Why didn't I get a part?
That might not be the best way to start a call to David McClendon, the director of TheatreWorks' upcoming production of Twelve Angry Men, but I want an answer.
Last fall, I memorized a monologue and spent long hours rehearsing for a spot in this classic courtroom drama. For my debut in professional theater, I pictured myself playing the logical juror, or maybe the bitter one. I could even see myself, reluctantly, as the slow-witted one, trying to keep up in a battle over the fate of a young murder suspect.
"So what happened, David?" I ask, grappling with my inner thespian to sound miffed, and not quite unhinged. "Did you lose my number or something?"
McClendon hesitates a moment before answering, then laughs in a tone that could be taken as comforting, dismissive or perhaps slightly nervous.
"That was it," he says, before asking if I came up for the audition from Pueblo.
No. That wasn't me.
This whole thing started as a lark, part of a "confront your fears" challenge proposed by one of my colleagues. Initially, my part was to rattle off some verse at a poetry slam, but then I had a vision: Me, a stage, an audience hanging on my every word ...
Why don't I try out for a play instead?
Granted, I'm an introvert, and have little free time as a new father. But I've done skits, and once starred in a real play. My parents told me I "stole the show" in my sixth-grade class performance.
Though I can't remember the play's name, I'll never forget my lines, which started out (and ended soon after) with the recitation of a poem: "'Who lives in Colorado' by Duke Elmer White, Junior," I declared, elongating the "junior" with a country twang.
To prepare for my Twelve Angry Men tryout, I reached out to some local drama teachers. They told me to find a monologue, memorize it, own it, and emote it.
I picked an obscure piece from a play by Cybele May, in which a police detective talks about a tragic car crash. I memorized hard for the next couple days, and started thinking about delivery only at the last moment. Should the first line — "It was an accident" — come out smooth, or would I need a theatrical pause somewhere?
Walking into the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, I felt like an impostor when the man next to me told the greeter that his "face shots" were in the mail.
The greeter — a young, bleach-blond guy in black suspenders over a white T-shirt — handed me a registration form. Moments later, he contemptuously lowered his chicken-skewer lunch when I asked how to answer a question about the age range I could play.
Long minutes later, McClendon invited me into the classroom. Thankfully, it was just him, but I proceeded to belt out my lines for an imagined audience: "IT WAS AN ACCIDENT."
McClendon stopped me, had me sit down, and asked me to start over.
"The hardest thing about acting is not acting," he said.
Quieter now, I felt myself adapting to the director's demands. I thought little of him stopping me again only five minutes later with a warm, "Thank you." If not the logical juror, maybe he'd see me as the timid one?
Months passed with no call. Meanwhile, my colleague bailed on the "confront your fear" idea, meaning that I alone felt the sting of rejection.
McClendon later tells me that casting took weeks. True to Reginald Rose's script, he's setting the play in the '50s, but adding parts from Rose's screenplay and bucking tradition by skipping intermission. McClendon eventually says he remembers my audition, and he's encouraging, if only in the abstract, about getting a late start in acting. Theater became his life only after he saw his first play at the University of Oklahoma in 1971.
"It's just the magic of it all," he says.
Guess we'll just have to wait and see.