I couldn’t help sneaking a grin at the audience as I set my laptop down on the media cart. They were out there, waiting, waiting for my moment to shine.
“Just plug this in here?” I asked as I picked up the flat end of the HDMI cable. The student tech crew guy nodded, and I stuck the end in the slot. My fingers flew over the touch screen as I brought up the slide show presentation. I’d spent half the night putting it together, hunting all over the internet for the perfect images. I glanced at my dance crew, they were ready, we’d practiced all afternoon yesterday while everyone else at drama camp was at the lake. Once everything was all cued up I showed the tech guy what button to click and then picked up my microphone.
So what that my demo video didn’t upload correctly last week? So what that all the talent scout at this year’s Junior Rising Stars Drama Camp had to see of me so far was digital garble. Right now I was going to wow everyone in this room with my genius. My group had worked the hardest, and I had definitely written the cleverest lyrics. We were going to win the song parody competition for sure.
I gave tech guy a nod.
Sound came blasting in over the speakers. So loud that several audience members covered their ears. Someone needed to turn that down. I glanced up at the soundbooth, sending them a silent plea.
The soundbooth was empty. Black windows. No lights on in there. There was nobody in the soundbooth of this auditorium! How could that possibly be?
That meant all I had was tech student guy. He looked pretty pathetic down there, frowning at the screen of my computer. He glanced up, his eyes a perfect mirror of the horror and confusion inside me.
Later, even years later, when I would run through this agonizing scene in my head, when it got to this point I’d yell CUT! Then I’d stomp up on the stage and tell myself to put down the microphone, shut off the track on the computer, adjust the volume, apologize to the crowd and start over.
That’s not what I did.
I started to sing.
Smile on, dance moves going full swing, I belted out my lyrics, the ones I’d worked so hard on. I didn’t think anyone could hear me. I certainly couldn’t hear myself. I could only hope my dance crew was moving behind me, just like we’d practiced. My eyes somehow found the talent scout out there in the audience, we locked gaze. He didn’t have his ears covered, but his face was a perfect mask of pain. Pain for me, pain for the fool I was making of myself, pain for his injured artistic sensibilities.
I saw the agony in his eyes, put on my biggest smile, and kept right on singing.
Just when my head was getting used to the numb pressure around my ears, the music cut out. I gave tech guy a murderous glance, but he didn’t seem to care. He was probably just thinking that he’d saved everyone from premature deafness. My voice rang out, the only sound in the auditorium, and I realized I’d been singing flat. Just barely flat. Enough to give anyone with a decent sense of pitch that fingernails-on-the-chalkboard feeling.
I kept going, but only to the end of the second verse. Then I stopped with my slide show still blinking pathetically behind me, as if it was hoping that somehow the music was going to start again. That I’d get another chance.
After a while, a few people clapped. A little bit. If only to thank the tech guy for ending the torture by pulling the plug on my music.
I smiled, gestured for my dance crew to come forward, and we all took a bow. A little more applause, and a lot of giggles. I snapped my laptop shut, ripped out the cable, and marched from the stage. That was it. I knew it. I was feeling kind of plucky and defiant right now, but that was just the high of being on stage. It would wear off, and then I was going to be through. Totally through. I was never, ever, going to show my face in showbusiness, not ever again.