Monday, May 25, 2015

Off and Running!!
Well, the system is finally fully planted. More or less. Might add another pepper plant or two. :-)
We had a bunch of seeds that we received free a few years ago, and figure they're a good risk for this system. If they don't sprout, we're not really out much. In order to improve the chances that they would sprout, I soaked them in warm water for 24 hours before putting them in the system.
The easiest way I could figure out to do this was to put them in ziplocks.
Then staple the bag the seeds came in to the ziplock. Those seeds tend to start looking alike after the 5th or 6th bag, and that was the only way I think of to keep them labeled. 
Then I put them all in a gallon ziplock, and let them sit on the table till I was ready to plant them.
The weather outlook finally looked warm enough to do the final planting on Friday, May 22. Here's the flat of transplants. Notice how wilted a lot of them look.
And here's the system fully planted:
 It's normal for plants to experience something called "transplant shock" when removed from one growing spot and placed in another. I was expecting some major shock and wilting when I changed all the plants over, since I had to not only remove them from their containers, but rinse as much of the soil from their roots as possible. I found it easiest to do this by dunking the root system into a large bowl of water and swishing the dirt off. This sounds easy. Don't be fooled. It was a mess, and took much longer than I expected. Having to handle, squish, and irritate the roots that much had me convinced it would take a while for the plants to rebound, if at all. The following are pics taken right after transplanting side by side with pics taken of the same plants 3 days later. 
Full system (notice the tomato plants on the second row!)
Right after transplant:
                   3 days later
Bell Pepper (2 hours after the first pic was taken, the plant was almost completely sideways and limp)
Friday:                                                                                              Today:
Butternut squash. (I think they're even grown!) 
 Everything seems to be pretty happy. As I figured would happen, some of the seeds got displaced by the water flow and caught by the screening at the end of the channels. What I didn't expect was for them to seem to thrive there. I *think* these are swiss chard seedlings (they could also be spinach). It will be interesting to see if they are able to actually grow successfully there.
 And I found our very first bean sprouting today!
 The broccoli seeds and swiss chard seem to be sprouting nicely.
And the fish seem to have settled in as well. We did lose one large lionhead to some sort of fungus. I was worried until I discovered that, at the store, the fish from the same batch had the same fungus. This is why you should only purchase your fish from a reputable place with a good return policy.
(In case you don't know, I actually work for Petco, and all the fish came from there. Every other fish, beside that lionhead, is doing fantastic and growing. The lionhead was replaced per their guarantee.)
 This shot shows the black moor, two large lionheads (from a different batch than the one we lost), two pearlscales, a fantail, and some of the extraordinarily nice comets. Yes, I broke my rule of not combining single tails with broadtails.  But these comets have unusually long fins, which slow them down considerably. Plus, since I actually WANT some excess waste, I can overfeed quite a bit to make certain everyone gets fed.  I'm still on the lookout for one or two really nice orandas, preferably blues or calicos, and maybe a really nice calico fantail or two. We'll see.
I've been testing the water pretty consistently, and am amazed at the steady results. This many small and med goldfish (many of them are 4-6" long) in this size system will usually overwhelm everything with ammonia very quickly. My ammonia has never gone above a slight risk, and nitrites and nitrates remain at zero. The plants seem to be doing their job, and enjoying it. Even with water temps in the low 60's, the fish are eating well and being active.
I'm hoping to take weekly pics to chronicle the growth and development of the system. I imagine we will need to add something to support the tomato and possibly the broccoli plants once they start to fruit. Here's a full listing of what we've planted:
Oregano - transplant and seeds
Basil - transplants and seeds
Lettuces - seeds
Tomatoes - 4 different varieties - transplants
Parsley - seeds
Spinach - seeds
Swiss Chard - seeds
Peppermint - transplant
Spearmint - transplant
Butternut Squash - transplants
Chives - seeds
Pepper - transplant
Broccoli - seeds and transplants
Beets - seeds
Carrots - seeds
Thyme - transplant
Cucumbers - 2 varieties - transplants
Beans - 6 or more varieties - seeds
Summer squash - 4 varieties - seeds
Watermelon - 2 varieties - seeds
And that's where we sit. 19 feet of growing space. Will all of these survive and actually produce? Only time will tell! Stay tuned!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Finally, a moment to update!
Life has been more than a bit crazy lately, but the great fish and plant experiment continues apace.  I actually managed to get a few pic to show you all what's been happening.
For those of you new here, my husband and I decided to try out a vertical aquaponics system to grow some veggies and herbs. If you'd like more details, check out the blog entry just before this one. 
This is our blank slate, with all the supplies in one place. (Ignore the ladder. We had to find a new place to store it.)


