Dear Musicals.Net Posters,
We hate to admit it, but the friendly local community theatre can sometimes be...Hell, and the following story is proof of that:
NOTE: I will not use real names during this story, although a certain, unfair director probably DESERVES to have his real name dragged through the mud!
The year was 1988, and a small community theatre in Southern California was putting on their rendition of "The King & I". The director was a jerk named Sam, and he was going to audition people in January, and have the final choices performing by early June.
The Anna hopeful who finally landed the role was a 23-year-old woman named Deedra; she was married to a local bar-tender, and she had 3 children by him (The first two were both 4-year-old girls, and the third was a 1-year-old boy) , the first two (twins) of whom had been born only a month after she'd married the man. She was a sweet woman, but everybody in town knew that she'd been a tough-luck 18-year-old who'd fallen for the bar-tender too quickly, and that her delicate nerves matched her sweet singing voice.
Well, anyway, Deedra's association with the entire production was tainted from day one! She had to try to win the role by competing with a wealthy, snobbish 28-year-old named Almira; Almira thought that she was God's gift to the theatre world, and she had a habit of winking at Sam after she performed a scene for him.
She was also very cruel towards Deedra, making nasty little remarks about bar-tenders and "their cheap, would-be theatre wives" at every opportunity. Fortunately, Sam saw Deedra's raw talent, and he liked the elegance with which she auditioned as Anna, so she won the role fairly.
Of course, since Almira was given the role of the First Wife, she and Deedra had to work together, and, during the rehearsals, Deedra inwardly swore that Almira kept trying to one-up her, with regards to the sweetness with which she spoke her lines. Deedra tried to avoid allowing Almira to railroad her, but that was not easy to do, because Almira kept complaining about Deedra's "attempts to upstage" her. Whenever Deedra tried to tone her performance down, Sam got upset with her, railing with such phrases as "Where has the PASSION gone? You CLAIM to be passionate about the role of ANNA, but then you make her sound like a HOUSEWIFE! Get your act together...LITERALLY, or you WILL be replaced!" Of course, whenever Deedra tried to become more passionate, and more real, about the role, Almira would have a hissy with Sam, screaming, "She's doing it AGAIN, Sam! She's trying to capture the entire audience with her GAUDY ACTING, so that I'LL be a THROWAWAY character!"
During the rehearsals, the rest of the cast members would frequently excuse themselves for water and bathroom breaks, just so that they could get away from the arguing. Sam could have done something, but he didn't seem at all interested in stopping the problem of Almira's mouth! In fact, he just kept on playing his same old "Where has the PASSION gone to?"/ "Can't you just tone it DOWN a LITTLE, Deedra?" game!
Almira never seemed to tire of the game, but poor Deedra was on the road to a MAJOR meltdown! Her husband Corey, who was about 35, was NOT happy about his wife's position. He had never intended for his loyal wife to join a local theatre group, and he'd only supported her, with regards to her having landed the role of Anna Leonowens, because she'd truly been passionate about playing that role. Deedra's stress was leading to arguments in the home, and Corey was having to leave the house almost every night, in order to avoid loosing his temper with Deedra. The three kids, Daisy, Dorothy, and Michael, were feeling neglected, too, and they were becoming too much for Corey to deal with. Even the baby-sitter was noting Deedra's stress level. Unfortunately, Deedra swore up and down that she WAS going to play the role of Anna, if it killed her!
When the costumes were ready, everybody had to stand before Sam in order to be evaluated. Almira was told that she looked "perfect", while Deedra was told that she looked "too much like a mother," and that she "ought to lose about 10 pounds, at least," so that she'd look "more aristocratic"! She responded by pulling the little boy who was playing her stage son towards her, saying, "Oh, but I AM PLAYING a mother, SEE?" Even the little boy had to agree with her, but Sam didn't see things that way, and so Deedra was pressured to lose the 10 pounds, when she, in fact, weighed only 110 pounds, at about 5 foot 4!
When Corey heard the bad news, he said, "WHAT? You look PERFECT, for someone who's had twins and one MORE! How DARE that stupid jerk call you fat!" He threatened to go down to the theatre, and to force Sam to see things his way, but Deedra went mad, screaming about how she'd rather die than give up the chance to play the role of Anna, so Corey reluctantly agreed to stay away from Sam.
Dieting dangerously, Deedra LOST about 10 pounds, and that was a good thing for the costume lady, too, because she'd gone to a great deal of work in ANTICIPATION of Deedra's weight loss, at the behest of Sam!
Of course, Deedra's weight loss had been dangerous, and it made her moods even more fragile. She would drink too much water during rehearsals, in order to make up for a lack of food, and she'd take too many bathroom breaks, due to the water consumption. She'd sometimes cry for no reason, and she'd frequently get a good lecture from Sam, due to forgotten lines.
