I woke up in the dark and began my morning meditations: who am I? Where am I? Do all my limbs work? Satisfied with the answers to these deep questions, I attempted to go back to sleep. Suddenly, Matt's alarm sounded: it was 5:45.
“That time already?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I burrowed deeper under the blankets beside him and pawed at his shoulder, gently scraping his skin with my fingernails, indicating there could be a back scratching going down right now if only he would turn over.
He took the hint and rolled onto his side. I immediately glommed onto him, scratching enthusiastically. It was a symbiotic relationship: he got his back scratched, and I got to be the big spoon - mutually beneficial, as evolution intended.
“How did you sleep?” he asked.
“I had the weirdest dream.”
It was finally happening: Avengers the Musical, and tryouts were local. My sixteen year old niece Kaci and I were ecstatic. I was trying out for the role of Black Widow. Kaci, who likes all those genderbent cosplays that are so popular lately, was shooting for Hawkeye. It was going to be glorious.
The line wound out the doors of the generic dream auditorium and into the street. Kaci and I were at the end of it. Many of the people in front of us, serious actors, were practicing deep breathing, doing simple stretches, and melodically reciting vocal warm-up exercises like “Me Me Me Mo Moo”. Standing in line, doing none of those things, I began to feel woefully unprepared. I looked toward my niece; she was focused on her phone, casually playing Trivia Crack against grandma, who was stomping her.
“I’m not sure we thought this through,” I told her.
“Yeah,” she said, not even looking up, in the unconcerned attitude of teenagers everywhere.
I tried to remember everything I knew about auditions. My limited acting experience consisted of one year of drama in high school more than fifteen years ago. They would probably have us do a cold read of the script – I could do that! I’ve always been good at reading out loud – and we might have to recite a monologue. No problem there, as I have most of the first Avengers movie memorized; there was bound to be something in there I could use.
As I was mentally playing the movie in my head, paying close attention to the scenes I figured would look best recited loudly and with feeling on stage, the line moved along. Kaci and I were finally inside the darkened theater. I squinted, letting my eyes adjust to the lowered lights.
Only the stage was well lit. On it, a man in hipster jeans and ironic glasses sang a sad, slow song. People in the front row made notes on clipboards as he sang. The line snaked down from the side of the stage, through all the people doing their stretches and vocal exercises, to Kaci, who was still on her phone, checking Tumblr by now, and then to me. We were still the last people in line. No one had joined in behind us.
When the gloomy hipster finished, another man took center stage, this one well-groomed and in a tailored suit. He exchanged a few words with the judges in the front row, words I couldn’t hear from the back of the hall. From somewhere, a song began to play, a show tune I didn’t know, and the man on stage sang with gusto.
And that was when it hit me: this was a musical. Monologues were no good here. I would have to sing for my audition. “Kaci,” I said.
“Hmm?” she said, still not looking up from her phone.
“Have you ever auditioned for a musical before?”
“Did you know we’d have to sing something?”
“Makes sense,” she said.
Yes, of course it made sense. How silly of me.
The line moved slowly forward. On stage, one hopeful after another belted out show tunes I didn't know (which covers everything that isn't from Phantom of the Opera). When we were halfway to the stage, a man with the theater company, whose Captain America shirt barely covered a sizable paunch, handed us a list of suggested songs, none of which I recognized by name.
Kaci looked at the list as well then looked at me, eyes worried, shaking her head. She didn’t know them either.
“Maybe we’d know them if we heard them?” I said, pulling out my own phone. Together, we frantically tried to google our way through the list. Almost none of the songs had videos. The videos we did find wouldn’t load: we both had next to no signal so deep inside this thick-walled auditorium. I found articles about the songs, though none jogged any memories for me. Kaci found lyrics, none of which were familiar. Meanwhile, the line moved up and up. We were nearer the stage now.
“I can't do this!” I said. “I've never had to perform under such pressure before! I don't know these songs!”
A stage manager overheard me and took pity on our plight. “Don’t fret, dears,” she said. “You can sing whatever you want. It doesn't have to be a song from the list. It’s just that we don't have a lot of background music for anything else.”
“What else have you got?” Kaci asked.
The stage manager pointed toward the corner, where an old karaoke machine sat collecting dust, more or less ignored by everyone else. Kaci and I ran toward it, finding a few tattered, stapled pages – the machine’s song selection, containing nothing more recent than 1988.
“Quick!” Kaci said. “It’s almost my turn!” She snatched up the crumpled pages and glanced over them just as a stage manager called, “Next!” She thrust the pages back at me and ran toward the stage.
I didn’t know if she’d found something. I didn’t have time to care. I quickly checked the list for something I could use. The only song I knew was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.
“I’m saved!” I thought. “I can karaoke the crap out of that song!”
Just then, on stage, my niece began crooning about a small town girl taking the midnight train to anywhere.
“Damn it!” I screamed. I checked the list again. There was nothing else. I would have to sing something a cappella, something I knew off the top of my head, something from my shower-singing repertoire. If only I had brought my guitar, I thought, and I vowed that I would bring it every time I auditioned for a musical from now on.
“So what did you do?” Matt asked.
“I’m not sure. ‘Oh Danny Boy’, I think, but then I woke up. I don’t know if I got the part or not!”
Matt reached up and grabbed the hand I’d rested on his arm, linking his fingers with mine and pulling my arm around him. “Let’s just assume you did,” he said.
“I did?” I asked.
“Yup,” he affirmed.
“Gosh!” I said. “What a wonderful dream!”
And he let me spoon him a few minutes more before we both had to get out of bed.