I went off to college in the fall of 1988. Like most of my freshman companions, it was the first time I’d been away from home for any length of time. We all experimented a bit with our new found freedom. Some of my friends who had never drunk in their lives made up for lost time. Others experimented with drugs of one sort or another. As for me, I tried musical theatre. I had never been in a play. I had never thought about being in a play. However, I had shot a number of movies when I was in high school and I had acted in a number of them. When I saw the flyer for the auditions for Hair taped up around the Quad, I thought I’d give it a shot.
I signed up for the audition and got a note in Campus Mail a few days later: I was scheduled to appear at the end of the week with a group in one of the main rooms at the Illini Union. I needed to be ready to sing a song between the years 1965 and 1975. I picked Norwegian Wood by the Beatles. I quickly figured out I was in trouble when I showed up with a cassette of Rubber Soul to sing along with. Everyone else brought sheet music. Still, I sang my song and – to my surprise – I wasn’t nervous. I sang along to the tape and found myself mimicking not only John Lennon’s vocal, but his accent as well. The hardest part was not cracking up. I finished up and got a “great song” nod from another guy in line.
The next step of the audition was a dramatic read. We were all given a snippet of a scene. It wasn’t from Hair; it was a short monologue from a dying soldier after a battle. Some of the guys just stood and read it aloud. Others stalked around the room, dying all over the place. When my turn came, I dragged a chair into the middle of the room.
“Tree,” I said, pointing to it. And I sat on the floor, leaning up against it and went through the lines.
The final phase of the audition was dancing. One of the stage managers paired us up: boy / girl. My partner was in the neighborhood of eleven feet tall. I myself am not in that neighborhood; I’m not even in the nearby suburbs. Still, it was college and we felt we should give it the old college try. The choreographer pranced (I can’t think of a better word to describe it) across the room and told us to follow his lead. O-kay… We held hands and sort of bobbed and weaved our way across no-man’s land, doing our best Betty and Barney Rubble imitation. Next, the man (me) was supposed to hold the back of his partner’s head (her) and slowly rotate it around. My partner courteously slouched a bit so I could reach. The final move required me to kneel behind her and come up against her knees. In one smooth motion, she would be up on my shoulder. I looked up at her she looked down at me. I took a deep breath and – to my credit – I got her off the ground. It wasn’t to my shoulder and – alas – it wasn’t in one smooth motion. Thus ended my first (and last) audition.