About two years ago there were murmurs and whispers of the possibility of the local theater performing Jekyll and Hyde.
“You’d make a great Lucy,” a friend of mine said to me.
“Really? Who’s she?” I asked.
Come spring, Jekyll and Hyde was not the upcoming show. Instead we did The Sound of Music and I was cast as a nun. This year there were whispers again that Jekyll and Hyde might be the next fall show. It also so happened to be on national tour and when it came to town My Man bought us tickets.
I won’t go into my whole critique of that performance but the show in general I found to be intriguing, dark and a bit racy. Not your typical community theater pick. I left thinking that if the theater I play with does this show, I would shoot for the role of Emma.
Most people know the story of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that Jekyll makes a concoction that, when consumed, separates the good and bad sides of a person. He tests it on himself, conjuring up Mr. Hyde and finding that, though the two sides were separate, they were not separable from the being that carries them.
In the show, Dr. Jekyll is engaged to a confident, independent lady named Emma. Mr. Hyde, however, has a more ravenous interest in a prostitute named Lucy. She is in love with Jekyll but infatuated with Hyde.
Ah! Love triangles!
So I waited until I heard if Jekyll and Hyde was indeed to be the upcoming show. Once it was announced, I set to work on researching Emma, her scenes and her songs. Why did I choose Emma or better yet, why audition for a lead role at all?
As a rule I always audition for a lead. I think it’s a good exercise. Shoot for the moon and you’ll land in the stars and all that jazz. It shows the directors that you are willing and have the gumption for it. Also, the goal is to get a lead one day. No one in theater says, “You know, I just really want to be an ensemble performer. I like it best!” To be sure, ensemble roles are fun! I wouldn’t have kept performing if I didn’t think so but at some point you want your chance to be the front runner in the story telling. So I always audition for leads because all they can do is tell me “no.”
Which they did.
But I thought maybe this time…I could pull off Emma. I can relate to her. I remember being a young woman who had to respectfully unwrap her parents arms from her legs and say, “Thank you for all of your love and direction but now it’s time for ME to call the shots for my life.” It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. I could tap into that for the character of Emma. I know what it’s like to be married to a man who works hard and I remember when I hardly saw him at all because his career was in a such a place that he needed to keep his nose to the grind. I remember having to be understanding and to be second to work and to reassure myself that it’s just for a time and that part of his drive is his love for me. I could totally relate to Emma.
I talked to Christina and told her I would be auditioning for Jekyll and Hyde.
“Oo! You’d make a great Lucy!” she encouraged.
“You think? I am working on auditioning as Emma.”
“She’s great too! Strong character!”
Yes, both women in this show have a strong role. One has the power to save Jekyll from himself. The other has the desperation and hopes that he’ll save HER from herself.
Lucy though…I didn’t feel that I could really relate to Lucy. “I’m a good girl, I am” but as I got to know her, I realized that really, so is Lucy. She isn’t bad. Her station in life is bad. She’s trapped and controlled by her pimp and by her circumstances. If she could get out…what a LADY she could be!
I liked her songs. I thought…maybe I could play Lucy. Emma though. I know Emma.
When I have auditioned in the past, I prepared for it on my own. Well, mostly. I have always had Christina coaching via text, email and phone. Still, she hasn’t heard me sing. She can’t see my expressions. She’s only been able to give me advice based on the struggles I’ve conveyed to her. My auditions have always gone well and I accredit that to her being in my corner.
A few months ago, a former cast mate posted that she was available to give voice lessons or audition coaching. I jumped on the opportunity. This is what I needed! I needed to hear, “yes that’s good” or “oh no baby. Don’t ever do that again.” When I met with Danielle for coaching she asked what show and role I was auditioning for.
“I’ll tell you right now, when they look at you they will see a Lucy. How you dress for this audition will be important if you want to convey an Emma. You need something that shows your figure but…no cleavage. Something very lady-like and sweet.”
Now I was starting to wonder if I was going for the right role. When I said I always audition for leads I didn’t mean if the role was not suited for me. Like, when we did Sound of Music, I didn’t audition as Maria. It just doesn’t fit. So, was I barking up the wrong tree on this one? I was told it was do-able. I could pull off an Emma. Still…. I started to check out Lucy’s songs and scenes a bit. I did enjoy singing her parts. Her songs are full of hope and they are naively triumphant at times.
Danielle suggested I keep my focus on Emma but I should have a Lucy song in my back pocket.
“Just in case they ask to hear you as Lucy,” she said.
I also started voice lessons this Spring. I sang Emma’s audition piece for her and she loved it! She was very encouraging and I started to feel better about my choice. I decided to prepare the Lucy songs too and see what she thought. The next week I sang them for her. She again was very complimentary.
“Which do you think was stronger? Who should I audition for?”
