I decided to go to an ECC. I haven’t been to one in 6 years. (An ECC stands for Equity Chorus Call. Basically, anyone can go audition since it’s not based on an appointment.) I went to an ECC of a new show coming to Broadway this season that I could personally take or leave. If the stakes were high, I’d ask my agent. Plus I wanted to see what it was like.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were HUNDREDS of girls. I think I was #176, and there were many more after me. There were so many girls that the monitor announced that if you weren’t in the Union, to just go home. On top of this, we were only allowed to sing 16 bars.
I’m sorry, what?! 16 bars?! That’s barely a chorus to a song! How can I express a full arc in 16 bars?
I looked around the room. My spirit was in disbelief and also downtrodden. I cannot imagine trying to get on Broadway realistically from something like this. How is someone supposed to stand out amongst the crowd and be more than a number? How on earth are you supposed to get noticed and picked out from the crowd? My heart broke.
I had a healthy handful of friends in the room and I just kept asking them, “Is this real? Is this real.” They would tell me, “Yeah girl. It’s audition season.” I was so humbled. I’d been booked for years and I have the best agents a girl could ask for. But I was in the same room as all these girls. We were all equals and I wasn’t better than anybody else.
There was an air of anxiety and panic. I didn’t realize how heavy the spirit of anxiety was until I ran upstairs to an appointment I had for a new show. Up there on the 12th floor — it was a different world. For starters, the floor had only a small number of people. The hallways weren’t filled. There was peace. A spirit of ease. Even though this appointment had much higher stakes, and was something I wanted, I felt much more calm, grounded, and free.
The director walked out, “Hey Salish! Just gonna run to the restroom. I’ll be right back!” Fast forward to when I was in the room: I like to pretend I’m an older white man when I audition. I take up a lot of space, physically and energetically. And I take my time. If I need a moment, I take a moment. I did my audition. Felt good about it. Then I headed back down to the 3rd floor for my ECC.
As soon as those elevator doors opened to Floor 3, I was immediately transported back to a world of panic and anxiety. The tension so tight, you could slice the air with a knife. I got back just in time to line up for my group. I had to choose a fierce 16 bars.
Back in the day. I would ordinarily choose the safest 16 bars as to ensure I wouldn’t miss any notes because every note mattered. On this day, I laughed in the face of fear. I figured, ‘all these girls? I have nothing to lose! They aren’t going to notice me in that room!’ I chose my fiercest 16 bars with notes at the top of my belt.
The girl in front of me reeked of desperation. I prayed I wouldn’t reek of carelessness. Everyone walked in and out. Boom Boom Boom. So fast. Nothing to lose I thought. Might as well just relax and have fun and just go for it. They won’t know me and they won’t remember.
It was my turn. I walk in the room. I know the casting associate. “Hey Salish!” She says. I sang my little 16 bars. I hit every note. I sang from my hoo-ha. It was over in like 10 seconds. The guy behind the table has a question but isn’t saying anything. I decide to not run out the room but instead wait for him to spit it out. He speaks: “How high can you belt?” I say, “Well that was an F.” He thinks. I wait. I tell him that I just tell people I’m an alto. Because I know I’m good at being an alto 8 times a week. The higher stuff I can do.... I just don’t feel like it.
Two days later, I get a callback. My agent says they want to see me dance. He knows I usually pass on the dance stuff but asks how I feel about it. Honestly, I was feeling confident since I’d been in dance class and dance callbacks a lot lately. I said, “Let’s do it.”
YALL. When I tell you I just KNEW I was about to book this show. They told me I could just wear my tennis shoes. I was like, Oh man. They really need someone. I GOT THIS. (You already know what’s coming. Wait for it.) I drilled the callback song and felt like a rock star. I couldn’t wait to sing it for them. I just had to get through the dance. No prob.
The night before the audition, I get an email from my agent. “Hey Salish! One little thing. Casting just asked that you bring your tap shoes and heels tomorrow.”
My TAP SHOES? My tap shoes?!?! Do I HAVE tap shoes? If I do, I haven’t put them on since 2012. And they aren’t high heel tap shoes. AND they’re bedazzled. Oh gawd. Pep talk: I got this. I got this. I don’t got this. Come on! YOU GOT THIS. It’s a state of mind, Salisha!
I go into the audition the next day. Got there an hour early to snag a practice room and do a full warm up. Afterwards, I arrive to the holding room. I don’t recognize any of the girls in the room. This is important because when I don’t know ANYBODY, it’s usually because they come from the Dancer world of Broadway. Half the room was warming up in the splits. Dear Lord, what is about to happen right now... I’m not fully freaking out yet, but I’m still stupidly VERY confident.
We’re led into the dance audition room. I take my spot smack dab in the middle—in the front row. Stupid, stupid girl. Honey I’m lookin cute. Feeling good. You can’t tell me NOTHIN.
We start learning the dance. The first count was a high kick to the face. THE FIRST COUNT WAS A HIGH KICK TO THE FACE. THAT WAS THE FIRST COUNT!
How can I keep this short but explain how this dance call made me feel? It was as if I’d gone in for An American in Paris. Or to ABT to replace Misty Copeland. It was the hardest dance call I had ever been to—IN MY LIFE.
I started looking over at the door... thinking, ‘Girl... You could just leave.’ But I stuck through it a little longer. I couldn’t believe no one had questions. So I started asking questions in a valiant attempt to not just give up. But it was too late. I would have needed to start dance classes when I was 4 to get through this audition. I remove myself from the front row and walk to the back of the room, defeat beginning to set in. The choreographer says, “Yeah! Let’s everyone switch lines!” LOL
From the back of the room, I observe the girls. And I quickly realized... “Salish... honey... You are the weakest link. Goodbye.” Could I fake my way through it? Nope. Can I rock it in a group of 3 for the creative team? HELL no. LEAVE. NOW.
I walk over to the guy at the table. He looks up at me with these striking blue, sympathetic eyes. We stare at each other as I begin to shake my head. And I say with a smile, “This isn’t for me.” He said the nicest things. I then walked my butt across the room, picked up my taps shoes and heels, and exited the space.
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at my audacity or to cry that I completely threw in the towel. I would decide in the bathroom stall. On my way to the ladies room, I run into my friend. She says, “Girl! How’d it go?! It’s over already?!” I looked at her and held in my secret shame until I blurted out, “I WALKED OUT!”
“You WHAT?!” We both burst into fits of laughter as I tried to explain what they attempted to have me do up in that room!
Five minutes into my recounting the story, a girl walks up to me and says, “Salisha? Hi. I’m so sorry that we put you through that in there. We have no idea what we want this track to be yet. Can you come back and sing at 1:45?”
Both me and my friend at the same time let in the teeny-tiniest surprised inhale of breath. And as CALMLY as possible, I said, “Yes.” She leaves. I turn to my friend. We both have disbelief in our eyes, “WHAT?!” Oh. My. Gawd. I got the callback. And I didn’t have to humiliate myself to do it. Thank you God.
I went. I sang the crap out of that song for the FULL team. Don’t know if they’ll pick me or not and it doesn’t matter. What I learned from this whole experience is that it’s important to take risks, to listen to your own intuition, and to know your limits. That ECCs aren’t fake auditions. The moral is not to throw in the towel when things get hard, but to know yourself and your limits and to be realistic. To stop caring so dang much about what people think, but to prepare the things you can control.
My goal for 2020 is to grow some balls. I don’t plan
on walking out on other auditions. But I do plan on acting on my deep impulses and trusting that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Photo by RM Hunt