 This is the 50 gallon tub that became the fish tank. It wasn't strong enough to maintain its shape on its own once it was filled with water, so I ended up building a simple wooden frame for it. (You'll see it in a later photo.

 We decided to use red lava rock as our growing media. 

 Here's the lid of the tub with the holes marked to create screens to allow air in but keep leaves, etc out. I cut one hole smaller than the other, then used the larger piece that was cut out to make a frame to attach to the screen. This piece sits over the smaller hole, giving me a removable lid for feeding, adding fish, etc.
This is the active worksite. :-) You can see the wooden strips that the gutters will be attached to. You can also see the wooden frame I built around the fish tub. And all the way to the right, you can see who really is doing all the build work. Hubby Tom! :-)
And here's the semi-finished project. Once we set it all in motion, it seemed our pump was too weak, not filling the gutters even halfway before spilling over into the next gutter. We debated getting a stronger pump, but worried that the flow would be too strong. Then it dawned on us: reduce the slope of each gutter, slowing the flow and allowing them to fill more fully before draining.
Once we had everything up and running, it was time to add fish and seeds. I ended up with 10 goldfish of various types (they don't really photograph well in the tub. I'll try again on a sunnier day.) A couple of years ago I was given a bunch of free veggie seeds, so we decided to go with those to see if this worked. Provided, of course, they would germinate. I soaked lettuce, spinach, carrot, beet, oregano, broccoli, and swiss chard seeds indoors for 48 hours to give them the best possible chance of germinating. And amazingly enough, some of them are actually doing just that! I even saw a few tiny sprouts today!
So here's the system in its current state. The plants you see are organic starters that I picked up today at Whole Foods: Thyme, Spearmint, Peppermint, and Oregano. I also picked up two different cucumbers, 4 different tomatoes, one pepper, basil, butternut squash and broccoli plants. But it needs to be warmer before I plant those.
And, as a bonus, here's a short video of the system in action. It's a tad shaky, but hopefully you can get a good idea of how it all works. (Hopefully the video works. I'm still new to all this!)
Shadow did get cast as "Cheeky" in Cross Community Players production of "Anything Goes". We had our first rehearsal this week. Plus I'm currently working 6 days a week. I'm hoping that things will settle down soon, and I'll be able to keep this blog a tad more current!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Decisions, Decisions (and a Confession)

Anytime you embark upon a new endeavor, there are always a multitude of decisions to make. Aquaponics is no exception. Some decisions are made for you, such as where the garden will be (on our south facing garage wall - it gets the most sun of any vertical surface around), and what size it will be. Size is, of course, limited by space and funds available. :-)

Building materials were determined by cost. The use of vinyl gutters, for example. And we already have a 40 gallon translucent tub that will work perfectly for the reservoir and fish tank. (Clear glass tanks would have allowed too much sun to reach the fish and cause the water to heat up too much for their comfort. I could have covered a glass tanks sides -we have several tanks around here - with waxed paper to do the same thing, but why bother when we have a perfectly good tub?)

