Friday, April 30, 2010

Reality Check

Sometimes the universe has a mean streak. It has a way of slapping you back to reality with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Today was one of those days.

A bit of context is needed. I grew up worshipping Liza Minnelli. She was Liza with a Z. I'm Lisa with an S. She even sang a song about that. Cabaret is one of my favorite movies. Sara Lee (there's no H just Sara) is one of my favorite songs. I've seen Liza in concert. Since I was 7, my dream has been to play Sally Bowles. I've got the pipes to sing Cabaret with the best of them.

Our local theatre company, one I've performed with before, decided to stage Cabaret this year. I jumped at the chance to audition. I've worked with the director before, I knew I could sing and act the part. I thought my first audition went well. I got called back for consideration for lead parts.
 At the callback, instead of reading for Sally, I read for Fraulein Schneider, the widowed German housekeeper. First reality check. I was old enough to be the mother of most of the people in the room. One of the cattier little divas actually pointed that out to me by saying I sounded just like her mother in my read. Another of the youngsters told me I looked like Patti Lupone. Amazing talent...and older than  I am. I wasn't sure if that comparison was a good thing or a bad thing.

And then I got offered chorus. In Cabaret, unless you can be a Kit Kat Dancer, chorus translates into random people being audience members. Unlike some plays, like Gilbert and Sullivan where chorus has a big part to play, Cabaret is character driven, and there really isn't a chorus. I was a competition level ballroom dancer once upon a time...Kit Kat dancer? uh, no.

Reality check. I knew going into it that I was 20 years older than the character of Sally is supposed to be.turns out, I was almost 30 years older than what the director wanted.  It's been a rough couple of years health wise, and I've never been heavier than I am right now. I've struggled with my body image, with my confidence and with accepting myself as I am right now. I knew that I could sing well enough to play the role. I knew that the director knew what I was capable of. I knew that I could act the role. I thought it would be enough. It wasn't.

As my "can't see the point of theatre anyway" mother will no doubt point out to me, I really shouldn't have expected to get a part. I'm too old. I'm too fat. I shouldn't be away from my little girl and my husband that much. I'm not a trained actor. Be happy with the Grand Philharmonic Choir. Be happy with chorus, it's more than I got the last couple of times.

But here's the thing. Mommy needs to get out more. I work from home. I am primary caregiver to my daughter and although my mom is still pretty self-sufficient, I take care of her too. I run the house, do the laundry, do the cooking. I run my business, often simultaneously with my other roles. Grand Philharmonic Choir stops for the summer, and with a new artistic director at the helm, there's no guarantee that I will still make the cut for the choir go forward.

When the Phil ends, I am home 24-7, except for mass on Saturday and the occasional funeral or wedding. I haven't been booked to sing any weddings this year. I don't mind the at home part, but even introverts need to get out sometime. I was really looking forward to being "Lisa" instead of mom, wife, daughter and business woman.

Aside from the fact that Cabaret was my dream since I was 7, musical theatre is fun. "There's no people like Show people" aren't just lyrics.They are funny, generous, loving people and you bond as a family during a show. It's also a huge time commitment, and I'm not sure I'm willing to make that commitment to be a random person. There aren't any real chorus parts to sing in Cabaret. And if I'm being honest, and my blog is honest, I don't know if I want to watch some young kid play my dream role. That's a bit too much of a reality check.

I guess I forgot what my chronological age is. My daughter is 5. My world revolves around mothers much younger because their children are the same age as my daughter. I have lots of 20 something friends. I am up on social media and I am a twitter and facebook social butterfly. My heart and my outlook are young. They're just trapped in a middle-aged body. A fat, middle aged body.

I'm trying to objectively analyze why I have tears streaming down my face and a profound sense of loss and disappointment. Part of it is most assuredly the death of my dream to play Sally.I've wanted to play that part since I was 7 and the dream is done. Finished. Gone. Fade to black. I let myself hope. I let myself believe. I let myself forget the reality in exchange for living the dream. Dreams hurt when they shatter.

The other part of the tears, however, are tied up with my lifelong struggle with body image, self confidence and self image. My father used to tell me that I was a stupid, fat, ugly, lazy slut. Some of it stuck. My mother, never one for tact, reminds me constantly these days that I weigh too much.Yep. I do. I never dreamed my scale would go that high. It did. I'm trying to do something about it but hormones and injuries are putting up road blocks. All I feel these days is fat.And frumpy.

I know that I am a competent person. I know I am smart. I know that I am a good friend, a good mother (most of the time, but we all have our moments) I try to be a good wife.(most of the time, but we all have our moments.) I am a fiercely loyal friend. I try to be a good daughter. (most of the time but we all have our moments.) I can be lazy. I can own that, but I can also work like a fiend. I'm not a great housekeeper. Dust bunnies have nothing to fear from me. I know I'm a good baker, if not particularly fancy at it. I know I can cook a good meal. I am a good writer.  I am not, nor have I ever been a slut. I don't even think my dad knew what it meant, really. It was just something else to say when the booze was doing the talking. I know that I can sing-people keep asking me to sing at their weddings, their funerals and I've been in various choirs, including the Grand Philharmonic Choir, since childhood.

What I don't know, especially lately, is the fat and ugly. It's what I see when I look in the mirror. It's what I've always seen. There's just more to see right now. So tied up in the ashes of the dream of Cabaret is this conviction that fat ugly girls don't get to play Sally. They get chorus. And as the song "At 17" by Janis Ian which could have been a page from my teenage diary said :
To those of us who know the pain of valentines that never came,
And those whose names were never called when choosing sides for
It was long ago and far away; the world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave away for free to ugly duckling girls like me.

Tonight, one of those dreams died, and no matter how unrealistic it was, it still hurts.I know in the grand scheme of things, it's small potatoes. It's not even a karmic blip on the radar...except that it mattered. The 7 year old girl still cared..And now the spotlight fades to black without the show stopping finale. Life isn't always a Cabaret, old chum.

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