At one point, Corey coaxed Deedra into taking a nap, and he DID pay Sam a visit, threatening to pull Deedra from the show, AND to spread the word about Sam's tyranny, should Deedra NOT be allowed to get back up to at LEAST 105 pounds! Sam agreed to Corey's terms, and, within a day or so, Sam let Deedra know about his plan, without telling her that her husband had forced him to allow her to gain some weight.
The poor costume lady, Kristina, had to alter every one of Deedra's costumes AGAIN, but even THEN, Sam was dissatisfied...with Deedra! He demanded that her costumes be tightened with hidden safety pins, that she make her bust look more pointy, etc. NOTHING that she did was ever good enough, and each time that she looked over at Almira, the 28-year-old was being praised like nobody's business.
During one of the dress rehearsals, Deedra cried backstage, before the show, and after an enraged Sam snarled, "Get that makeup redone, or I'LL announce to EVERYBODY that you've quit the SHOW!", she was comforted by the man who played The King. Right before she went onstage, she kissed his cheek, saying, "You really ARE the best guy in this entire show, Lee!"
The show was set to be run during the entire month of June (Friday nights, Saturday nights, and Sunday matinees). After each matinee performance, the entire cast was to get together in the green room, whereupon Sam was to give a full critique of the performance. Well, during the first half of the month, he came down the most severely on Deedra. First, it was her line delivery, which was too intense. Then, it was her ballgown, which was too lumpy, and not "busty" enough! Lastly, it was her hair, which never seemed to please him.
Around the middle of June, right before her Sunday performance, there seemed to be something totally WRONG about Deedra. She had been nervous about having to perform for her husband and kids at the END of June, but she was MORE than just nervous NOW. Before the show, she was sniping about her costumes not being right. She ran onstage late, due to the fact that she just HAD to have one more drink of water, and after her first scene, she raced backstage, grumbling about having to pee. During the Intermission, she was found in the Green Room Ladies' Room, her head bent over a sink for what SHE claimed was a "steam bath". During a crucial scene with Almira, she sort of barked out every line angrily, so that Almira had to cover her surprised reactions quickly.
When the show was over, she raced into the Green Room wildly, sobbing, and ranting about "the divorce" being inevitable. When Lee tried to comfort her, she pushed him away, actually reciting some of Anna's sadder lines, and curling up on a couch defeatedly. Almira approached, gloatingly asking her which pills she was taking, and she sat up suddenly, screaming, "YES, I stole YOUR tranquilizers, and I'll steal MORE if you don't take yourself out of here right NOW!" There were NO tranquilizers, and Deedra was on NO pills of ANY kind, but a major breakdown was just beginning.
Almira ran to get Sam, and when he walked into the Green Room, Deedra screamed, saying, "Get away from me! YOU tell ALMIRA to play Anna for the rest of the month! SHE'S yours, NOT ME!" People began to become afraid, and then Sam made a big mistake; he approached Deedra, attempting to touch her shoulders, in order to sit her back down on the couch.
Well, she went literally insane, screaming. Ripping the neckline of her costume, she ran into the bathroom, screaming things like "I HATE you! Corey and I ARE getting a divorce NOW, because of ME!", etc. When she emerged from the restroom, she was holding a roll of toilet paper in her hand, trailing the toilet paper behind her as she ran; she leaped up onto the couch, crowned herself with the toilet paper roll, looked out above everybody's heads, as in a performance, and said, "Look at ME, oh, King! I AM Anna Leonowens!"
Sam grabbed her roughly, yanking her from the couch, and he forced her into a costume room; backing her against the wall, he lectured her one final time, saying, "You little mental case! You shut up right NOW, and you perform for the rest of the MONTH, or I'LL tell some lies about you that COREY won't like!"
Deedra went crazy again, screaming "Don't TOUCH me! Get AWAY, or I'LL call the POLICE!" She ran from the room, screaming, and Lee ran into the costume room; backing Sam against the wall, he said, "You let her GO, and you cast Almira as Anna, or I'LL leave this show, and I'll take the rest of the cast WITH me, and then the entire TOWN will know about you!"
With that, Lee left the room, gave Deedra a big hug, asked Kristina to help Deedra out of her costume, and promised Deedra that her family would receive a video taped copy of the first night's performance.
Well, Almira had to take over, and Deedra was allowed to go home, and after that month-long showing of "The King & I", Sam lost a TON of actors, etc., including Lee and Kristina.
Unbeknownst to everybody, Sam was one twisted son of a gun. He was a divorced man, and he had his eye on both Almira AND Deedra, even though both of them were married. He sort of wanted Deedra more, though, and he'd been trying to groom her into his perfect kind of woman.
The future is much brighter for Deedra and her family these days. Sam was fired in 1989, and the new director has been there since then. Deedra is now 47, but she's still acting on that same stage. Her twin daughers, who are now 28, are both married, with young children, and they act onstage, in the same town, too. Her son is now 25, and he is the Assistant Director of a community theatre in Oregon!
Did you ever have a super awful audition/ performance story to share?
Thank you in advance for your replies.