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Come as You Are—A True Audition Story

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Lights up. The scene: Another audition, another dank hallway, another hot morning. JEN, an actress, enters, sits, relaxes, and goes over her sides. BUBBLEHEAD, another actress, exits the audition room, a bit flustered.

BUBBLEHEAD

Um—excuse me. I'm a little confused. This side we have to read, I—

JEN

Yeah? You read for Janis Joplin, right?

BUBBLEHEAD

Yeah. Her. Well…how did she know Kurt Cobain?

(Time freezes. JEN, mouth agape, turns to the audience.)

JEN (to audience)

Had you bothered to do an iota of research on the character you and I were both called in to audition for today—Janis Joplin—you would know that she was a flamboyant American rock singer born in Texas in 1943 who rose to fame during the late '60s, and that her biggest hit was "Piece of My Heart" and that she played Woodstock…. Wait, why am I having this conversation with myself? Or with you? You don't know who Janis Joplin was? How can you not know who Janis Joplin was? Not that you have to own all her records, but come on.

(Time resumes.)

JEN (to BUBBLEHEAD)

No. Janis and Kurt didn't know each other. Janis Joplin died. In 1970. (to audience) This girl is looking at me like I just told her Kennedy got shot and she thinks I'm talking about Jamie Kennedy, not even Ted, which would be funny if it weren't tragic.

BUBBLEHEAD

Oh. (beat) Who's Kurt Cobain?

(Time freezes.)

JEN (to audience)

This is worse than the time I tried to sing a Beatles song at a musical audition and, despite handing over sheet music, the accompanist "didn't know it." (to BUBBLEHEAD) Nir...va...na. Kurt Cobain was in Nirvana.… "Smells Like Teen Spirit," grunge, Courtney Love, killed himself…? (to audience) Oh, that's right, I forgot—you have no clue who Kurt Cobain is because "theatre people" don't listen to rock 'n' roll. Bubblehead, you've buried your head in Method and Meisner and paid thousands of dollars to learn how to belt B over high C, plus you've memorized every Sondheim musical and stalked poor Idina Menzel outside the stage door every night instead of living a normal life. There are too many like you out there—so-called "professional" actors who don't own televisions, see movies, listen to pop songs, or watch commercials. How can you call yourself an actor if you don't acknowledge the world outside Broadway? No, you're not alone. Casting directors and producers all too often list in casting notices to "come prepared with a rock song." To me—someone who saw Nirvana play live—"rock" means Janis, Kurt, and John-Paul-George-Ringo, not Rent. So, Bubblehead, thank you for proving what I have speculated for years: that the insularity of Broadway will be its downfall. That the "jukebox musical" is theatre's last-ditch attempt to make up for the fact that it has failed to adapt its sound to modern ears. That in 10 years the musical theatre will exist only as a novelty, a bygone sound for bygone tastes. This was an audition for a play, yes, but if working New York actors don't know who Janis and Kurt are, I shudder to think of who else they've never heard of.

(Time resumes.)

JEN (to BUBBLEHEAD)

Kurt Cobain killed himself in 1994.

BUBBLEHEAD (more confused)

Oh. Well, break a leg.

JEN

You too.

Fade to black.

JEN (in darkness)

Metallica, 1984!

Jen Ryan (SAG/AEA) is the author of The Imaginary, All-True Leni Riefenstahl Show, a play about the controversial filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Jen has appeared Off-Broadway, in commercials, and in sketch comedy, and has recently begun vocal training at $60 an hour in the hope of singing The Sex Pistols at Equity open calls. Please visit www.thelenishow.com and listen to Black Sabbath.

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