Unlike a lot of my friends who are currently pursuing an acting/singing career, I did not grow up singing in choir, or being in musicals, taking drama in school. The first time I ever sang in public was my senior year of high school. I joined choir for one semester. My first public solo was the FIRST page of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" from Les Miserables. The rest of the song was too high for me, so my tenor friend sang the other half of the song. (Luckily times have changed and I love to sing that song for concerts!)
It wasn't until I was in my third year of college that I was on a path to becoming a professional singer. I was 21 years old when I sang in my first show - La Rondine by Giacomo Puccini. I sang in the second act ensemble and played a violin solo on stage (the reason I believe I was cast in the first place!)
At the time I wasn't a very good singer. In fact at times I was terrible! But I had a natural bass-baritone and at times when I sang I showed moments of "potential." That first year in the vocal program my teacher and I worked HARD to get my voice put together in a way that was usable. And although it wasn't where we wanted it to be, I was immensely hopeful that I would be allowed to sing Figaro in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro that spring.
The auditions came and went. And much to my IMMENSE disappointment, I was not cast. I thought my chances to perform onstage that semester had been dashed.
At Oklahoma City University the vocal performance majors and musical theater majors audition for all of the productions, musicals and opera alike. Not expecting to be considered for the spring musical, I didn't put much thought into my audition. I sang "If I loved you" from Carousel in a key half step lower than the original key, and poorly I might add.
That semester the spotlight musical to be performed was Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. Much to my surprise I was given a callback for Leon Czolgosz. I wasn't sure what to think initially, but then once I did a little research I was PUMPED.
For the callback they had me sing "The Gun Song" and read a bit of his dialogue in a room in front of the creative team and the eight or so other guys called back for the role. All of them upperclassmen and having done multiple shows, showing a lot of confidence and comfort in that room. I was quaking on the inside but doing my best to walk the walk and talk the talk. I wanted the part so bad and was doing everything I could with the tools that I had to show that I was the right choice. I sang with passion and delivered the dialogue with the best polish accent I could manifest.
After waiting for what felt like an eternity, they posted the cast list and I was ecstatic to see that I was given the role of Leon Czolgosz.
What followed was the two most memorable months of my life as I poured over every word and every note in that show. I listened to the Broadway cast recordings on repeat, by the time rehearsals began I knew everyone's parts by heart. I was so excited to be a part of the process that I would show up to rehearsals earlier than everyone and would pace around the school until others showed up. Every time we blocked a scene I'd pray that we would get to run it at least 20 times so that I could feel what it was like to be a part of this magical process over and over again. Every time I screwed up, forgot a line, sang a note or a phrase incorrectly (which was frequently) I would practice it over and over and over again on my own time.
I wanted to be great. I wanted to be memorable and to be noticed. And in the sad, angry, righteous, scared and scarred skin of that polish immigrant I found a part of myself I didn't know I could show to the world. I found a home in someone's story and felt the need to tell it and share it with others. I felt compelled and excited not just by my own success but by the material itself.
That's when I knew that I not only wanted to be an actor/singer...but that I COULD be. And I didn't just love it, I developed a need. A Craving! In other words I become...
Until next time,
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look your absolute best doing it!
Kasey (Ol') Yeargain