At the age of 14, I had dreams of being a theater kid. Like all awkward children, I imagined transcending my station in life and being the center of attention. This didn't work out—I only auditioned for one play and was asked nicely by the casting director if I could read my lines as a two-year-old. You can imagine how humiliating that was. Theater people are fucking batshit crazy nuts, but at that age, I didn't have enough life experience to understand that.
Eleven years after that failed audition, my friend Jackie walked into my apartment one day to convince me that I should get back into the acting game. “The only headshot I have is one when I was 13,” I shouted. Her face lit up, and before I knew it, we were on our way to auditions to be Disney characters on the Disney Cruise Line.
Like any living human being, I love Disney stuff: Disney movies, Disneyland, Disney World, all of it. Also, I'm a native Los Angelino, so obviously I’ve been to Disneyland more times than I can count. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t secretly dream about being a Jungle Cruise skipper from time to time. (I would take that job in a heartbeat if I didn’t suspect that would mean living on the wrong side of the poverty line.) So I decided it was time to go to this audition to “lift the veil,” so to speak, and stare directly into the flames (interpret that double meaning as you will).
We jetted over to that jewel of the Nile known as North Hollywood, California. As we pulled up, Jackie leaned in and asked a crucial question: “What if they actually pick one of us?” Good point. It had been a scant handful of years since I did anything resembling musical theater (karaoke doesn't count), and I didn't think I was ready to take the stage on some cruise ship before hundreds of cranky kids. SPOILER: I didn't need to worry.
When we arrived, I immediately noticed that all the Disney employees resembled a first draft of a cartoon character, the ones the artists sketch and then instantly crumple and toss away. Every person who had authority at the audition looked like that, and had this unbelievable amount of pep. They were cheerleaders for the world, life coaches for life itself.
A tall drink of water I will lovingly refer to as Goof-ayyyy (emphasis on the ayyyy) entered the room in a flurry of Pitch Perfect quotes, quickly alerting his fellow auditioners that he was the most fabulous bitch they would ever see. He was greeted by a veritable who's who of drama school stereotypes. The "Geisha Preteen" who had layered on an “Am I Pretty Now, Mother?” amount of blush; the dancer with the thong leotard and tiny shorts that barely covered her rear; the six-foot-two 18-year-old who paced back and forth in front of the entire rehearsal room. Oh, and don’t think I forgot about "Girl Reading a Dog-Eared Copy of Les Miz in the Corner." We all know how she mistakes scenes from A Chorus Line for childhood memories because she's seen it so many times.
A man appeared in front of the auditioners—he must have been from Disney corporate because he was the only one with a beard, and I assume you need to suckle from the bosom of Walt's ghost himself to be granted the privilege of making your own grooming choices. “We’re not looking for dancers,” he said. “We’re looking for storytellers.” That was a relief to hear, because I thought they were looking for dancers. “And you know, sometimes you’ll have to wear a costume and that could be a lot of fur to get your story through!” The crowd literally had a premature stroke.
A single orb of light walked out and introduced himself as the choreographer. He was Adderall incarnate. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” came on the speakers and the choreographer looked ready to start dancing—then he stopped, stepped to the side, and reemerged with what he referred to as his "special choreography scarf."
The man had no hair, and I don’t think he even had eyelids. We were all taught the routine and separated into groups, and this is when shit got really, really real.
Goof-ayyyy marched out and did a full lap around the rehearsal space before taking his mark. Then the music started and his routine began with about 30 seconds of improvised dancing only to be interrupted by the confusion his own feet had with the dance moves. But Goof-ayyyy had this shit on lock. He proceeded with a flawless Goofy impression and pretended to laugh beneath a four-fingered glove, slappily falling over himself with grace.
I was actually shocked he was able to perform such a feat without an older sibling scoffing at him from his bedroom doorway, as I’m certain that had been the only way he’s rehearsed it thus far.
Finally, it was our turn. I gulped down nervous saliva, stretched my legs quickly behind a girl who looked like goth Lea Michele, and took the stage. This was my moment, my chance to prove that I did have the chops to be “leading lady material" instead of “back and off to the side chorus material.”
Well, that didn’t happen. I danced with a smile plastered on my face, pretended just hard enough to have fun, messed up every kick, and then, anticlimax complete, took my seat again in the back of the room.
As Jackie and I were returning to her car amid the zombie walk of crestfallen hopefuls who smile-cried their way to their stage moms' arms, we were overcome with a sense of relief. We tried, we predictably didn’t get past the first round, and we were the same people as when we arrived, which is to say, pretty OK.
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