RE(nt)-Cap (Shaky Confidence)

Posted: November 12, 2009 in Road to RENT

November 4, 2009

“You can do this…”

I repeated to myself staring into an oversized mirror, my hard exterior sheltering my quivering emotions. My face was stone, yet my eyes revealed the true measure of my being.

On the other side of two creaking doors sat the RENT cast, all waiting in anticipation of learning a celebration – La Vie Boheme – the gospel of the play. I had stolen away for a quick second to reassure my place within the group. Although constant references were being made of how “we” were doing so amazing, I couldn’t help but separate myself from the masses . We, to me, meant them.

There was no “me” in “we”.

I quietly took my seat as the music director repositioned the members on stage. Once, having free visual access to everything to my right, the music director soon replaced my empty space with beanie torn pants. I was now the spoiled meat between a talent sandwich, as two-voice was perched ready to learn on my left.

I took one final swipe at my apprehensions and replaced it with slippery confidence. I vowed to Carpe Diem.

VICTORY!

The high tenors were graced with the melody, once again, and the rest had to fill in the missing spaces. I couldn’t have been anymore ecstatic in that moment if you surgically implanted the emotions within me. I shook, carefully, as not to be clearly detected, back in forth in my chair and my confidence level began to rise. I opened my mouth turning to beanie torn pants:

“Hey, I like your shoes.”

This time, unlike after speaking with the fist pounder, I did not retreat into a mental downpour of emotions. I stood my shaky ground and waited for a response:

“Oh, there’s actually a funny story about these.”

I arched my eyebrows ready for the humor. The music director called us to order. Beanie torn pants rain-checked my curiosity:

“I’ll tell you later.”

I looked ahead of me, smirked at my ability to take command of my emotions and waited for the beginning. Two voice and beanie torn pants began the celebratory song and I, now thrown in a lyrical talent salad, tossed to and fro bobbing my head to the beats.

The music progressed forth and, unlike any other rehearsal, I felt as harmonious as the melody. I wanted to kick up my heels , throw my shoulders back and Flashdance all over the stage. I felt like a maniac and I didn’t care who noticed. Then the music director sent my emotions into orbit as we reached the finale of the celebration:

“I don’t like the whoop in this section.”

He spoke of our open carnival of emotions after beanie torn pants had declared his pinnacle of ideas, an idea that rang through each of our characters souls.

“…instead give me like a yeah or a scream, or something else. Make it your own.”

Wrongly right answer.

In that moment I knew I was free to do whatever came natural. I was completely emerged in my wrong way of theatre performing. I was ready.

Beanie torn pants began to reach his climax of ideas. I tried to contain myself as my mid-section wiggled in the chair. I could feel it. I could feel the volcano within me about to erupt.  Beanie man said the words that ignited my fuse:

“The opposite of war isn’t peace…”

It happened.

I threw my fist in the air. My hand reached to the sky and beyond. I tossed my head back as it shook trying to contain the eruption that escaped my lips. My stomach rumbled and my voice came sailing out above the others:

“YEAH!!!”

I had come in strong and proud.

I looked around as a few sets of eyes stared upon me. The crickets could be heard chirping. Soon, I could see that my explosion had only superseded that of others because I was the only one speaking. I thought to myself, kicking in confidence:

Um, did they not hear the instructions… make it your own…

Beanie torn pants finished his declaration:

“…it’s creation.”

Three seconds after I had ignited the stage, the rest of the cast followed:

“WHOO, YEAH, HEY…”

That is when I had discovered my folly. Fear tapped me on the shoulder and invited me in.

I had come in strong and completely wrong.

I retreated into the ritual of a black man blush. I could feel the embarrassment creeping in on me as, once again, I had made a fool of myself. I stuck my tongue into the top corner of my mouth, fixed my eyes to the ceiling and thought:

Please, not again.

I felt like Charlie Brown quickly parading towards the ball that Lucy firmly held. No matter how many times she yanked it away, Charlie Brown was sure that the next time would render different results. And also, like Charlie Brown, I had kicked, missed and landed on my back once more. I stared at my metaphorical sky, nervously laughing to myself, waiting for darkness to fall. Two voiced jumped in, lending a helping hand:

“Ooo Jeremy, don’t worry, I was right with you.”

HUH?!?

I looked to my left to see the reassurance that I wasn’t completely alone. I twisted to my right to see beanie torn pants turning red, teeth fully exposed. I looked across the room and caught the playful look on the heavenly voices face engaging my laughter. I looked to the music director who smiled endearingly as if I was simply a lost fawn in the woods finally making my way home.

I finally looked within and the joy bells were ringing in my soul.

I tossed my shoulders closer to my head, threw my neck back and laughed my cares away.

I made many more mistakes that night, but not a condemning eye scolded me. It was weird, comforting. No matter how many wrong directions I turned someone was always there to illuminate my path.

November 6, 2009

I drove through unfamiliar streets, trying to survive off of ten minutes of sleep within the last twenty hours. My destination was the home of the heavenly voice, to help her move to her new beginning. I finally found her, laughed at my inability to parallel park – one foot away from the curb- and hopped out ready to lock and load.

