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So You Want To Be In Theatre?

Harvard Business School is teeming with theatrical talent – you only have to witness the handling of unprepared cold calls to see that the MBA class knows how to give a great performance. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I decided to audition for the HBS show. I have always loved acting, and performed in numerous shows at University and on the London fringe, as well as a few forays into TV and film. What better way to spend my extra-curricular time?

I went to the audition table outside The Grille and was mildly put off to see that I might have to sing and dance, as well as act. The people from the show were great though and I was warmly assured that no previous experience was necessary. So I signed up!

It all started with the acting audition. Within minutes I was in an improvisation involving a used car salesman, a weight lifter and a Greenpeace activist. Certainly a unique way to spend a night. Although we were auditioning in Burden (not a venue for the stage-shy), it was an intimate experience and everyone had fun. That part wasn’t too bad I thought.

Then came the singing audition. Some people can’t sing with rhythm, others can’t sing loudly and a few poor souls (including myself) can’t sing at all. I had prepared a song which two of my friends assured me was “quite tuneful” and “not too bad at all.”

However, as I sat outside the audition room, with semi-professional renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner” drifting through the walls, I became increasingly uncomfortable. I was seriously thinking of sloping off when my name was called. In the room were the two music directors and a piano.

“Let’s start with some scales.” Up and down the scales we went. The tragedy for me was that I have quite a good ear for music and could hear as my notes floundered off key. Despite this assault on their ears, the music duo smiled reassuringly.

“Now for your song, un-accompanied,” they said. I began to sing, but all those scales had left me unsure on which note to begin – I started about an octave higher than I could manage and by the second line was squeaking. I felt myself go redder and redder but determinedly continued to the end. They clapped when I finished (probably with relief!) and thanked me as I scurried from the room.

Well, the dance auditions can’t be more embarrassing than that, I thought…. Hmmm. I turned up on Friday night and was asked to fill in a form. How comfortable was I with Jazz, Modern, Tap and Funk, the form asked. “I am comfortable dancing in a club after a few drinks,” I wrote.
I entered the room amid a flurry of tiny balletic looking girls. They immediately started limbering up, stretching themselves into all sorts of bizarre contortions. I lurked at the back with another girl who admitted to being “a bit out of her depth.” We agreed to stay right at the back.
“Let’s begin,” said one of the audition hosts. “Everyone to the top corner of the room, and one at a time you are going to a dance across it, whatever you like – Ballet, Modern…” I stared back horrified but before I could escape the music stormed out and people were dancing wildly across the floor – pirouettes, leaps, funky hip-hop. I hoped that when it was my turn I would be filled with divine inspiration and prance gazelle-like across the room. Sadly this was not the case and I sort of shuffled across swinging my arms a bit. We then moved on to a dance routine. It was actually really fun (although I just could not memorize it in ten minutes!).

So, I’m not sure I have the right skill-base for a part in the show, but it was definitely a memorable experience to audition and everyone involved was really supportive. I am helping out with production management, which is great fun and means I still get to be involved with the extravaganza. Make sure you go and watch because, believe me, there is some serious talent out there!

February 19, 2002
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