I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think of a time when you didn’t think you were capable of doing something, but then surprised yourself.  How will you surprise yourself this week?

(Author: Ashley Ambirge)


Firstly, before I even respond to the prompt, I have to say something about Ashley Ambirge. This girl is amazing.

If you haven’t visited her blog, The Middle Finger Project, you need to. Ashley is filled with passion, humor, and sass. Her writing will make you want to get off your ass and do it already. She’s an inspiration and she reminds me, quite often, that sticking to what “works” isn’t always what’s best.


I’ll never forget the day that I auditioned for Pippin. It was my first musical and I was scared. beyond. belief.

Sure, I had been in a play before, but it was easy then. It was one line. No singing. No dancing. No chance of me ever really having to do anything beyond flitting and smiling (I was a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But now. Oh, no. This was MUCH different.

It all started in chorus class when my choir director announced the school musical. I had never heard of Pippin before. Frankly, my exposure to musical theater was limited to the classics, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Les Miserables. I decided to audition anyway because, well, I liked everyone in the theater troupe and I needed something to do after school. OK – so maybe it got me out of a few track practices too.

I was excited at learning something new, but was scared shitless at the fact that I didn’t know anything about the musical. NOTHING. Not a song. Not a note. Nothing. I was walking into a musical I had never heard of, hoping to at least get a line. Maybe I could be a townsperson. That’s always a great fall back. I could be one of the townspeople and get cast as Woman #14. Just move around a bit and wear a costume. Easy peasy. I was just in it for the camaraderie anyway.

I had to prepare a one minute to two minute monologue and a song. The monologue I found at the last minute. It was something I memorized in study hall and poured over between classes. The song was one of my favorites, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. Must be a Boyle thing.

Three days before the audition, I sang along with the track on my musical highlights CD, mimicing the emotion and movements as Fantine lamented her plight. It was thrilling. It was exciting. It was…what the hell was I doing?

Sweat. Fidget. Sweat.

For the two days leading up to the auditions, that was my life.

I remember sitting in the hallway, pouring over my monologue. A boy (he’ll be mentioned later) came over and asked me how the memorization was going. Not so well. I stumbled as I tried to make it through the outpouring of emotion. Every time I would work myself into some kind of emotion – any kind of emotion – I’d forget the next line. DAMMIT! I thought I had this down by now…

I was supposed to be a twenty-something who was angry with her husband for writing another play. On the bathroom floor no less. It was one of those monologues you find in a classic monologues for teens book. I happened to grab a copy used at a book sale. Every time I read it, I sounded ridiculous. But I needed a monologue and this one seemed to be the easiest to memorize. A few hours and study halls later, I knew the words  – but couldn’t say them the way they needed to be said. Crap. In. Over. My. Head.

The boy was a transfer student from Texas. He didn’t know me all that well and that was a good thing. I could make a fresh impression. I could be somebody else besides an awkward, skinny teenager with braces and zero self-confidence.  He sat down next to me in the hallway and told me to stay calm; that it wasn’t a big deal. He recited his monologue, Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech (Romeo and Juliet), and I just about fainted. Adorable. And he was NICE TO ME.

Well, that was enough to put any girl over the edge. Fluttering butterflies in my tummy. Sweating palms. A monologue that was going to suck hardcore. Yep. I was ready to quit. Goodbye, Woman #14. I hardly knew ye.

I ran into the bathroom and closed myself into a stall. I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I thought about how I wasn’t going to be good at theater ever. Or anything. Wah wah wah….a toilet flushed.  Great. My solitude and pity party was over.

Deep breath. Let’s get this over with.

I walked into the auditorium, monologue book squeezed so tight in my hand that I thought those pages would turn to powder. OK. Here goes nothing.

And then…

It was over.

I remembered the monologue and conjured up some kind of emotion. To this day, I have no idea what the hell it was. All I know is that the directors were laughing – and I  hoped to God that was a good thing. I got daring and moved around a little bit. Put some em-PHASIS on some SYL-LA-bles. I wanted to impress the Texan. You know, trying to be cool and all.

After the monologue was over, I went through the hellish dance audition (I’m as graceful as a linebacker) and the song. Not bad, but twice as nerve wracking. I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to be cast – until an upperclassman told me that pretty much everyone gets cast.

*Whew* Woman #14 was possible after all.

Then the cast list was up. It was posted in the purple hall, the freshmen hall, on the cafeteria window. We all crowded around the paper taped to the glass, hoping to see our names. Bypassing a girl in tears, I made my way to the front.

“THEO……………………………………..MANDY BOYLE”





I completely surprised myself. I thought I bombed the audition. I thought I had sucked – hard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on paper. I was a freshman. Freshmen didn’t get decent parts. But somehow, I did.


EPILOGUE: Pippin was the first musical I ever did. Since my days as a lowly freshman hoping for Woman #14, I’ve appeared in 10 other shows. I even had some good parts too! Theater gave me the confidence to speak the hell up! To move! To do something that scared the bejesus out of me! If I hadn’t auditioned, I think my whole life might have turned out differently  and not in a good way.

Theater was something I never expected to fall in love with or be good at. But it stole my heart, just like the Texan. I had a crush on that boy for YEARS. I still think he had something to do with me getting up the balls to do well at an audition. But hey, I guess that’s the way of it. Confidence can come where and when you least expect it.

Just for today…

I’ll surprise myself by mustering up some confidence in myself – and then – take a chance with it.

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One Response

  1. Very cute post. And by the way, for those who don’t you, the only thing you sweat these days is EXCELLENCE!

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