I made my way up a flight of narrow stairs. I turned the corner. I walked through the doorway waiting to embark upon my journey. I faced a window. I turned one more time to be greeted by another flight of narrows steps. I turned to look at the heavenly voice and voiced my objections:

“What the heck? I am getting tired going up all these darn steps and watch you have a mountain to move up there.”

I walked into the apartment to find piles thrown together in the middle of the floor, two huge couches and a table in the kitchen. I turned to look at the steps and wondered how exactly she expected me to get a boulder down a mouse hole. She protested, recognizing my look of distress:

“Oh, the couches and stuff stay here. This is all, just this stuff.”

She pointed to the middle of the floor.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I looked around me and took to the task.

A shelf, television, computer, clothes, pillows, and boxes galore all found their way into my mid-sized truck, and the sight of my automobile itself sparked praises in the heavenly voices expression upon my arrival:

“I didn’t know you had a truck.”

I retorted:

“Shows how much attention you pay me.”

She protested speaking of the darkness upon our arrivals to rehearsal. I gave her a pass.

As the day progressed so did our conversation and as fortune would have it, attention fell upon me.

I began to speak of my non-existent love life:

“I don’t know, I am just not the type of person that people fantasize about.”

I referenced how many view the typical males in society.

I wasn’t big and brute, or dripping with money. I didn’t listen to the latest popular music and country could be found playing on my radio or tickling my lips at any moment. I dressed in whatever I saw fit and most of my clothes were homemade or altered in my room – lacking a name brand. And anytime I asked a friend where I fit in, they would simply reply:

“I dunno, you’re just Jeremy!”

I couldn’t help but think that it meant I was born forty or fifty years too late. During the hippie movement, I would’ve made a killing. The heavenly voice objected:

“That’s not true!”

I turned sharply. Ready to fix my lips in protest with the words:

“LOOK AT ME!”

Before I could speak she broke in, a solemn sweetness filling her voice:

“Can I tell you something without you getting offended?”

I braced myself for the firing squad. Although we had had many conversations and our pasts were almost parallel to one another, yet, I still held up my guard. I knew she wouldn’t intentionally try to hurt me. She seemed to oddly, in a sisterly way, like me. She continued:

“Well, it’s just that when you walk into a room, you look arrogant. It’s not a bad thing. But if someone sees you, even if they are interested, after looking at you they think ‘Why bother, I don’t have a chance.’”

I had no gumption to argue with her, I knew the speech well. Many delineated me as untouchable, or unapproachable. However my mother so eloquently put it, rearranging one of Maya Angelou’s poems:

“Boy, you walk like you have diamonds at the meeting of your thighs, like you command the winds or something.”

I knew what my mother was talking about, I even knew what the heavenly voice meant, but I still didn’t understand how that disqualified me from the relationship game. I concluded, long ago that:

“Good things come to those who wait and GREAT things to those who wait longer!”

I was in it for the long haul.

I put the thought out of my head and progressed through the task of climbing and descending stairs. Along the way I acquired many bumps and bruises as well as a steady flow of blood that found its way on the wall. The heavenly voice frantically searched for something to plug the hole.

She reached for a sock. I protested. I had sock issues. She tore through her empty old home and found nothing. She grabbed a small bag, ripped it opened and presented a tiny stick-like apparatus covered in plastic.

I tore it opened, dismantled its covering and wrapped my finger in the tissue.

A super absorbent tampon stopped the bleeding.

November 8, 2009

“Okay, let me say this…”

The music director brought the chattering to a halt as he poised himself to make a declaration. I had wedged myself between two voice and beanie torn pants, two people I knew I could turn to if I began to falter. The director continued:

“…you guys have the job. You are in the play. You don’t have to audition anymore. You can stop worrying…”

I interrupted his speech. I knew my name was all over his attempts to ease the emotions in the room. I broke in:

“Okay, just say Jeremy, stop all your worrying .”

He finished out his speech, laughing at my interjection, and moved to the song.

The choreographer was ailing so we took to perfecting La Vie Boheme as a better comprehension was called upon. And just as I had concluded, any time that I slipped into obscurity two voice and beanie torn pants readily grabbed me by my collar and pulled me up. I was thankful, giving them both a fist pound stating:

“I like you guys.”

Pretty soon the director told us to ditch our scores, stand to our feet and let loose. I was a bit apprehensive but I finally decided to let everything hang out.

I danced, jumped and shimmed, again, as the song dipped and rose highlighting the celebration. The atmosphere was full of joy as the room resembled a well lit night club. I belted the words I knew, and happily fumbled through the phrases that tied my tongue. It didn’t matter, I was having fun. And just when I thought I had reached my final height of enthusiasm, beanie torn pants gestured to me:

“Read this part.”

Special speeches were called upon in the score. Each lead character had a section to recite and, with some members missing, other performance obligations, beanie torn pants called upon me, of all people, to fill in the gap.

I was scared, excited, surprised and confused all in the same moment. I reached my head around to where his finger pointed and, as best as I could, tried to breathe life into the words, the whole time wondering why he had chosen me.