Substrate (the stuff that will take the place of soil for the plants) was determined by what was available at Home Depot when we visited yesterday. Red Lava Rock. Relatively lightweight, porous, with lots of surface area for nitrifying bacteria to live upon.

**Science warning - Feel free to skip this section if you're not really interested in the science details of what we're doing ***

Every time a fish breathes, pees or poos, every time a piece of food, fin or scale falls to the bottom of the tank and rots, ammonia is produced. Ammonia is just as toxic to fish as it is to humans, burning their skin and gills until they literally suffocate in their own waste. Luckily, a group of bacteria including Nirtosomonas, LOVE ammonia, and gobble it up. Of course, everything that eats poops, so these bacteria produce their own waste, called NitrItes. (Yes, I meant to capitalize the I. You'll see why in a moment.) Nitrite is almost as toxic to the fish as ammonia. Luckily, another group of bacterial janitors come into play, including Nitrobacters. These consume the nitrItes and produce nitrAtes (see why I'm doing that now?) Nitrates are, basically, fertilizer. Wait, fertilizer? Is that why this works with plants? Yep. Also why over-crowded, over-fed, under-changed aquariums get overrun with algae. Algae are tiny, tiny plants who live on light and nitrates. Nitrates, in low levels (under 40 parts per million) are generally considered safe for most fish. In a normal aquarium, nitrate levels are kept in the safe range by doing water changes. In an aquaponics system, the plants consume the nitrates (fertilizer, remember?) and return clean water to the fish. When it works right, it's a beautiful thing!

***End Science section***

So many of our decisions have been made for us, or were made easy by distinct boundaries. What plants we grow will be similarly limited - by space, availability, appropriateness to the system, and by what we enjoy eating.

But one decision isn't quite so limited: what fish to use. Raising fish for food isn't really an option. There won't be enough time to raise any to an edible size. And, to be honest, I'm not certain I could really kill and eat a fish I've cared for that long. I've had too many years of keeping them as pets. And the size of our tub limits any of the really big fish, like Pacu, walleye or pike. Or Koi. What many people don't realize, is that, over time, koi reach almost 3 feet in length. As much as I love them, especially butterfly koi with their long flowing fins, I can't justify keeping them in so small of a container. If I'm going to have koi, I need a pond. A BIG pond!

Frequent temperature fluctuations rule out many delicate tropical fish. And many of my favorites, like angelfish, just don't show off well when they're stared at from above.

But one type of fish has been bred for just these conditions - goldfish. And here's my confession: I really love goldfish. Bright colors, flowing fins, engaging personalities (yes, goldfish are actually intelligent enough to have personalities, if they're kept in large enough environments.). What's not to love? Other than the fact that they ALL - every single variety - get huge. At least 12 inched from mouth to the base (not the tip) of their tails. Some reach 18 inches. But, with the water flowing through the system, our tub will be big enough to support at least 6 to start. I have a 75gallon that I will bring the fish into during the winter. So it looks like goldfish are the choice. But what kind? There are two major divisions of goldfish - single tailed and double tailed. Single tailed are the ones often referred to as "feeders" or "common" - they have a torpedo shaped body and a single tail fin and come in regular (comet) and calico (Shubunkin). Double tails are commonly referred to as "Fancy" and are known for their squat, stubby bodies and large, flowing triangle shaped tails. There are more varieties of double tails than singles, including Ryunkins, Pearlscales, Lionheads, Orandas, Black Moors and more. Combining single tails and double tails is generally not recommended. Single tails tend to out-compete double tails for food, and bully them a bit.

So the question really is, single tails or double tails? Single tails tend to be a bit hardier, but grow to 18 inches. Double tails tend to be a bit less hardy, but generally only reach 12 inches, and come in a greater variety of shapes and colors. Double tails tend to cost more, too.

