From Canyon To Cove: Plunging into show business, Laguna style

 

I've never considered myself a nervy person, but maybe I am. Nervy enough to show up for an open audition for the musical "Damn Yankees," being put on this summer by Gallimaufry Performing Arts.

It sounded like a lot of fun and a great musical to be part of: a Faustian bargain with a baseball theme.

I had warned Steve Josephson, Gallimaufry's impressario, that I was interested in auditioning for a non-singing, non-dancing role, and he enthusiastically replied that there were parts for those ill-equipped for a musical number. There was even a small role for a reporter. Wow, type-casting!

I've been doing a little quasi-acting and cold reading with my playwrighting group, so I figured I could handle a line or two without rehearsing. I wasn't looking for a starring role, just a little something to get my feet wet in the Theatre (note the capital T).

Arriving at the city of Laguna Beach recreation department on a gloomy June morning, I filled out the required paperwork, and eyeballed the 20 or so other auditioners – mostly bright-eyed young women with dancer's builds and leotards, who were warming up with moves that would have put me in traction.

When I ran back to my car to put my purse in the trunk, Julie Josephson, Steve's wife and co-impressario, greeted me upon my return with, "So, you came back!" True, I had botched my escape, but I was determined to push on. The fact that my previous Theatre experience consisted of a star turn as Alice in the Mad Hatter's tea party scene from "Alice in Wonderland" in Girl Scouts probably didn't impress Steve or Julie. I had forgotten to note my featured role in an early Jan Oxenberg lesbian-feminist film called "A Comedy in Six Unnatural Acts." In the Oxenberg film, circa 1975, I had to fall off a chair for comic effect. (And people did laugh.) Like "Damn Yankees," the film was a musical: We even had a real choreographer attempting to teach us how to sexily undulate around the principals. In the final climactic scene, we all jumped (clothed) into a Jacuzzi. One take, no rehearsal.

My obvious lack of experience, however, didn't stop Steve and his stage manager from lining me up with the other dancers (and some kids and even a woman with a child on her hip) to show what we could do. I was lucky No. 13.

Gallimaufry's choreographer demonstrated the "movements" we were to attempt. (I was told not to be intimidated: this was just "movement," not "dance.") At first it looked easy: scissor-step, scissor-step, scissor-step, turn; scissor-step, scissor-step, scissor-step, turn. But was it a turn or was it a spin? I think the choreographer changed his mind in the middle of the routine, because by the end I found myself scissor-stepping in the wrong direction facing the wrong way. Oops, maybe it was just me. Then there was a side-step, side-step, side-step, reverse. Then a big finish with arms in the air. Then we got to do it all over again to the music. Several times.

It was fun, but it was definitely dancing.

I stuck around after the first round to watch the real dancers go through their paces. This was quite a show. There were some wonderful dancers, including a few men, who obviously had spent years training and honing their skills. The dance steps were marvelous, but the audition pace was so fast and the movements so intricate that several of the dancers gave up, one literally throwing in the (sweaty) towel and leaving in a huff. It was like a scene from "Showgirls," where only the most gritty, determined and savvy make it through the first round.

One thing for sure, you need a tough skin in show business. I sweated it out for a week before getting the thumb's up about being in the show. I'm not sure they know what to do with me, but it should be an interesting summer.

CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.

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