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A non-actor’s experience with Show Some Skin

| Thursday, November 29, 2018

I first saw Show Some Skin during my freshman year. It was a powerful performance that I didn’t expect to find at Notre Dame, of all places. I wanted to get involved in some aspect, so I reached out the fall of my sophomore year to the executive producer, who I’d had a class with before, and volunteered to help out. In the midst of me signing up to help organize auditions, I was told I should audition. Coerced is probably too strong a word, but I was definitely strongly encouraged to try it out. There was one catch: I had never acted before. I had never been on a stage before. I am an out-and-proud INFJ and that introversion is very strong, so speaking in front of an audience had never once crossed my mind — except as a cause for anxiety. I conceded a “maybe,” but in my mind I had a firm, resounding “no.” Me? Audition? I had never heard of such mutually exclusive concepts.

But then the idea stuck in my head. A small “what if?” had burrowed its way into my mind without my permission, and I found myself considering the prospect, only to shut it down as soon as the thought arose.

Wednesday morning, the last day of auditions, I woke up, to my own surprise, with a single thought: “I’m going to do it.” I told only one other person of my plan, in order to save myself from the later embarrassment of having to tell my friends and family that I didn’t get it. I didn’t see this as auditioning to perform, but rather an exercise in pushing myself out of my comfort zone. That had been my resolution when I entered college, and this was just one more way to take a jump off the deep end. I would audition to say I once auditioned for something, and then I would go on my way.

I entered a very warm Geddes Hall that very cold evening, and descended the steps to the auditorium in the basement. I signed in, got my packet of monologues, and anxiously waited as names were called. Despite the fact that I’d framed this in my mind as something that wasn’t going to continue past that one day, I was shaking with nerves.

My name was called and I unsteadily walked into the auditorium.

Like I said before, I had never been on a stage before, not even a small one like the one in Geddes. I didn’t know that when you’re on a stage, the lights are so blinding you can’t see anyone in the audience and so hot that the temperature will feel like 99 degrees. I didn’t know what to do with my hands.

I wish I could say this audition was the most powerful moment of my life. In all honesty, it was over in what felt like six seconds. I vaguely remember hearing a voice that didn’t sound like mine and, suddenly, my shaky legs were leading me out the doors.

I felt elated, shaken, in disbelief and mentally drained. I paused before sending out text messages to my mom and my friends. I had told myself I wouldn’t tell anyone unless I got the part — and there was no way I would actually get the part — so I remained silent.

Two long days passed by as I tried to shift the experience into the part of my brain labeled “that was fun, but never again!” I did something way outside of my comfort zone that was healthy self-growth — and enough for me. Unfortunately, I hadn’t actually prepared myself for what to do when I received an email with the subject line “Congratulations!” later that week.

Acting in Show Some Skin was never part of my plan. I got as far as imagining an audition and stopped planning for anything beyond that. The real, and unexpected, step out of my comfort zone was actually rehearsing a monologue for six weeks and performing it three nights in a row in a show that sold out tickets in just a few hours.

I should clarify: I am not an actor. I never was and likely will never perform in anything ever again. But that’s not what Show Some Skin looks for. Yes, we had incredibly talented actors who have spent their whole lives on a stage. We had FTT majors and people whose worlds were centered on theater. We had people who did debate club in high school or who enjoyed giving speeches. And we also had people, like me, who had never performed anything before but felt moved by the mission of Show Some Skin. When you audition for Show Some Skin, you’re not looking to be an actor but a storyteller.

We often say that our show would not exist without the trust and courage of those who submit their stories to be shared. This is true: we are forever indebted to their vulnerability. But our show would also not be what it is without the people who breathe life into these stories, who take on identities that don’t necessarily match their own, in order to stretch the audience’s capacity for empathy. As an actor, you do more than shift words from paper to stage; you undergo an emotional, transformative experience as you work to understand the story behind your monologue. You partake in meaningful, relevant, and powerful conversations with your fellow actors about things we so often push under the rug. You learn about race, gender, sexuality, mental health, class and so many more of the experiences that those around you face. You stay up late at night as the words sink into your memory, and you think, cry, laugh and strive to do justice to the story entrusted to you. You become a conduit, lending your voice to share the experience of someone who often feels alone, invisible and vulnerable on our campus.

Again, I am not an actor. But I am a person who was honored to do my small part in providing a platform for the too-often voiceless. Show Some Skin is more than a show, it is an experience that leaves everyone, from actor to audience, changed in unexpected ways. If you have ever had the desire to do something outside of your comfort zone, if you have ever wished for a chance to be a part of something larger than yourself, if you have ever felt that our campus needs more diverse voices heard, then I encourage you to consider auditioning for Show Some Skin this year. You have nothing to lose, and only beautiful things to gain.

The first night of auditions may be over. But there are still two more opportunities. Auditions are held in the Andrew’s Auditorium of Geddes Hall.

Thursday November 29, 6:00-8:30 pm

Saturday December 1, 12:00-2:30 pm

We are looking for everybody and anybody to audition. No prior acting experience is necessary. Four to five monologues will be provided to you. You will then have an opportunity to read over them and select one. The audition will be a reading of the monologue in front of the production team. There is no preparation necessary.

Even if slots are full, you are more than welcome and encouraged to walk in. Let us know here.

 

Paige Curley can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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