I recently crafted a new website where I posted my audition video for musical theatre.
I am gearing up to audition for several 2020 summer stock companies and 2019 Christmas shows being produced along the front range of Colorado.
Scoring Mrs. Fezziwig last year in The Longmont Theatre Company production of A Christmas Carol was amazing. But I have decided that is the last show I will do out of my wheelchair with no oxygen supplementation.
I kept my concentrator backstage on show nights and every time I came offstage I hooked up to increase my saturation. But I had several really scary moments, especially during the Fezziwig party scene when Mr. F and I had to waltz.
I did not tell the directors of my disabilities, focusing instead on delivering a knockout audition and always showing up to rehearsals on time and ready to go.
I volunteered to choreograph the dance scene because I wanted to make certain we danced a waltz instead of a polka and I kept the movement very slow with nothing aerobic and lots of arm movements.
If we had polka’d around the stage I would not have been able to do it.
I had three mini bouts of illness during rehearsals and missed a whole week of blocking with yet another eye infection.
There were no understudies, and I was really nervous about tech week. We had an eight hour tech that sent me over the edge and I missed the first dress rehearsal. I have to use extreme judgement when in a singing show in terms of my energy levels, dehydration, and overall stamina.
That eight hour tech came after a key performance with the choir I direct, so it was a big long 14 hour day. I dehydrated down to a worn out prune, even though all I ate that day was green grapes.
If I become truly ill the first thing to go is my singing voice. And it is nearly impossible to sing at this high of an altitude when you are dehydrated.
I had a really big solo in the second act during Tiny Tims death scene, plus I sang during intermission with some kids in the cast and also during the party scene.
So despite the extreme frustration of my director, I spent a day rehydrating instead of attending that first dress.
I had one major breathing incident during a later dress rehearsal that scared me enough to shift to full offense with my efforts to perform without passing out on stage.
When we opened the show I went to extreme measures with my diet.
On show days I ate a small bowl of homemade vegan granola with rice milk in the morning and on the way to the theater I bought four ounces of wheat grass juice.
Wheat grass is incredibly oxygenating to the blood.
Heavy food in my digestive system makes it more difficult to breathe. So I ate high protein meals on non show days and barely anything on show days. Our two Sunday performances I was not able to buy the wheat grass because IntaJuice was closed and so I had those performances to compare. I definitely received a huge burst from the wheatgrass.
The chronic hypoxia I struggle with showed up shortly after I was exposed to some chemicals in 2006 that burned the tips of my bronchial tubes and caused scar tissue to form. I already had childhood asthma and have struggled with high altitudes since I came out west from the midwest in 1991.
I also have extreme S curve scoliosis in my spine and as I have gotten older my rib cage is collapsing into my left lung and compressing my diaphragm. It is becoming increasingly difficult to walk and because one of my legs is longer than the other I am always nervous about falling.
These are the conditions that I have largely hidden away from casting directors for the past seven years since I started back on the stage with CVCT’S production of Annie.
At the Tonys this past year I observed Ali in a wheelchair getting the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and I had the thought, “maybe instead of killing my live performances, admitting to my disabilities and using my tools might just be the beginning of a less stressful time in the performing arts.”
Directing our Longmont Stake Family Choir in my chair and on oxygen was a game changer for me.
Instead of fretting about standing during a ninety minute rehearsal, I comfortably sat while fully oxygenated and guess what?
I did it!