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ActorQuest-A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bway 11

In November, Kristin Huffman made her Broadway debut as Sarah (flute, piccolo and sax) in John Doyle's production of Company.  The actress continues her collection of stories about a 15-year career that has led her to the door of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

This is a story about an audition I did a few years ago.  The Open Call auditions are just something many of us have to do. Even if we have agents.  I think the fact that I did have to 'pay my dues' this way for many years, made me appreciate the big Broadway way experience with COMPANY that much more!  I stand on the stage of the Barrymore every night and remember all the times I waited in line for hours only to go in to an audition and sing for one minute.  But it's what you do when you want to work in theatre.  This is just ONE story of the many times I did just that!  OH, and I can tell you who this particular director is because he and I are now friends.  Richard Sabellico.  I also took his series of classes.  They are really "audition therapy" and helped me modify my auditioning style so much as I usually get so extremely nervous!   He also helped me with my callback for COMPANY!  (sabellicoclass@aol.com)

IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME

I did an audition recently in New York and got called back for a great regional company. It was a chorus call audition, but not everyone who signed up SHOWED up. I was #144 on the list and ended up going in at #56. That meant that I would go in the second hour of auditions and wouldn't have to sit around all day waiting.

In a chorus call audition you get to sing only 16 bars of a song so you have to pick out the BEST 16 bars that fit the show for which you are auditioning.  I chose my favorite song "Never," and was all set to go in and do my thing when we were informed that they were now cutting the audition down to EIGHT bars.  I HATE THAT!!!!!  It is hard enough to sing only 16 bars because you just get going and "poof" it's over. BUT EIGHT BARS is barely enough time to take a breath!  As I was waiting on line for my chance to go in and gasp, I flipped through my repertoire book and hit upon the last EIGHT bars of the song "Vodka."  It is a rather funny song about a woman who is trying to avoid drinking vodka because it turns her into a lush. EIGHT BARS is barely enough time to establish the drink of choice in this case, but I knew two things about this audition. ONE, the director was in the room and he liked classical singers and TWO, the show he was considering people for was called "Zorba". A show I don't really know that well, but assumed referred to "the Greek" in which case I needed something a little exotic or dark sounding.  So "Vodka" fit the bill.

I walked into the audition room, quickly, put my music down in front of the accompanist, quickly, and began singing, "I'll not scream should he kiss me...couldn't if I would....WOULDN'T if I could....Vodka...you ruin me!" I held the high note at the end longer just to add a LITTLE more time to my audition. The director looked up and said, "So...do you wanna come back and dance for us at five tonight?"  He said it so lack luster that I laughed a little and said "...sure."  Noticing that I had NOTICED his lack luster invitation he said "well...ya just don't look very Greek."  I turned around to leave and said "If I went back to my real hair color I would."

With 2 hours to kill I immediately began changing into my dance clothes.  As the other "called back" girls came in to change I noticed a common theme.  They were all brunettes.  All of them. Some were even very DARK brunettes with that cool curly, Greek hair.  I wondered if I had enough time to run to the pharmacy and get a brunette rinse for my hair.  Would I look more "Greek" or just "Midwestern girl with a bad rinse"? I could also get some tanning gel there. 

I decided to leave it blonde and went in with about 25 brunettes to do the"movement" audition.  They called it a "movement" audition so as not to scare those of us who are really "singer/actors" with some movement skills.  As I stood there watching the choreographer show the brunettes and me the DANCE steps, I began to wonder why I was there.  I am not Greek or even dark looking. I am not really a dancer. Was it a joke between the director and choreographer to amuse themselves during a long day of auditions? Maybe they always called back one misfit just for fun. 

I could just see them giggling at the thought of putting me in the show as that strange Greek girl with blonde hair that sells Baklava on the corner. The obvious solution would be to wig me for the show. But they have a million brunettes to choose from so why bother thinking about wigging a blonde, German chick? As they called my name to come out with two other girls to try the dance combination in front of the choreographer and director I breathed deeply. I tried to remember the time I went to Greek town in Chicago and ate flaming cheese. I dated a Greek guy once in Grad School. He was a big, dark, hairy motorcycle riding bouncer named Tom Barukitis. I tried to remember what it felt like to date a Greek. Sensual? Well, he was, I was afraid to ride his motorcycle, so we split.  I also competed in pageants with Melina Kanakaredes, the star of the show "Providence".  She has that great Greek hair and used to tell all the pageant girls that the way to pronounce her name was to rhyme it with "Can of Wheaties". Seems to be a bit of a theme, that "itis" at the end of their names.  One of my favorite childhood friends had that same ending to her name, Rebecca Maroukitis.

It was an admirable "faking" of the dance combination if I do say so myself.  I put a sultry, dark look on my face and tried to feel sensual. Sometimes if you just get the hand and arm stuff right you can keep them from looking at your feet and all the wrong steps.  I flicked my fingers the way the choreographer had and flung my arms wide with abandon. It would have been easier to feel "Greek" if we weren't dancing to the song, "June is busting out all over."  The director and choreographer put their heads together and discussed us just like they had discussed all the other "dancers" and then the director looked confused.  He had forgotten which one of us was which, so he yelled out our names to double check.  With me he just said "and the Vodka lady...your name?"...

I answered... "Kristin Huffmanitis."

 


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