Saturday, August 22, 2015

Am I An Idiot?

Why did I choose to audition for American Idiot?

I don't know ....

It's Green Day .....

That's all I knew about this musical .....

I'd never even considered auditioning for a play let alone a musical.

Ben was a performer!  Any chance he got he would love to have an audience.  If there was a TV camera around, he'd find a way to get interviewed.  Talent show?  Sign him up!  Even when we were on vacation in Jamaica!  And he was talented.  He was especially good at impressions!  He could do all kinds of voices from Bugs Bunny and Kermit the Frog, to singing and sounding just like Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Bob Marley and lots of other well known singers.  I used to tell him he should have his own show in Vegas.  In addition he loved to act.  He did several plays in high school and loved to tell the story of being an extra in the movie "Con Air" with Nicholas Cage.  He was fun and funny and full of life.  People gravitated to him.  He was the one people wanted to talk to at an event or a party.  

That's why so many were shocked when they heard he died by suicide in March of 2010.  It was hard to believe this man who loved to make people laugh was so sad on the inside. 

When our family moved to Temecula,  it was only five months after he died.  Kellie was starting middle school, Josh was in fourth grade and Olivia was going to Kindergarten.  We didn't know anyone in the area and were just trying to figure out what life looked like without Ben in it. 

Fast forward a few years and we were told about this little theater group by a neighbor that had just moved in.  Olivia was so excited and had absolutely decided she had to audition for a part in their upcoming production of "Shrek".  Little by little our whole family got "sucked in" to the theater, I was choreographing and I got the other kids to try parts as well.  

Then I heard the theater was doing Green Day's "American Idiot".  This was music that I had loved for years.  Something just clicked in me and I knew I had to audition!  What?!!?!  Me!?!?
But yes, I just knew I had to.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into....

If I had any idea about the story line in this musical I would NEVER have done it.  

Ben was a soldier in the US Army.  He went to basic training exactly one week after we got married.  "Home is where the Army sends you" became our mantra.  I told Ben that my home was in his arms.  Unfortunately sometimes he had to go on assignments without his family, so there were times in our marriage that I was "homeless".  

The first few songs of the musical were ones I knew well and I didn't really feel any connection to.  I was so busy learning how to sing and dance at the same time that I was lost in the process.  It was about this point that I figured out there was a suicide in the musical.  It was the exact type of death that I lost Ben to.  I was relieved to find that the death was not an actual person, but the "killing off" of an alter-ego that was troublesome to the main character.  Yet I was concerned about how it would be depicted and if it would bring up emotions for me or my children.  It turns out that I was one of three choreographed to catch "St. Jimmy" after he shoots himself and carry him off stage.

     The story breaks off into three different parts, one of which is a soldier who goes off to war and gets injured by an explosion.  As an ensemble character I played both the part of a soldier and later a nurse who cares for the injured soldiers.  My two favorite songs on the show are "Before the Lobotomy" and the reprise of that song.  I just loved the harmonies in it.  It's a sad song sung by the soldiers who are hospitalized from their war injuries.  The first starts with one soldier and then it adds on one at a time until four are singing together.  The reprise starts with all four singing and one by one they go out until just one remains.  What I did not know until the rehearsal for that song is that they go out one by one because they each die from their injuries leaving only the main soldier.  I have many friends who lost their loves to war.  Just another reason I would have not auditioned had I known. 

     I almost got through the entire rehearsal schedule without even crying.  Then one day I was listening to one of the last songs in the show, and the although the story line doesn't apply to me, the three words I had to sing were so familiar to me "Where'd you go?".  Luckily I was alone in my car when I heard that song for the first time.  

     At the end of the show the three friends that have separated for different reasons,  return home.  It's in that number that I feel like I've gained life long friends through this show.  We get to hug each other and sing about coming home.  It's bittersweet for me, but for a moment I get to feel at home again.  

     The final song is one where one of our main characters sings about "the one that got away".  A line in it says "thought I ran into you down on the street, but it turned out to only be a dream", I can relate to that line so much, I know many of my widowed friends can too.  I've mostly stopped looking for Ben in crowds anymore, but a broad tall bald man in Army fatigues will still take my breath away for a moment. 

     In the end, what should have sent me over the edge, was strangely healing.  I have no doubt that Bens hand was in "pushing" me to do this.  If he were still here, he would have been in it and I would have been cheering him on in the audience.  I wouldn't have even thought of doing it.  I think I'm starting to understand what my therapist meant when he told me to take the things I loved about Ben and make them a part of me.  I definitely didn't think he meant this.... But I'm a different person than who I was when Ben was here with me.  I'm still figuring out this new person, she's much more fearless in some ways,  and totally terrified in others. 

   I'm grateful for the friends I've made in the past five + years.  A special thanks to my bestie Mia who played the harmonies on the piano on every song for me so I could learn them!  Im super grateful for Dax who has allowed me to keep Ben as a part of our family, and for showing me you can Zing more than once.