In all honesty, except for a few exceptional Shubunkins and Comets, I tend to prefer the double tails. And they do look better from above (that's how they were bred to be looked at) than the single tails. So I think we'll be going with those. Although I'm still a little tempted to throw a ton of gorgeous guppies in there and see how they hold up. Or platies. Or other livebearers, Then we'd have a self-populating group. Of course, then we'd have to have something in the tub for babies to hide in so they don't get eaten. Every additional thought brings more parameters to think about. Smaller fish would be easier to care for through the winter, and be more comfortable in the 40 gallon tub.  But goldfish would be able to stay out in the tub deeper into the fall without requiring any additional heat, and be able to go out earlier in the spring.

Hmmmm. This is going to take more thought. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Return, with Changes

Well, needless to say, it's been a long time since I last posted here. Life got (and continues to be) crazy. :-) I have done multiple shows, both as a performer and a puppet designer, and have added a new role: Dog Trainer. My small dog, Shadow, a powderpuff Chinese Crested, has performed in 3 shows with me. For the past 8 months or so, however, I have had to hold myself away from doing any auditions thanks to some challenging health issues. These have included a major amount of work in my mouth resulting in having almost all of my top teeth removed, along with so much bone that I now have a dime-sized hole through the bone into my sinus. I have decided to hold off auditioning until I know I can actually speak clearly. I may need to re-learn how to sing, too, since I now have a partial denture that includes a plate covering the entire roof of my mouth.

Work has also exploded. Where in the past most of my available classes would be half filled at best, the vast majority of my adult dog classes are currently full, despite having raised my max class size from 5 to 7. I am also a mentor, meaning that I train additional trainers for Petco. I just graduated two apprentices, and will be getting another in a couple of weeks. Somehow I've also become the person who is sent to help stores who are struggling in the dog training department. I have also been sent to out of state stores to "flash train" new trainers. (Shadow and I have been sent to North Dakota 3 times.) So that's kept me hopping, too.

My doc and I are also dealing with the joys of hormonal changes, and have had to include thyroid medications to the mix. All in all, work on stage will have to wait until I know I can fulfill all my obligations.

But that doesn't mean I will be totally theatre-less. Shadow was just cast in another show. I'll be providing more details as they are available. The only thing I know for certain right now is that I also need to build a puppet of Shadow for one of the scenes. Can't wait to learn more!

The one advantage of being held out of theatre for a while is that I now have time for other endeavors. (Whether I have the energy for them is a whole 'nother matter!)  So this summer, hubby and I are trying our hands at aquaponics - raising plants without soil through the use of what is essentially aquarium water. Plants are placed in one of many possible inert growing mediums, and water from a tank containing fish is pumped through the growing medium for 15 min ever hour. The waste from the fish feeds the plants, and the act of feeding by the plants cleans the fish water. In a traditional commercial setting, the fish used in the system are also raised for food, so you get vegetables and herbs from the plants and protein from the fish. We won't be eating our fish, however. The outdoor growing season here just isn't really long enough to get fish to pan size. So, right now, the plan is to use goldfish.

Now, I could go into great depth on the chemical and natural processes that are used in this system, but this website  presents it a much nicer format that I ever could. So if you'd like more details, check it out.

For now, this blog will focus on our venture into aquaculture, with occasional sides regarding Shadow's newest role. I hope you find this interesting. Feel free to ask any questions you'd like. I'll do my best to keep things up to date here!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Here We Go Again

It's finally that time again. Time for another audition. Familiar theatre, familiar director, familiar song. Not the one I had such a breakthrough with. That was a ballad. This time they want an upbeat song. I've auditioned with this song before.

My goal this time? Probably not what you're expecting. My goal isn't getting a certain part or even just getting into the show.

Wait. What??? My goal isn't to get into the show????

No. For one simple reason: That's not under my control. While there are things I can do to guarantee I WON'T get into the show, there is absolutely nothing I can do that will guarantee that I WILL get in. That's the nature of the beast. The reality of theatre.

