Like most folks who work in the arts, I hate auditions. Spend a little bit of time with an actor, singer, or dancer and you’ll get a wagon-load of horror stories under the category “auditions”. It’s not much fun to be on the “other” side of the audition process either, sitting for hours watching terrified humans parade before you trying to show you their very best under lousy circumstances. The horror of it as a director/music director/producer is that you know almost instantly whether the person standing before you is right or not for the production, but you hate to simply say “next” without giving them a chance to do something. On the other hand, you don’t want to waste their time . . . or yours. So, you try to be encouraging and kind because you don’t ever want to be “that” person who snuffed the creative hopes and dreams out of anyone’s life because that individual artist didn’t fit the particular role at hand.
Susanne Mentzer, a brilliant opera singer, has written about the audition process and tells this particularly poignant story. Mentzer had just made her debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna and was invited to audition for Maestro Herbert Von Karajan at the Salzburg Festival. She took the train over and found that the pianist provided couldn’t play the Strauss aria she planned to sing and wasn’t much good with Mozart either. Also, the audition was held in the large Festspielhaus with many highly-respected (and famous) singers sitting on the front row. The not-so-swell pianist began the the Composer’s Aria from Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos down in the pit and she began to sing. A voice boomed from the darkness “shtop!”. The Maestro then told her, “your voice is too big – back up!”. So she backed up . . . and backed up . . . and backed up until she was way upstage right. The pianist then began the Mozart and she had to begin again – even farther away from the insecure pianist and in a terrible place to sing the delicate legatos of Mozart opera.
Unfortunately many people who don’t have anything to do with the performing arts, live their life as if they are constantly auditioning for God. And the God who sits out in the darkness is one whose judgment is brutal. “Shtop!” says this vengeful, all powerful God. “Shtop!” indeed. What a horrible way to live – trying to prove to your creator that you are good enough.
I believe that God is more like a grandparent watching their small grandchild perform in a ballet recital. Grandma strains to see every move and nearly faints when little Susie trips over her own feet while Grandpa simply sits with glistening eyes and big moving lips as little Joey forgets his one line that he has practiced over and over.
Doing well at an audition requires a strange mix of opposing skills. A good performer must be completely prepared and ready, but not worried. Completely confident, but not cocky. This is a pretty big spiritual practice that Jesus tried to teach his disciples. “Don’t worry about your life”, says the Gospel of Luke. “You cannot add a single hour to your life by worrying”. But, “keep your lamps trimmed and burning so you will be ready for the coming of the presence of God”.
The Good News is that our grandparent God has already chosen you to be the star of your own life. You’re hired. You’ve been chosen for the team. You’ve got the lead role! You may not know all your lines yet or the blocking or exactly who you will play the next scene with, but you’ve got the job – no audition required. So “shtop” auditioning and start living.