Backstage With



JOHN CARROLL MAIN X390 | ADVOCATE.COMI've auditioned for and landed some pretty interesting jobs in between my more "prestigious" theater gigs. I’ve bartended in my underwear, danced for the Mouse in Orlando, Fla., while holding a five-foot-tall spoon, prancing around in candy-striped tights and a chef’s hat, next to a gigantic singing teapot in a flame-retardant costume, outside in the 100-degree-plus heat ... but again, I digress.

I once auditioned for an overseas company that was launching a new line of chocolate. They wanted to re-create a Broadway audition in a commercial to help sell their product. Now, what a Broadway audition has to do with chocolate is beyond me.

At the actual audition we were given choreography to dance in front of the director and the rest of the "powers that be" in this teeny-tiny cramped room. Since the director didn't speak English, there was an interpreter giving us, the dancers, direction. After we performed the dance combination, we were informed that some of the dancers that actually book the job might have to speak on camera. In order for them to see our acting chops, they asked us to improv. To improv is to spontaneously make up material on the spot to perform. The word alone gives me agonizing lower intestinal pains. So they pulled out two girls from my group and told them their improvisational scene is that they are at an audition and a very famous icon (who will be in the actual commercial!) walks into the room to audition along with them. Now, I'm sure you are wondering, Who is this famous icon they will be working with? Mariah Carey? No. Céline Dion? Not so much. Madonna? Dream on. The "icon" is Hello Kitty. Hello f---ing Kitty. Camera on and go!

These girls didn't know what to do. They were like, "Oh, my God, look it's Hello Kitty, she looks so ... young." "Hello Kitty, I always wanted to meet her." "My, what a great dancer that ... cat is." I was dying on the inside. My stomach was churning like Land O'Lakes, as I thought I might be called on next. The kicker is, the girls were abruptly interrupted by the man interpreting for the director and told that their acting was "over-the-top" and "completely unbelievable." Unbelievable? How does one make running into a cartoon at an audition believable? That would be like waiting in the boardroom for a meeting to start and having Betty Boop walk into the room.

In the end I booked the job. I got to work with Hello Kitty. I am happy to report that the cartoon looks much prettier in person, doesn't shed as much as I had anticipated, and should be applauded for her tireless philanthropic work combating feline AIDS.

I'm blessed to be working right now and to be involved in something I believe in. In life there is an ebb and flow to everything. As an artist, I really feel the surge of those waves. Sometimes your show runs "now and forever" like Cats and sometimes you don't even make it to opening night. It's nice to be able to take a break from the rat race, at least for now. Before you know it, I'll be chasing that cheese once again.

Tags: Theater