Just me & my headphones

Time for a little update. How awesome it is to have a Sunday evening to write! It’s been awhile. There’s nothing quite like an evening to wear glasses, put on some compfy pants, bake cake, and just breathe a little.

And speaking of things to be thankful for, tonight I’m feeling particularly thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to dip my hands into a varied assortment of projects this first sleep-deprived, hectic month in Chicago.

I think–if I’m counting correctly–in only one month of work, I’ve been involved in audition sessions for half-a-dozen different shows.

And, of course, the variety doesn’t stop with the show title. Each production’s audition process, and each and every individual audition session within that process, is unique in format, structure, focus, etc. Some of the sessions have been understudy auditions, others prescreens or callbacks, director’s sessions or open calls.

And that’s half-a-dozen shows worth of different characters played by unique actors who fit every unique type.

Out of all the different auditions and auditionees I’ve encountered, though, today was without a doubt, the most heartwarming group so far.

Nearly 200 children came to our open call to audition for the annual “A Christmas Carol.”

I monitored a table outside one of the two audition rooms, lined up children in groups of ten, and then every half hour, prepared the next group for their two minutes of singing a verse of a Christmas carol and saying a memorized poem. I even had the chance to sit in on the last few kids to audition.

It’s a tough call, but I think my favorite were the three sisters, all a few years apart, long hair braided, cute dresses, and mom in tow, lined up to audition in the same room back-to-back-to-back.

“That would’ve been me,” I told them. One of the girls then informed me that the other two were wearing all her clothes. She was not happy about this.

“This is mine, and this is mine, and–is this mine too!?” she quizzed one of her sisters.

Yup. Definitely could relate to that.

While I was waiting for the next half hour to arrive–and while no parents were asking me when they’d find out whether or not the child made it, or how many kids we were casting, or asking if they could quick add something to their child’s resume, or telling me all the other shows their lovely child had been in recently–I started to make a list of some of the top things I feel I’ve learned in a month here in the city.

Here were five that made the top (or close):

(1) Headphones are ingenious. Or rude. Or calming. Or life saving. Or.

For better or for worse, with headphones, you can do anything. You can listen to music. You can listen to books. You can watch movies. You can call home. You can look busy. You can look as alert as always. You can avoid who you need to avoid and you can coyly make contact as necessary. You can also tune out on the world. (Use with caution.)

(2) North Dakotans must talk very funny.

Because when I say I’m from South Dakota, I’ve been told–on multiple occasions–that, “wow, you don’t have that much of an accent!” This comment has been followed by, “I had this friend/person/relative I knew from North Dakota…”

Clearly, North Dakotans talk funnier than South Dakotans. I remain unconvinced that the general population knows this. Rest assured, I’m doing my best to educate.

(3)  It’s a small, small world.

I think I feel this way especially because I am in the theatre community–which, as I think any Chicago actor will tell you–is definitely a community. There’s quite a bit of everybody-knows-everybody.

I also feel this way attending a Mennonite church. Again, probably not much of a surprise (talk about community!), but when you’re interacting (aka, bumping into, avoiding, seeing, etc.) with so many people all the time, finding connecting points seems strange and almost amusing–no matter where you are.

One example: One morning at church, I introduced myself. Afterwards, the worship leader (a young guy, about my age), came up to me and said, “You’re a Hofer? Are you from South Dakota? I’m from South Dakota!” Turns out he’s the nephew of the local camp cook, is from Huron, and works now in Chicago right next door to the apartment of one my Goshen College friends who just moved to town.

I just think those kinds of things are kinda cool.

(4) …But even though it’s a ‘small world,’ there’s only so much of you to go around.

I’ve learned a lot about my personal limitations this month. For instance, I’ve learned that I don’t always know when I’m pushing myself too much, until the quality of my work starts to show it.

I also learned that especially when your someplace like Chicago, there’s so very much to do–so much I want to try and explore!–that the biggest obstacle is learning HOW to stretch yourself, WHEN to stretch yourself, and how to take a step back and just BE. (This is made exponentially more difficult by a little thing called ‘money.’)

This particular lesson is definitely one of my focus points for month #2.

(5) And, appropriately going full circle, my last mini lesson so far: A Christmas Carol will be  adorable.

If for no other reason than the seven lucky children who are cast. Because trust me, there were so many adorable children. And what a blessing to be surrounded by their energy and enthusiasm on this lovely first day of autumn!

My perch at “A Christmas Carol” auditions today.
One of the last kids to audition. Adorable. Seriously.

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