I like to explain it to theatre newbies like this: Imagine that you want to create a fruit salad. You go to the produce section and start picking out fruit. Are you going to pick every fruit that's there? Of course not. Is there anything wrong with the fruit you don't choose? No. No matter how good a certain fruit looks and tastes, if it doesn't go with the other fruits you've chosen, you're not going to chose it. The wrong combination will ruin your salad.

It's the same for a director picking actors for a production. The actors have to fit together. It does no good to choose a phenomenal 30 year old female lead if your best male lead is 17. If you're putting together a family, a dark haired swarthy father with an equally dark mother are not likely to have produced an ultra-fair skinned blue-eyed blond offspring. The cast needs to fit together the same way the fruits in that fruit salad need to blend.

There's no guarantee that I'm the right "fruit" for this cast. So making getting a certain role my goal isn't realistic. Or fair to myself. I have no control over the casting decisions. What I DO have control of is my performance. My experience. My thoughts.

So my goal is to once again focus on performance, instead of survival. To bring to the stage the attitude "here I am. Place me where you want me. If you believe I can do it, so do I."

It's a lofty goal for me. But I'm pretty sure I can reach it. :-)

Friday, July 8, 2011

(Seemingly) Little Known Truths About Community Theatre

Well, didn't get into Footloose. And, no, we'll never really know why. That's the way the game is played. Did one other audition with a group we hadn't auditioned for before since then. Our experience there got me to thinking about how some things just don't seem to be common knowledge in the community theatre world. Even though they seem like they should. Such as:

1) Nobody's THAT good - In the world of professional theatre, there are a few people who can actually get away with a diva attitude because either they have already made a huge name for themselves or they are so stinking talented (or both) that the rest of the cast and crew will put up with them for the money their name and/or talent will bring in for the show. But if you're in community theatre, nobody's that good.

Your crew - the director, music director, choreographer, costumer, etc., may be being paid, but they're not making a living at it. The cast and most of the stage crew are all volunteer, just like you are. No matter how good you (or anyone else) think you are, you're NOT good enough to be worth putting up with a diva attitude. Politeness and common courtesy will get you amazingly far in the community theatre world. A diva attitude will not.

2) Directors (and other crew members) talk - to other directors, actors, etc. If you blow a director off, don't expect a greater than luke warm acceptance from other directors in the area. I know this first hand. No, I haven't been a jerk or blown off a director, but I have listened as directors and other crew mingle at cast parties and other functions. I've even had directors point out various people at these functions and explain why they never seem to get cast in anything... On the flip side, if you actually pay attention in rehearsals, learn your lines and blocking, help out as much as you're able on set and on strike, directors talk about that, too. Although maybe not quite as much. Especially if they have a show coming up they want to make sure you're available to audition for. :-)

3) The theatre world is incestuous (at least in the Twin Cities) - I don't know if it's the same with other activities, like sports or whatever, but it seems like once you get involved in theatre, you're not able to attend any theatre event without knowing at least some of the people involved. It's rare for me now to go to an audition or a performance and not see at least a few people I know on one side of the curtain or the other. For someone who's always been a bit of an outsider, that's a really weird experience. Nice, but weird. :-)

4) If you're a guy and you want to meet girls, do theatre. Seriously, if you can speak loud enough to be heard and clearly enough to be understood, and can walk a relatively straight line without falling down, you will be seriously looked at. If, heaven forbid, you can actually carry a tune and move in time with music, you can all but guarantee a spot on the cast list and be considered for a lead. IF you're male. Of course, if the only reason you're doing it is to meet girls, that will become very obvious very quickly, and, while you're likely to continue getting cast, the girls will likely already know all about you....

5) Auditions go both ways.  Yes, when you audition for a show, you are asking the director to considering putting you in their show. But you're not the only one auditioning. And I don't mean the other 40 or so people in the line outside the audition room door. The director and theatre are auditioning, too. They may have the say in who gets offered parts, but you CAN choose whether or not to accept it.

