Callback Around Every Corner

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition. … This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!
— Stanley Ralph Ross, famously intoned by recently deceased Jim McKay.

Copyright 2008 Ben S. Pollock

II of II

The 2008 Summer Olympics wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, right? I’m not paying close attention. I don’t look past the headline to see the story’s about a trial, stateside, not to mention it not saying BEIJING in all-capital letters, as dateline. Every four years I watch a few hours of the summer Games; two years later and every four years I watch a few hours of the winter Games. No matter the event, the athletes are wondrous. These young people spent their childhoods for no more than a few minutes at the top, then for the next 50 years they find other things to do. For every one of them there must be thousands similarly dedicated but are being eliminated at such field events.

Last weekend the local sports pages headlined a University of Arkansas alum, a world-class runner. He’s already qualified for China but was at a trial for another event. He hurt a leg, but unlike Eight Belles at May’s Kentucky Derby, he was not euthanized on the track. “Also-rans” has added meaning.

Auditions are serial: You try and try and try. It’s not just athletes and actors but anyone trying to have more control over their lives. Auditioning in everyday life is a mindset as strong as the urge to be so ready for life-changing opportunity that some adults never fully unpack in case work or love calls them to relocate suddenly.

Over the weekend while reading Generation X by Douglas Coupland (published in 1991 and made famous the phrase, which then meant folks born within a few years of 1960, like My Beloved and myself), I realized I have lived most of my life continually preparing for auditions. Setting the book down, I saw that — like staying semi-packed, mentally and literally, discussed in yesterday‘s Brick — this impulse has faded but not enough.

Coupland’s short novel may not mention adults auditioning for all sorts of circumstances — I’m halfway through so maybe he does get to it — but his three main characters would do this. Often, perhaps nearly always, the audition is not called or is canceled or goes differently than expected, but that doesn’t stop us performers from memorizing lines, cues and logical stage blocking, as well as brainstorming improvisations for when the director/producer makes an off-the-wall request.

To think on your feet and be a clever boy, it would seem to help if you’ve rehearsed all the contingencies you can predict.

MB probably is auditioning for an unknown parts as well. Maybe all of us do, those who keep some blue flame of ambition hovering on like a furnace pilot light in July.

People who do similar work to me dress in jeans and knit shirts, usually T’s. I know better than to wear a tie, but I groom and wear slacks and woven shirts with buttons. Maybe I am wearing business-casual clothes on the off chance some higher-up asks me to come to an office or conference room. An audition.

One of the reasons I can’t get to the Farmers Market until almost noon, when the goods are picked over, is that I have to be cleaned up, in case I see someone, but not too put-together because it’s glorified grocery-shopping. I have skimmed the news. From putting myself at an calm, alert state I am at ideal articulateness. An audition.

If I need to write an e-mail longer than a couple of sentences, I draft it first on the computer’s word processor. An audition.

[All these seem exaggerated. Perhaps I like looking perma-pressed. And am slow-moving in the mornings.]

Yet the Coupland book first made me realize that my auditons have become fewer. The three above are about it. In earlier adult decades I prepped for nearly everything. I would walk down the driveway in the morning for the paper but first tuck my shirt in because someone might be driving on my cul de sac and slow to have a word with me.

What if I got a callback for an audition among finalists?

Now, events that remain very important to me no longer warrant that kind of planning. To attend the columnists conference, no audition. To see my temple friends or poet friends or MB’s friends, no audition, just show up.

The second revelation that came to me from Generation X is that I must stop auditioning as a daily habit. I’m middle-aged enough to know that chances to win the part, whatever aspect of my life it’s set for, have been decreasing, and that the rehearsing won’t matter. If I review my life, very little has been close enough to my predictions that my planned ripostes ever have come off unless I so dramatically manipulated a conversation that suspicion was aroused.

What if I show up for everything without rehearsing in my head during the drive over? That has two options.

[Yes, today’s thought-problem is an audition to not audition.]

First, I enter each figurative rehearsal hall assuming that I will not get the part. That would be freeing, though depressing. I could say whatever I feel, and be more relaxed.

Second would be to presume that no matter what, I win the tryouts. I’d say whatever seems right in the moment, and it will be good enough.

Either works because I now see that I did win the role, when I was 22. It’s one of the longest-running seriocomic series, the kind where the characters develop week after week, and they might be offed in the season finale but come back — after the hoax, as the twin or with amnesia.

I thus long have held the character for which I was intended, though I could not foresee as a teenager.

What, a soap opera ham and not a major star of stage and screen? The breaks.

It is summer. Am I in reruns?

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One thought on “Callback Around Every Corner

  1. I like to think of the prep work not so much as auditions but as jazz — improvisations around a theme. Break out the valve trombone or the kalimba and toy with the melody. It’s always familiar, but never quite expected or the same. The trick is not to let the audience distract you from the truth that dawned at 22. Variations on a theme.

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