I marked out the first speech magnificently, but, as adrenaline always does, I tore into a second speech from another missing member, swept in excitement.

”Angel Dumott Schunard will model…”

I began as the attention in the room heightened my enthusiasm. I felt supported by all around me and the piano raised my spirits as the sounds lifted my soul. I was smiling, laughing and reading words with such passion that I wanted to bottle up the moment and live in it forever. I felt a part. I finished:

“…on the 10 gallon plastic pickle tube.”

A tremor ran through my body, I tried to correct addition of a letter, my head shaking:

“…tub.”

Laughter filled the room at my folly, as two voice made fun of my illiteracy. I joined in on his joke. The beat continued to flow and the song progressed on.

No one stopped to scold me and I didn’t reprimand myself. I was glad, happy, comfortable. The faces I saw were bright and inviting and, for some reason, willing to help mend my tattered soul.

The song finished and, filling in the time, the music director decided to polish up two previous scores. Will I, was first and I comfortably sang through it, well, until I was placed between the dark-haired dude and the fist pounder.

Being the 2nd in the round, I was squeezed between a three and a four. That meant that I would start singing before them and they had the displeasure of listening to me before they started. I nervously made my way through the piece glaring at both of them trying to detect a hint of a wince. I got none.

Finally we were on to Life Support.

That was my scene.

It was the scene that struck fear in my heart and caused my entire body to perspire; however, today, even though unexpected, I was more than ready.

The music director gave us our notes and I marveled in my head, as I thought:

I don’t need it this time, my obsessive practicing has the notes etched in my brain.

My practice deemed true.

I was able to fluently embellish on some parts and execute my previous hard times without so much as a flinch. Once again, I grabbed my imaginary hand, tossed it over my shoulder and beat it against my back. The director moved us to stage it out and I happily wrapped myself in the continued need to rehearse the song. The music, now, licked my emotions.

We settled into our characters and found our motivation. I, however, needed a better understanding:

“Hey, um…”

I interrupted the director.

“…does my character have AIDS?”

I waited for the answer so that I could more fully grasp my role in the scene. The director looked at me, his hands buried in one another and gathered under his chin, and stated:

“Does he?”

My mouth fell open. I shrugged my shoulders and searched for the answer. I hadn’t seen the play or the movie and the director was challenging my knowledge. I did the only thing I could in that moment. Sucking back weariness, I told the truth:

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

I felt ashamed at my lack of understanding, but the director picked me back up:

“No, I am asking you. Does he have AIDS? Why did he decide to form the group? Does he even like being here?”

I was ecstatic.

There he was giving me the option to form my own character and give it the personality I saw fit. So, when a portion of us were dismissed to go home, only calling for a few to stay, I rehearsed my motivation. I took a seat against the wall, grabbed my little laptop and took in my surroundings.

On the opposite side of the room the dark-haired dude, fist pounder, beanie torn pants and one song glory, finally able to tear away from his other obligations, gathered in the corner. I couldn’t help but be drawn in to their moments of complacency.

The dark-haired dude stood in the far corner. In his ears he fitted headphones and his hand held a music device. The merriment on his face was childlike and engaging as he smiled and grinned as if he had stumbled upon a new toy. For him, Christmas had come early.

Directly below him sat the fist pounder. She huddled herself into her music score, her purple digital camera floating nearly six inches away. The lens seemed focused on the RENT title on one of her pages and she clicked away, heavily concentrating, trying to bring her vision to life.

Beanie torn pants sat in a chair almost unaware of his surroundings. He pulled a monologue book to his face, removed some papers and stared off to the right as he recited the words on the page. He looked as nervous and calculating as I did when I tried to memorize lines and I constantly repositioned my eyes as not to startle him out of his train of thought.

Standing in the mix of them all was one song glory. He stole the camera from the fist pounder and maneuvered his body into practical joke antics. As he taunted the fist pounder, her objection seeming to be more playful than agitated, he smiled and laughed a school boys grin. His smile, so toothy and innocent, took over his face and illuminated the room, his laugh reaching over and causing me to join in.

I muffled my sounds with my fist.

In that moment I saw that he was so much more than just a melodious voice. The first pounder reached beyond a leading role. The dark-haired dude added up to more than an unknowledgeable helping hand and beanie torn pants was more than his style of dress.

They were all real people – real people, kind of like me.

They grew weary, took pleasure in simplicity and practiced their craft just as I did – of course they were further along than myself. But they were all, finally, in that moment, real to me. Not just images that stuck in my mind when their presence was disqualified from my view.

They were, for the first time since I had auditioned, human.

________________

When life knocks you down, try to land on your back.

Because if you can look up, you can get up.        

~Les Brown

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Comments
  1. Well Jeremy I don’t want to sound to mushy:) I have always been amazed at your gifts and talents even though your endeavors at times kept me on edge. You have always seen the world as an adventure and now as I can see through your eyes with this blog all I can say is WOW…You can make what is mundane to others, bright, lively and colorful. You make us laugh. I could say the world is your oyster but since you are allergic to shellfish: I’ll just say “LIVE” This is just the beginning.

    PS. I guess now I can appreciate your intense editing in all my writing. So do yo thang!!!

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