Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Future is Now

When I was growing up, Fiddler on the Roof was a staple of the family's record collection. My siblings and I would put it on and sing and dance (but not too vigorously, so that the record wouldn't skip.) We knew the whole original cast recording by heart. We watched the movie, starring Topol and not Zero Mostel, but still effective. Fiddler on the Roof was part of the fabric of my childhood, and it's a show that I still love dearly.

Ever since our local community theater announced that our summer show would be Fiddler, I've been getting ready. In the past shows, I was content to be thrown in wherever a body was needed, chorus or ensemble or background face, but this time I'm ready to express a preference: Golde, the mother, a role that doesn't require the figure of an ingenue or the voice of an angel -- a role in which it's an asset to be a grand multipara. Being a grand multipara is the reason I'm often ineligible, unavailable, or too tired to do the things that I wish I could, and here is a case where it actually gives me an edge.

I've even found the perfect audition songs: Little Girls, from Annie ("Some women are dripping with pearls", sung with just the right amount of contempt for and envy of the late Fruma Sarah), and Something Wonderful, from The King and I. Not only that, but in order to make sure that I was on my A-game, I booted my daughters from their voice lesson slot and spent an hour with their teacher honing my delivery. She advised me to raise my soft palate and provided me with a lot of helpful images, which I share here with you in case you're considering auditioning for a musical:

Sing down a ski slope
Verge of tears
Falling forward
Like a sneeze, or a yawn
Imagine an egg in the back of your throat.

And what do you know? These things made a difference! I've been practicing reaching down for the high F in Something Wonderful and working the phrasing and the dynamics, and it's sounding not inadequate for a community theater production in central Ohio. I could do this. It could be me.

Yesterday my girls came in and told me the news that our theater company wasn't able to obtain the rights to Fiddler and is instead doing Big River this summer.

George Eliot says in Middlemarch:
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, 'Oh, nothing!' Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts -- not to hurt others.
We all have these little mortifications, disappointments to our hopes and our plans and our wills. They're too insignificant to be fully explained to anyone else, and too petty to be indulged in. They can't be taken out on others, and are not even always anyone's fault. And yet the pain is real.

This is the trying-ground for dying to self: not the big ordeal or the major suffering, but the tiny interior relinquishment of my own will. These minor battles are a blessing -- they offer no consequences or trial or pain to anyone else but me, to no real loss to myself, no actual hardship. I only offer up the future I thought I could create.

Jesus tells us that he who is faithful in small things will be faithful in large. I've had a number of these small mortifications lately, adjustments to the image I had of how I might accomplish things or the ways I wish others would perceive me. They pale into nothing at the foot of the cross, and it's when I move away from the cross that they take on an exaggerated significance. Only the cross brings healing and relief from the inflation of my own will. The reality of the cross, the eternally-present sacrifice, grounds me and protects me from trying to manipulate the future to suit my own ends, and the pride that hurts others.

Behold, the cross.


Zagorka said...

Well, if you frame it like this, I almost do not dare to say I'm sorry for your disappointment, but I am amd I do :-)

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Ah, you would have been great in that role.

I know what you mean about small mortifications which is why I've been concentrating on them this Lent.

P.S. I get so much out of your meditative posts.

Bob the Ape said...

Were it not for living on the far end of Pennsylvania, I would have paid money to be at your audition and hear you sing "Little Girls". That song is one of the reasons I pull out my DVD of Annie from time to time and watch it again. (The others are Carol Burnett - one of the greatest comedic performers of our time - and Albert Finney; and their duet.)

Banshee said...

Learning to sing better is never wasted. If not in this life, you get to use it in eternity. (Nyah, nyah, other arts!)

But yeah, it stinks. I hope they pick something good for you, next year.

Still, that's music performance and sacred music too, all over. We work hard and give our all, so that other people will get the gift. And singers particularly have to get used to uncertainty of outcome, while doing our best to make things certain. We're the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air; we just have to trust and do our best.

And there's something beautiful and quixotic about that.

Cristina said...

What a disappointment! I was singing your audition songs along with you as I read this -- hoping I wouldn't swallow the egg in the back of my throat while going down that ski slope. But your conclusion was perfect.

This is a Holy Week post, I know, but I'm here late. Happy Easter!

mrsdarwin said...

Thank you, all! Now that I've had some time to think about it, I'm trying to pivot to songs more in keeping with the Americana/bluegrass/spiritual style of Big River, but perhaps I'm also not taking the lesson of humility that I'm being offered here. Of course, an audition is about putting yourself forward, in your best light, but if there's been a running theme for me this year, it's that I need to take a lower seat at the table before I'm sent there.