Musical Risk

Today I pointed someone to this blog as the written account of my journey through motherhood.

(Given my geographic ineptitude, it comes as no surprise that my particular journey happens to take the road less traveled.)

Motherhood is an exercise in letting go and clinging to control – an enigma wrapped in a mystery. You have absolutely no idea what you’re getting yourself into. But (cliché alert) no risk, no reward.

Based on the muppets; future as rockstars, tonight’s fable will be musical in nature. (Hey, they can’t all be Pulitzer caliber people…)

I’m a theatre nerd by trade. It was an accident. I decided to audition for the drama production of The Miracle Worker as a freshman in high school. My innate talent paid off and I was cast as Blind Child #4; I was pretty certain those seven lines were going to lead to fame and fortune in Hollywood.

Mostly, I felt like I fit in with the misfit cast of characters involved in the Chaminade Players. (*Waves at all fellow thespians*) Who else fully understands you and doesn’t bat an eye when you announce over the walkie-talkie, “Um, the trash can is on fire. Again.” (Yeah. That happened. And it is in no way my worst radio conversation. But we’ll save that story for another time.)

So I was 100 percent in when it came time to audition for the spring musical. Now – and pay attention here, this is a major plot point – singing is not an inherent talent I possess. I would be a shoe-in for a cameo on the American Idol audition episodes.

But I just needed to want it bad enough. Right? I was going to sing “Revenge” from the Superman musical. (Trust me, it exists.) My brilliant strategy was to listen to the song until my parents threatened my boombox with an unfortunate demise.

I stood in the audition line, nervous as all get out. But I was as prepared as I’d ever be (which, is to say – not really ready at all). I walked into the small closet set aside as the green room in the school cafetorium. My director, Mr. Fennell, smiled at me; the musical director eyed me. “Whenever you’re ready.”

I began. Cats may have fled the city.

The musical director stopped playing mid-verse. “If you can’t sing, why the hell are you even auditioning?” she spat with more than a mild annoyance.

I really wanted to be one of those fleeing cats in that moment. Fighting back tears, I thanked them for their time and exited Stage Left. Not one of my proudest moments. But the director followed me out into the evening. He handed me a music book opened to Doe Rae Me and motioned for a senior with actual singing talent to come coach me. “Come back at the end of auditions,” he said. “I’ll listen to you again.”

Three weeks later the phone rang at my parents house. I can still hear my mom yelling down the hall, “Tricia…Mr. Fennell’s on the phone.” And I can still feel the nervous excitement pulsing through me as I skidded down the hall.

“You wanna be in the musical?” he asked with his unique brand of droll sarcasm. “We’ve got a part in the chorus for you.”

I didn’t hesitate to say yes. But then I paused. Let’s face it. I knew I wasn’t any good. Tentatively I inquired, “Why me?”

“You want it bad enough to work hard for it,” he said simply.

I sang my heart out on Skid Row that spring. And I still say that was the best production of Little Shop of Horrors ever to grace an L.A. stage. My mic was probably turned off.

Motherhood’s not really all that different. (I’m pretty sure kids are born with the ability to selectively mute their parents.) I won’t lie – I have no idea what in the holy hell I’m doing. But I can’t be bothered with such details. I worked hard to get here and now I’ve got tiny minds to mold.

<Maniacal laugh>


Filed under Family Stories, School

3 Responses to Musical Risk

  1. gramma J

    More coaches should be like Mr. Fennell. Grab the passionate students and find a place for them to be successful.

  2. holly

    maniacal laugh…….maniacal laugh
    very sweet story

  3. Joanne Hamann

    Bravo, Gramma J said it best! And if you don’t think you know what the He– you’re doing as a mom now, just wait for the teen years! The ULTIMATE humbling experience!

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