’s fascinating how many things you can think of in a split second.  Crap, he’s a professional.  Crap, he has drawing power.  Crap, he has a F-ing long history of making people laugh.  Crap, he knows everyone here.  Crap, I think I need a pair of diapers.

The urge to “choke” was very strong.  I felt outmanned and outgunned.  Why bother, I thought?  I should just give in and save myself the embarrassment, right?  I mean, I would probably cast Paul over me, if I had the choice…

But I wanted to do this play.  I really, really want to do it.

During that split second, I decided: I’m going for it.  It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  It’s not about making the shot, it’s about taking the shot.  If I defeat myself without even trying, why bother trying for anything?

I have two friends.  Let’s call them Karl and Mark.  Both of them act in community theatre.  Karl is a very fine actor and usually gets cast in whatever he auditions for.  Mark gets so intimidated when he sees Karl at the same audition that he caves.  Even Karl notices Mark’s demeanor change when Karl walks into the room.  No matter how good Karl is, he’s not going to be perfect for every production or every cast.  A director looks at a lot of things when casting for a role.

Mark often blames the fact that Karl knows everyone as the reason Karl always gets cast.  But I think one of the big reasons is that Mark caves.  Mark doesn’t give his best work when he sees that Karl is there because he believes Karl will get the part no matter how good he is.

So I decided to forget that I was up against Paul Chato.  I decided to focus on the part and doing the best reading that I could.  And more importantly, I wanted to have fun.  Because sometimes the audition isn’t about this show, it’s about the next show.  And I haven’t worked with this group before and this gives them a chance to learn a bit about me.  So, I went for it.

After the callback, I spent a bit of time freaking out about going up against Paul Chato.  Paul Chato!  I was driving my family crazy last night muttering his name at random intervals.  I could hardly wait to tell my buddies.

I don’t know if I got the part.  And in the light of day, I suspect that I probably didn’t.  But I feel good that I went for it.  Sometimes we set up our own barriers and defeat ourselves without making a valid effort, like my friend Mark.  But each time we push through those barriers and go for it, we grow.  Regardless of how I did at the callback, I feel like I’ve grown.  And that feels good.

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