“I think you should go for both!” she said.
I went ahead and prepared Emma’s monologue and planned my outfit around her character. I worked on the Lucy songs too just in case. I kept thinking I’d go in as Emma and then if they asked, like Danielle said, then I’d be ready.
Before auditions I went on my trip to Paris. Weee! Oh boy was that great for the spirit! I came back so relaxed. I didn’t sing the whole week and I think my vocals were happy for the vacation time as well. When I came home I felt much more comfortable with both parts. I went into the audition, introduced myself and said, “In the spirit of the duplicity that is Jekyll and Hyde, I’m going to audition as both Emma and Lucy.”
My auditions are always a blur to me. They race past and then are over. The hind sight assessment is difficult. It’s like trying to remember a dream that you just woke up from. What I recall of this one was that I did a nice job on the monologue, the Emma song was solid and the Lucy song…
“I messed up the end,” I confessed to Bethany. “The last 4 notes should be belted and they fizzled. The music director even asked me to sing that part again and, again I puttered out. Overall, I felt it went well. A solid audition.”
Bethany was up next to audition and had listened outside the door while I performed.
“Your Emma song was beautiful! It sounded really good!” she said.
I waited and listened while Bethany auditioned as well. I couldn’t hear the monologue. Then she sang. Her voice soared! It was light and easy and absolutely divine! My ear pressed to the door I blinked back proud tears! My friend had a wonderfully successful audition.
“See you at call backs!” she said when we left.
I wasn’t so sure. As I drove home I started to really beat myself up about those 4 words at the end of that one song. It makes me laugh now to think about it but it’s true. I went from feeling like I had a good and solid audition to thinking I did a terrible awful job! Plus, I think Bethany’s amazing performance started to get to me, not gonna lie. She out did me.
That evening we received emails inviting us to call backs as Bethany had predicted. I reviewed what I could for it but there isn’t much one can do to prepare for a call back. Bethany and I began to get excited about the prospect of getting to sing a duet together! The callbacks did not say which character we were auditioning for. I tried to find something to wear that walked the line of Emma and Lucy. I like the fresh and innocent look headbands give and so I pulled my hair back with one and did my make up clean and light. I wore comfortable clothes that I could dance in.
When I got to the theater we were told to grab a scene to review if we had one. I found mine. It was for Lucy. Even though I had auditioned for both, I still was sure that my Emma was better. I was taken aback.
But I’m wearing a headband… I know. I’m a dork.
So the audition proceeded. I always feel like call backs are so much more fun than the initial audition and this was no exception! It’s so great to see other people’s offerings. I won’t take you through the super hard dance routine we did or all of the other details but I can tell you I saw some really splendid talents! I went home proud of what I gave and proud of the group of people to have been included with for the final auditions.
Long story longer: I was offered the role of Lucy. I couldn’t believe it. I landed a lead! Weee! and then “Oh crap!”
I called Christina and we talked for about an hour about the journey I’ve been on that has brought me to this point. She was excited and encouraging and a proud mentor, cause really, it is doubtful I would be where I am now with out her help. Heck, she was the one that inspired me to start getting involved in theater to begin with! Wow, Chris! Think of that!
Anywhoo, she gave me some homework for character research and development. It’s been wonderful for setting my mind at ease about taking this on. The work has given me something to do while waiting for rehearsals to start and also given me confidence that I’ll be able to do more than sing a song prettily. The better I get to know Lucy, the more common ground I can find with her and in the areas where I can’t relate to her, I can at least understand.
I watched a scene the other day and I went back into my turtle shell.
“What am I thinking?! I’m too prude for this!”
“Lucy’s is a tragic story that should be told!” Christina said, “A woman in the wrong profession who is shown a little kindness and civility, can’t escape her station and is tempted by someone she can’t handle. She never really had a chance to escape her life, the life she was born into.”
“I think the scene makes me uncomfortable because it should. As Lucy, Hyde and I should make the audience uncomfortable here.”
“Yes, and you have to be Lucy and not you. You have time to prepare. You can do this!!”
I talked to Caren too.
“I do think people’s reactions have been funny,” she said. “When I tell someone your part they say, ‘Yes! That’s perfect for her! She’ll be great!’ and I’m thinking, ‘doesn’t anyone know how prude she is?!”
“Ha ha! So true! I have been surprised by the women who cheer ‘YES’ when I tell them Lucy is a whore. This isn’t a feminist power role. Hers is a sad story, really.”
So there it is. My first lead role and I’m a whore. The lead whore of the Red Rat. Yep. My grandma would be so proud!! Ha ha! Truthfully, she really would be. She would already be making her arrangements to come out and see the show and asking me what she should wear.
“Cool your jets Grandma,” I would tell her. “It’s not until September.”