Claudine Jones
Scene4 Magazine-inView

september 2006

Can You Put That Back On?

When I first was out in the world (as opposed to school) I freely admit that I misplaced my audition chops.  I went from continuous involvement in theater to zero, not counting the improvs I did with my kids.  It's true, they never ever heard the same version of Pinocchio or the Sorcerer's Apprentice more than once, nor did they complain about it & I did dress them up for Halloween in custom-made costumes.  And I formed my own little ballet school & taught a hodge-podge of kids & housewives & one postal worker who said her legs got tight from walking all day.  Those things fed my creative side and kept me in the mommy cocoon at the same time, so for some people who expected dinner on the table at 5:30, that was good.  Until I picked up the local rag & saw the word audition. They were doing CABARET and it was maybe five minutes from me as the crow flaps his wings.

Which is what I did.  Sunday mid-day, I made some excuse & flew over to the community center in my community, which I had never before entered. I was the lone auditioner—everybody else had chosen to come on Saturday, I suppose—walking across a huge clattery room with echoing reverb. These folks are going to laugh me outta there.  No sheet music, no resume & holding an empty record sleeve like a security blanket, that contains my lyrics even though I know them.  I get a little light-headed from hyper-ventilating during the song—was that too high? No, I'm just a little nervous—and I do a brief dance routine—do you tap? No, but I can learn—and I hear the magic word callback, before I drift back out to the sidewalk.

Then the trouble started.   

If you're going to be born in an era when ads for jobs read 'help wanted: Men' & 'help wanted: Women' and there was no craigslist to be found for love nor money, you gotta be prepared when the guy you married sez 'you can go out & have hobbies after the kids are grown'.  The gentleman didn't get it.  He really  didn't get it when I returned from my callback floating on air and looked straight through him.  To add to his confusion the cast picnic we went to was a debacle—these were people with whom I was going to be thrown together for three months & they were all nuts! All different colors & there was a big platinum-haired gay costumer & everyone ate & laughed like loonies.  Then they had the gall to start packing up & grab me to head with our director over to her house to do our first read-through.  But wait!  Who's going to take the boys home and clean 'em up and put 'em to bed?  

Not me.

Everyday after that was an adventure: was I going to get the silent treatment when I left for rehearsal or when I got back to a dark house, or both? Was he going to turn to me in bed or ignore me?  One morning he left in a fury & didn't acknowledge my wave from the window; another time he surprised the shit out of me & wished me 'break-a-leg' when I headed over to the center.  My nerves got so bad, I called my director & cried & said I couldn't keep going. She said, 'you know what?  You were exactly what I was looking for when I cast this show; no question.  I want you & I would be very sorry to lose you."  She said some other stuff, but the important thing for me is that she saw through to the conclusion of this episode like a radar: I was going to hate him if I quit.   

So I stuck it out.  I was in great shape, actually.  Dancing up a storm at the theater and chasing kids during the day & laughing a lot in both arenas.  Something had gotten settled inside & I could take the ups and downs, when his mom & his sister announced suddenly that they were coming for a weekend visit from Montana. He said we'd go to the beach and show them Santa Cruz; have a day out in the sunshine. I looked at the schedule & my stomach froze: holy crap--I had a cue-to-cue, followed by a complete run of the show.  There was no discussion.  I called the theater in the morning & lied through my teeth: I said I was worthless, shouldn't waste their time, had severe diarrhea & couldn't be more than three feet away from a toilet.    

The show did open & I did my bit in every scheduled performance for three weekends.  I wore skimpy little outfits (being a KitKat Girl after all) & tapped & did a kickline & wagged my bootie at the audience. I invented more & more backstory for my character; my hair was really long back in those days, so my Girl—Baby Fifi—had a little pedophile thing going with blonde pigtails spiraling down from the top of her head & sucked her finger inappropriately. She had gobs of black eye makeup & a flaming red bow drawn over the edges of my own mouth. The funny part is that, although my guy never saw the show, my extended family did, including my 85 year old granny & she didn't say much, just gave me a hug afterwards.

The support from them was great, but they weren't around.  I had to go back to my life every day.  It was like a countdown to some cataclysm:  I had people I had grown to care about that I was pretty much going to lose, soon, and he was thinking he was going to be getting a wife back.  On the last night, after I left the stage and went to my station in the dressing room, something went wrong. Staring at Fifi in the mirror, I took a swipe at her right eye and smeared away with cold cream; a lump was forming in my throat. My sweet understanding champion of a director approached from the hallway and saw what I was doing.  She wanted pictures of all of us & here I was destroying my creation in front of us both.  She looked kind of sad & she said 'Can you put that back on?'  


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©2006 Claudine Jones
©2006 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues. As a filmmaker, she is doing the final cut of YOUR EAR IS IN YOUR NOSE, destined for release next year or whenever her long time technical task wizard Animator Sam Worf gets his head out of his latest render.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives




Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Performing Arts and Media

september 2006

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