Auditions And The Unknown Ingredient

I haven't auditioned in over 70 years, so doing an audition at this time in my life is not exactly the norm. Doing a simple audition with sides (that's a scene or scenes in a movie, TV show or commercial) is one thing, but performing as a "yenta" a gossipy Jewish lady with a heavy Yiddish accent is entirely another venue. Not entirely impossible, just challenging to say the least.

I auditioned for the first time at age 18 for a Broadway show "Pretty Penny." Michael Kidd was the choreographer and George Kaufman was the director. Within the dance group there were maybe eight girls and eight boy dancers. Two became famous -- Peter Gennaro, who was hearing impaired and practiced with headphones, and Onna White, who became a successful choreographer and director. It was one of those shows that never made it to Broadway, but for all of us dancers, it was an introduction to The Great White Way.

Seventy-two years later here in Tinsel Town, L.A., the movie capital of the world, I am making an attempt to enter this crazy overcrowded overrated, star-studded business. I use the term "business" because when you say I'm in the "business" everyone knows you mean movies or TV.

A dance audition is one thing I'm familiar with, delighted with and nervous with. But, speaking lines? Yes, I'm also familiar with those, but it's been a while since the successful TV show "The Real McCoy's" during the 60s in which I said lines and had a one-shot part with Dick Crenner, who knew I was a newcomer to this "business" and let me know that I was not to step on his lines --"oops."

At that time, I was dancing and performing on multiple variety shows like Dinah Shore, Andy Williams, etc. Now with my 92 years of wisdom and being totally fearless, I appeared at this audition as an older Jewish yenta speaking with a heavy Yiddish accent. Now that's a challenge for this "goy." I hadn't a clue, but with guts and some anxiety I threw myself into this amazing experience, having fun and doing something foreign vocally and physically.

So as I live a long and most unexpected life, which seems to be never-ending, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It took a dare for my first skydive, but no dare for the second and third coming up! And there was no audition for the trapeze or skydiving -- just no fear and a big challenge. So in a way doing a yenta and speaking with a Yiddish accent takes the same ingredients -- plus a little innocence. One thing about dance auditions is that you know by the end of the audition if you are the chosen one out of 100 other dancers. In film it's a waiting game. And god only knows how many other contestants are vying for the same yenta.

But now in my enviable long life I'm quite calm. I guess because I loved performing that yenta and even have the nerve to say maybe my accent was OK. Did I look 70? I thought so, but that's my egotistical opinion. I didn't get a call back. So I'll never know. That's the unknown ingredient.

Every performer, be it on stage or in film or on the tennis court, wants to be the winner and the chosen one. I mention tennis because that was my most favorite game and only game of my life. So now auditions are simply another part of this incredible, unexplainable and wonderful journey. Do I get nervous? I certainly hope so. I would hate to lose that youthful emotion. No nerves, no performance.

This message would not be complete without a word of praise for the sunshine in my life. No matter how I feel -- fatigued, in pain, or sick -- yoga, will always be a part of my daily routine. Practice is the building block, the joy, and the wake-up call each and every day of my life. I live to do yoga, and I do yoga to live.

Phyllis Sues, a dedicated yogi.

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