Let me tell you something: I sound horrible.
Okay, that’s a bit subjective. What I mean is, I hate my accent. I don’t hate that it’s Irish, or that it’s Dublin, or that it’s South Dublin; just that it’s some horrible accent I can’t even put a name on but that sounds just like this girl who was the year below me in school, who I always thought sounded poncy and annoying. (Or maybe she just was annoying. I wasn’t able to separate her from her accent.) The first time I heard myself on tape was SUCH a blow to the ego.
But I have accepted my accent and moved on, and I try hard to avoid hearing myself recorded, because from inside my head it sounds fine and I’m just going to continue to pretend that that’s what everyone else hears too.
(I’m pretty sure that what you sound like on a tape recorder is not exactly the same as what other people hear in real life, especially what I sounded like on a tape recorder in 1984, which is probably the last time I intentionally listened to my voice. But there are elements. Elements that you don’t hear from the inside but everyone else does. The way someone’s voice on the telephone – and I’m not talking about their telephone voice for talking to strangers that’s extra polite and/or assertive depending on the task at hand – someone’s voice on the phone sounds like them but not exactly like them. I imagine that’s the sort of difference there is between what I sound like on a recording device and what I sound like in real life.
Please do not disabuse me of any of these assumptions, even if they’re totally erroneous.)
ANYWAY, enormous digressions aside, that’s the thing. But when I decided to audition for Listen To Your Mother, I knew that my accent could be a point in my favour, because for whatever reason, many Americans love it. They love accents, full stop. (Period, I should say.) They love accents that are cute or sexy or exotic and that they can also understand pretty easily without squinting and tilting their heads and listening extra hard to figure out what it was you just said and what that means in American. So I had a bit of an unfair advantage, I figured; and I was willing to milk that as much as I could.
Which is not to say that I wrote and performed a piece in pure inner-city Brendan Behan-esque Dublin vernacular or put on my Lucky Charms accent and pretended to be from Wesht Cork. I just talked, and even though my Irish friends think I sound pretty American these days, and most Americans I know are used to me now so they don’t bother to remark on it, there’s enough there to be heard.
So I did that. The hardest part was (a) driving all the way to Gaithersburg, a mere 30 minutes away, (b) managing not to take a wrong turn where Google maps had not told me there was a turn at all, (c) arriving half an hour early without so much as a book to read (and my phone is not smart enough to be fun), and finally (d) not being able to find the right room at the last minute because the nice lady at the front desk had disappeared and room 37 was up the stairs and through two totally unmarked doors.
The easy part was meeting two lovely and very groomed women who greeted me kindly, let me sit down and de-stress, and listened to me read my piece. I galloped through it far too fast, in spite of all my best efforts, but they laughed in the right places and said “Aw” at the end, and (I’ll admit it) said they loved my accent.
So, that’s that done. There are more auditions next weekend and they won’t announce the cast until the 15th of the month. I really do believe them when they say that if I’m not picked it’s not because they didn’t like my story: they’re not putting together a volume of memoirs, they’re crafting a stage show, and it needs to have a certain arc of laughter and tears, light and dark, the strange and the familiar. I did what I wanted to do, that’s all.
So if you live in a city where there is a performance of Listen to Your Mother, if it’s something you’ve thought “I couldn’t possibly do that” about because really you’d love to but you think you’re not a big enough blogger; you’re not a blogger at all; you don’t have anything to say; you are too shy or too plain or too old or too young … yes, you can. Just do it anyway (though probably next year, at this stage). There’s no wrong way. It’s just reading your story to two nice women in a little room, and then you’ll know you did it. Whatever happens next is … beyond my control.