The main thing I realized while waiting in line for my Star Wars, Episode VII audition is that socks are an essential part of life.
Possibly more important than socks is the fact I auditioned for the movie Star Wars, Episode VII. It’s true. They were looking for a female lead, 17 years of age. 28 isn’t that far off. They wanted athletic! Do my intermittent office squats count? And beautiful! I had just sprouted a chin pimple that day.
Disney announced they’d be holding open casting calls in various cities around the world, and my city, Chicago, happened to be on the list. At first, this barely phased me—not just because I’m a Star Wars dilettante but because I hadn’t auditioned for anything since arthritis ended my dance ambitions. But after a mundane day of analyzing the severity of my tennis elbow and answering questions about whether basketball was a possible major at arts college, I decided I had nothing to lose.
Pre-audition, I had some naive, borderline delusional thoughts including:
· “I bet it won’t be too bad.”
· “Maybe I have a chance! It’s a random weekday, in the middle of the day.”
· “Who would actually go to this?”
People like me do. The types who sit in their windowless offices daydreaming about fighting across a fictitious universe of 70s-looking creatures while sporting Princess Leia-style buns. Did I mention I’ve never acted in my life?
No one was more aware of this fact than my husband, who upon learning of my impulsive endeavor asked, “How long can a quarter-life crisis affect you?” I brushed away his comment with a nonchalant flick of my free hand, while the other hand was holding the script I’d printed off the Star Wars website. “Come well prepared,” it said.
So, on a random Wednesday afternoon I found myself in spandex (prepared to show off my high kick, chorus-line style) and wearing an unusual amount of makeup. At 3 p.m. I dismissed myself from the office for a “dentist appointment,” feeling secretly mischievous about my afternoon adventure. Two buses later, I finally arrived at the Park West theatre in Lincoln Park and noticed a short line out front. Not bad, eh? As I turned the corner, however, eight city blocks of hopeful 17-year-olds were revealed. Athletic! Beautiful!
Where are all of the nerds dressed as Ewoks and Gartos and Dashta Eels and Lava fleas?
I glance down at my resume; a long list of dance performances and admissions experience stares back at me. I have a choice: Recognize my sad reality— I’m one of a gazillion hopefuls who itch for stardom— or indulge in my fantasy for a little while longer. Choosing the latter, I make the long walk to the back of the line, my flicker of hope too difficult to extinguish.
An hour into it, I am freezing (it’s October, 30 degrees and I’m wearing ballet flats) and thinking, “This is stupid.” Friendliness is fizzling as the line inches toward the door. One guy embarks on a voyage of intense name-dropping. There is an onslaught of competitive eyeballing. My neighbors are rattling off credentials and noteworthy experience. The look on their faces when I tell them I studied dance, not acting, is similar to the face of a male cashier when you buy over-the-counter UTI medication— equal parts pity, amusement and disgust.
Two hours in, it is dark, colder and the smell of Halloween and disappointment starts wafting over the line. Out of boredom, I point to a hooded man across the street and mutter something about child molestation. Later in the evening, the hooded figure is bringing his daughter a blanket from the car to keep her warm while she waits for her audition. It then occurs to me my lust for stardom is approaching a dangerously inhumane level.
Three hours in, my husband calls: “Where are you? We’re supposed to meet Alex in like twenty minutes for the movie!” I say something miserable about really wanting to get inside and shake hands with the casting directors, even if they say: “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.”
After I hung up, there was a disturbance in my forest. False expectations for the night collided with reality, disintegrating somewhere in a deep, dank chamber of my stomach. My breath became labored and Darth Vader like. I realized I knew no one in this line and was a decade older than most. This realization, combined with my sockless feet, now stiff as chunks of arctic land, and disappointment about not seeing J.J Abrams in the flesh, produced a heavy, circulating cloud of guilt. I didn’t use to feel this guilt as a 21-year-old when I would roll down steep hills in 20-degree weather or drink whisky out of a thermos in broad daylight. I suddenly envisioned the word “SPONTANEITY” receding horizontally into a galaxy far, far away.
An intern appeared on the curb of the sidewalk and shouted— “They cut the line. If you want to hand in your resume, do so here.”
Aging causes disillusionments of sorts. While waiting in line, I began to wonder if my extemporaneous yester-years were starting to flicker like a broken lightsaber. This post quarter-life spontaneity was starting to interfere with the important things in life, including showing my husband and friends I cared enough to make the movie.
I bolted over, cut through the crowd and threw my resume over heads into the arms of the disheveled intern. Sprinting down the middle of the street I tried to Jeti-summon a cab.
Some has-been performers wish for a comeback. Despite my non-dance achievements, I continued to search for a break, a way of escaping adulthood and entertaining my youthful but unfounded reveries. For three hours, I’d been waiting in line for something, maybe for my adolescence to start all over again. Instead, I decided to run from those years and headfirst into a new day, a new beginning.
Mostly, I just wanted to get home to warm socks.
(Photo by Chanté Robinson)