During a recent visit with my parents, the subject somehow came up of my infamous “bargain with God.” I’d long held in my mind that the bargain had been a sacrifice I was willing to make for my sister, but as the years pass I’m more convinced that it was selfishly motivated, possibly even self-destructive.
For those who have never heard the amusing tale of my so-called bargain, here’s the history:
Back in the mid-to-late-nineties, auditions were held for the First National Tour of Nick Hytner’s version of Carousel. Everything about this production was my ideal job. First of all, Carousel was a musical I’d been in previously and I really had a very personal relationship with it. I’ve long felt that the first twenty-or-so minutes of it, especially from Carrie’s initial, “Julie! Julie!” through the end of “If I Loved You” is the most perfect piece of musical theater ever written… the seamless back-and-forth between song and dialogue, the amazing characterization in such a short period of time… really, no stage writers have ever perfected their craft the way Rodgers and Hammerstein did, in my opinion. There may be musicals I’ve loved more than their catalogue as a whole, but I truly believe these men were the masters of the genre in a way nobody else has been able to touch, and Carousel is the best of the best (again, in my opinion). So the idea of working on such a high-end production of a musical I loved so much was amazing to me. Also, I loved the production. The color-blind casting was something I’d wanted to see done in the mainstream for a very long time, and I really felt that Nick Hytner had gotten to the heart of the text in ways that most directors missed. To top it all off, the production had been choreographed by my favorite ballet choreographer, Kenneth MacMillan. Despite the fact that I was not a ballet dancer at all, I spent quite a few years as a huge ballet geek, and had studied his work, especially Romeo and Juliet intensely. I never thought I’d see the day when he worked on a musical theater piece, and furthermore, he’d died during production in London, so it was my one and only chance to ever get to be a part of something he’d choreographed.
So. As you can see, this was pretty much my perfect job. And not unrealistic, either. It was exactly the type of show I might have been cast in. It needed strong singers with corn-fed looks and good acting ability, various body-types. I’d been called in by the casting director, so it wasn’t even an open call (I’d auditioned multiple times to replace someone in the Broadway production). It was perfect for me and I wanted it a LOT. As the auditions approached, my sister, who also had been called to audition, got an offer from this awful cruise line that had treated her really badly in the audition process (told her she needed singing lessons. My sister. Anyone who has heard her sing knows how funny that is.) wanted to hire her for something like a year, and she’d be out of the city and really out of the entire loop of the business for that time. I didn’t want her to go. I didn’t want her to think that she had to take a job like that, where they obviously were going to be real assholes, just for the money, just to have a job. Here’s where the bargain came in.
I decided to try to make a bargain. I said I’d give up all hope of Carousel for myself if my sister could get the job and not go on the awful cruise. I repeated this over and over in bed for several nights before the audition. On the day of the audition, something unprecedented happened. I lost my voice. Pretty much totally. This NEVER happened to me. Ever. By the time of my appointment I had worked it up so that I could sort of sing if I didn’t do anything with an extreme range, and I made it through my audition, though I’m certain I did not wow them at all. Katie (my sister) kicked ass. She got called back. The callback convinced her to turn down the cruise line job (as the job started before the callback date) and ultimately she got the job with Carousel.
At the time I felt like maybe I’d helped. Now, years later, I think that at best it was for selfish reasons (I didn’t want Katie to leave town) and at worst I may have used it as an excuse to sabotage myself. Was I that afraid to have something I really wanted? Was I that scared of happiness? I mean, everything turned out well for me… if I had gotten that job I never would have been in One Touch of Venus which led directly to me getting Master Class. But I still think the “bargain” was selfish or worse.
Do we get to chose our miracles, and what would we really chose?