My very first agent in Toronto was a super special lady.
She signed me on the spot. She said it was because she thought I had good energy. To be honest, I think it was mostly because she once had a pen pal from Newfoundland and my mere presence in her office that day brought back warm memories. She was very nervous about my accent, so much so that she would send me out, almost exclusively at the beginning, for roles requiring silence or an Irish accent.
The fact that my first commercial job turned out to be just a close up of my butt swaying by as I delivered a Pad Thai lends weight to the first requirement.
As for the Irish accent, I was sent for any Irish role that even closely suited me. Including roles in Musicals. I can carry a tune, but my skill is not Musical grade. My skill is barely Karaoke grade. But she sent me anyway. For some reason, Irish people were a hot demographic in Toronto Musicals at the time, and my darling Agent was not one to miss out.
She sent me out for one musical audition that required 3 songs and a salty Irish tongue. I learned the songs from a recording left on my voicemail by a sweet singing friend who was kind to help me jump the hurdle of reading sheet music. I arrived at the audition and waited my turn. And then I sang. I belted out the first number like the one kid in glee club who couldn’t sing but was proud that she’d memorized the words. That kid.
Memories of a certain spunky second grade classmate come to mind: screaming the words to “The Banana Boat Song” at our 1990 spring concert. I don’t know why anyone decided to program a bunch of 8 year old Newfoundlanders to sing that song when there was still snow on the ground, but that’s what happened. And as usual, I am getting carried away.
I sang with the fire of ten thousand suns and finished with a flourish and the stale air of silence.
“Why are you here?”, asked the musical director, half jokingly but with enough sincerity that it alluded to genuine concern.
“I go where I’m told.” Said I, “Thank you for your time.”
I lifted my chin and walked the ten paces to the door. I gave it a good push and went straight through it, chest puffed and eyes smiling. I didn’t let myself deflate till I got back to my little apartment. I half laughed and half cried myself to sleep that night.
When I got up the next day, I laughed out loud. No more tears. A brand new day. I lifted my chin, dusted away my nerves and went straight to the next place on my list of places that I was told to be.
It’s turned into a long list.
Oh, it’s a hard slog but I got some good stories. Chin up, keep on walking.