Now, I'm a firm believer that, if you know full well there's no way in heck you could do the show, you shouldn't audition. It's a waste of every one's time. But if you go to the audition and something about it makes your skin crawl, you are well within your rights to turn down any role offered. It's not an easy thing to do, I'll admit. After all, you're being offered a part, the thing you work toward with every audition. But if accepting that part is going to make you miserable, is it really worth it? I've attended one audition where the people running it were so obnoxious I probably would not have even accepted a callback had I gotten one, much less a part. And another audition where "the regulars" were so tight-knit and snarky that I couldn't imagine trying to deal with them on a nightly basis for two months in rehearsals. Again, it's hard to turn down a part, but there are very few parts out there that are worth being miserable for.

That said, if you turn down part after part, you will get a reputation for it. Remember #2.

6) "Director's favorites" get labelled that and cast for a reason. Here's an example of what I mean in the form of a dialog I've heard...

"Oh, he'll never cast me. He only casts his favorites."
"He casts people he doesn't know. The first time he cast me he didn't know me."
"Well, of course he cast you. You're good."

Yes, there ARE a few directors out there that only cast their favorites. Or will only cast people in lead roles that they've worked with before. But that's not overly common, especially in community theatre. But I'll tell you a secret. If you're good, you have a better than average chance of being cast by any director out there.

Now, before you say, "well, duh!", let's define "good", shall we? Believe it or not, it doesn't mean having Oscar-level acting skills or Broadway-caliber singing. It means being on time, not missing entrances, not missing rehearsal (without a really good reason), learning and KNOWING your lines (yes, there's a difference), helping out as needed on set building and painting, lending a hand when you can, attending and actually WORKING on strike night... the list goes on. Basically, it means having a good work ethic.Theatre isn't a "show up and have everyone marvel at your ability" activity. It's WORK. It's fun work, but work all the same. Just as actors can get reputations for being divas and pains in the ... you know, they can also get reputations for working that same you know off. Those are the ones often labelled as director's favorites. But they're not getting cast simply because the director likes them. They're getting cast because their work ethic and the consistent product of that ethic have earned the respect of that director.

7) Theatre is a great place to meet and make friends. If you love theatre, becoming involved in a show guarantees that you will meet other people who love theatre. Right off the bat, you have something in common. Most of my favorite people I have met either through church or through the theatre. Each place, we have the chance to start off on the same footing, through a shared love and interest. The ice is broken immediately and painlessly, and we can move on to learning more about each other right away.

Does this mean you're guaranteed to like every person in your cast? Well, how big is your cast? If it's a one person show, chances are pretty good you'll at least get along with the cast. But I've been in casts ranging from 12 to over 60 people and I can honestly say that in almost every cast there was someone I really enjoyed getting to know, and someone I'd wish never to be cast alongside again. I've been in some very special casts, and some that weren't so special. But there was always someone I enjoyed spending time with backstage and getting to know. And some that have become very dear friends. And I never would have met them without theatre.

I'm not sure exactly when my next audition will be. I know there will be one coming up after Labor Day, but whether there will be any before that, I'm not sure. So if you have any questions about community theatre, getting involved, what it's like, or what I've experienced, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to give you an honest answer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A breakthrough

So last night was yet another sung audition. But oh, what a difference!

First, a little background.

Due to "a series of unfortunate events" that would take way too long to go through, I somehow managed to develop a singing phobia. As in, the only time I could sing was if my voice was safely buried in a choir or other large group, or when driving alone in the car. But even when I was driving alone, if another car pulled up beside me, I would get sick to my stomack, sweat, and have to stop singing. I even had trouble singing lulabies to my then infant daughter.

But I can remember what it was like to love singing. To love bringing the song to life with sound and emotion. And I wanted to see if I could find that again.  So enter Michelle.

