Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Fair Lady

 I believe I might have mentioned this in the past, but I used to want to be an actress/opera singer. I found out via email the other day that a community theatre I was involved with in 1999-2000 is producing the musical "My Fair Lady" and holding auditions for it at the end of this month. Oh, there is a part of me that aches to go to that audition. I love "My Fair Lady." I enjoy singing the songs, and it is just so much fun. But, even though I might would get a small part, I would never be the lead. I just don't fit how Eliza typically looks, even if I could sing well enough.

Yet it is times like this that I wonder what would have happened if I had followed down that opera singer/actress path. I was a decent actress. I knew my lines and blocking by the end of the first week of rehearsals. I was a director's dream when it came to being on time and willing to learn. I had my opera director when I was in Novellis, Novellis at MSU tell me that I was a dream to work with, since I knew all my lines and music. I even was an understudy for that opera for a small solo. I never got to sing it, but it was nice to be chosen, to think that I had some talent. Between 1997-2002, I was in over twenty plays/musicals, including the one opera. I mostly was chorus or bit parts. My favorite roles were the Mock Turtle in Follow That Rabbit (an adaptation musical of Alice in Wonderland) and Pistol in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. I didn't just act in theatre, I also had worked backstage from stagehand, set construction, lighting design, sound design, sound board, lighting board, and assistant director. I even took a playwrighting class at the community college, and my one act play was a cross of The Phantom of the Opera with a dreamlike Alice in Wonderland feel. Theatre was literally my life. So why did it all change?

I had a voice teacher who ruined the dream for me. Yes, I know it sounds rather melodramatic, but it is true. Whenever I would go to class, he would spend 30 minutes of our 45 minute lessons yelling at me and telling me how much I sucked. He told me that I would never make it in this business, that I must either change my major from vocal performance to music teaching or something else entirely different. At the end, he would have me sing my scales and spend less than five minutes on the actual song I was rehearsing. Songs that I had to sing for my vocal performance test. A vocal performance test that I had to pass each semester to graduate on time. I hated those lessons and often claimed I had a sore throat and couldn't go to them. When it came time for my vocal performance test, I failed. I hadn't practiced enough with him, and when he played the piano for me, it was like nothing we had practiced before. I couldn't follow. I was lost.

In fact, I hated him for a long time. I changed majors right after that semester because I couldn't stand being in another vocal class with him, and I didn't know how to change vocal teachers. They assign them to you from an audition. I didn't even know if I could change. So, I left music. I changed my major to classical antiquities on a whim. I graduated three years after with a B.A. in Antiquities (I typically say Classics because I always get the "Oh, do you deal with antiques" question, which makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Or I say "I deal with ancient Greeks and Romans") and a minor in the Ancient Near East.

I gave it all up. I haven't been in a play or musical or opera since. I rarely even sing any more, unless it is on occasion in the car or in the shower if no one is home. Yet, through all this time, I've realized something. That vocal teacher was right. It was what I needed to hear, even though no one ever told me. I wasn't cut out for Broadway or the Met. I wasn't talented enough. I didn't have the drive to do what I needed to do to become a great performer. I know how those American Idol hopefuls feel when they are told all their lives that they are great to go and audition and fail miserably. Oh, I might have a decent singing voice. I can learn my lines and perform, but when it comes down to it, I was nothing special. I was maybe a little better than average, but it isn't enough to become a performer.

It was the best thing for me. If it hadn't happened, who knows where I would be today. I definitely wouldn't have been writing, and it would be a great shame. I enjoy writing, and I hope I have enough talent to make something of it. Maybe I'm trading one dream for another one, but I don't think so. I've worked hard to become a better writer. I have dedication to it. It's something I never had for music. Writing isn't natural for me unlike singing was. Perhaps that is why I appreciate it all the more. I want it all the more.

So to that vocal teacher, I don't hate you any more and I thank you. True, he's dead now, and I can't tell him that, but it's true. It was the best thing for me, even though I didn't want to listen at the time.

Still, I sometimes would like to be in a musical again, and when an audition like "My Fair Lady" comes up, it makes me miss the theatre even more. Will I audition? Most likely not. But, I can still sing the songs in my car.


Aubrie said...

Wow, what an honest blog post, Cherie! I'm so glad that you're doing writing. I took the performance path, and I have much more fun with my writing. I burnt out pretty quick.

But someday I'd like to hear you sing! Maybe an aria from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde? :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

With me it was being playing a violin -- blame my fixation on Sherlock Holmes for that. He batted me on the head with a rolled newspaper one time too many. Even at eight, I had limits. I told him I had too few legs to be a dog, and that I was already paper-trained, and left.

Come check out my blog, will you? WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS :
Only clear skies for you tomorrow, Roland

Cherie Reich said...

Aubrie, I think the performance path can burn anyone out. *laughs* You are going to make me learn an aria from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, aren't you? I've listened to that opera, but I haven't studied it. I'm more a French/Italian opera girl. I could sing the Queen of the Night's aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute or "Un Roi de Thule" from Gounod's Faust. I really enjoy singing "Un Roi de Thule." It's a beautiful yet melancholy piece about a king who loved his wife so much that when she dies, he too gives up his spirit. Someday, I'd like to write a story about the King of Thule.

Roland, welcome to the blog! Thanks for following! I'm following your blog, too, now. I love Sherlock Holmes. It's one of the reasons I bought a violin, although my skills at playing are very limited, especially since the bow broke on my trip to Missouri. :( I'd still like to learn the violin one day. With my short, small fingers, I might could play it better than guitar and piano, which I studied but was limited in my abilities because I just couldn't reach the notes at times. *sighs*

Aubrie said...

Oh boy! I love the Queen of the Night's aria! That's it! I'd like to hear that one. :) (doesn't it go way high?)

Cherie Reich said...

Yes, it does go to the high, high F (two octaves above the F above middle C). My high, high F might be rusty, but I think I can still sing the rest.

Lisa Rusczyk said...

Great post, Cherie. I can relate - used to be heavily into playing, writing and performing music when I was younger. For me, I did replace that dream with writing dreams. I enjoy writing better.

I think you should try out for My Fair Lady. If you loved theater enough to do all the production as well as the acting and performing, you may enjoy local theater just as much. I've done some sound work for plays and found it very rewarding. The theater is addictive. And actors are fun people! I've also done larger production work, but found smaller production more laid back and enjoyable.

Unknown said...

What a heartfelt post! You know, you don't have to have a career in music to still feel the joy singing or performing brings you. Why not audition for My Fair Lady? Why not grab as much happiness from this lifetime as you can?

I left you a little award today on my blog :) Have a great weekend!