Michelle is a wonderful woman, actress, singer and vocal coach. She's a rather well known actress here in the Twin Cities. We totally lucked into lessons with her through a camp Mim attended and absolutely loved.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I'm not much of a believer in luck. I detect more than just a smidgen of God's hand at work in all this. :-)

I'm not even sure Michelle could hear me in that first lesson. It took every ounce of strength and faith I had to make any noise at all even remotely resembling singing. I could tell, as lessons progressed, that the poor woman didn't really realize what she had gotten herself into. She couldn't really understand my "reluctance" to sing out.

But it wasn't really reluctance. It was fear. Pure, primal, twist the gut fear. It took almost a year for me to start to feel anything even remotely comfortable when I opened my mouth, even with her saying almost every week, in every way she could figure out, that I did have a voice and was somewhat competent in using it.

My first sung audition was....painful. There was a desperation in it, a "holding on by the skin of my teeth" feel. But I got through it. It must not have been quite as bad as I thought, since I was asked to stay and read AND dance (we're not even going to talk about dancing at this point... oy!) Anyway, long story short, I didn't get cast. But neither did about 75% of the people who auditioned. More importantly to me, I survived the experience, my one goal for the audition.

Fast forward almost 3 years. I've been in over 10 shows since then, some plays but mainly musicals. I've even had a couple of one-line sung solos. So I've come a Looooooonnnggg way. But, every time I sing for an audition, I feel like I'm saying "Yeah, I can carry a tune. I'll do fine in your chorus. Sorry I'm not lead material." I never really believed I could sing well enough to do anything else.

Enter yesterday. I love the show I auditioned for. I love the role I auditioned for. That role's a lead. That creates a conflict within myself. I'm not lead material. I can go for it, but I know it won't happen. But I love that role... so the endless loop goes.

Before our audition, we were blessed to go to Michelle's for a lesson/warm up. During that time, she said something that meant the world to me. We've been having REALLY good lessons, especially with this song. During yesterday's lesson, I mentioned basically that I knew there was very little chance of me getting the lead. Michelle said, very quietly, "I don't think it's a long shot at all." And she meant it.

So I went to the audition for the first time believing that maybe, just maybe, this might be true. I entered the audition room, nervous, but finding that I trusted Michelle and the work we've done. I sang out, not quite as well as at Michelle's, but well enough. No cracks, no squeaks, no gasps for breath. The desparation of that first audition was forgotten, and I - almost - lost myself in the song.

And then it was over. That's the thing with auditions. You shake, you worry, you work, you audition, and then... nothing. At least for a few days. If you don't get in, you never know why you didn't. If you do, you rarely really know why you did.

I ended up staying after I sang to cheer on and support friends who were also auditioning. I heard 3 other women sing the same song I did (provided by the theater for women of a certain age :-). Now, normally when I do that, I simply manage to confirm to myself my poor view of my singing and my chances. But, this time, it was different. I was able to start my listening at a neutral place, instead of deep within my own belief in my shortcomings and failings. One woman seemed to have great difficulties with pitch and rhythm. One had a beautiful operatic voice. This sort of thing used to immediately convince me that I was hopeless. But as I listened, I realized that just having an incredible operatic voice wasn't enough. While the woman sang beautifully, there didn't seem to be any connection to the song. It became a bit of an operatic aria, instead of the ballad it really was. Beautifully sung, but not performed. The third woman also had a very nice voice, but, again, no performance. There was no varying of tone or volume, no "telling of the story" the song presented.

Now, I will admit that I have no idea what the director is looking for. Sometimes a part is cast more on look (and availability) than necessarily on talent or ability. But I can say one thing without doubt. I sang with heart.  I didn't just sing a song. I told a story - with words, movement and emotion. I varied volume. I varied intensity.  For the first time, the story of the song became my focus, instead of the story of my singing. I can't say that I heard that from any of the other women. Who knows if that will make a difference in whether or not I get a role. But it made a huge difference to me. I learned that, sometimes, I really can sing.

Thank you, Michelle.