#MyFirstMuniAudition-Laurie Barnes

It was 1975. I was 22 and in my first year of teaching.  I was in “Carousel” at Theatre Center that year where I met a lot of Springfield theater folks. I was invited to join SMOYAAB (Springfield Municipal Opera Young Adult Advisory Board). This organization was composed of young people who wanted to have a voice in Muni’s governance and who felt that the Muni board could benefit by listening to a younger perspective (can you believe it?). SMOYAAB was allowed to send a representative to board meetings and all of them were active at Muni. They also had a lot of great parties! (It is ironic that we exSMOYAABs have become the “old fogies” of today!)  Everyone told me “Oh, you’ve got to try out for Muni. It’s the best and the most fun theater in the area.” So, I did.

Auditions were held at that time in the huge ballroom at the Holiday Inn. The room seemed to go on forever.  There were sparkling chandeliers shining lights into my eyes everywhere I looked. It was terrifying. When I walked in, the room was chockful of people. There was a platform with a piano at one end and in front of the platform was a long row of tables filled with scary-looking people I didn’t know (the show staffs). I signed up for an audition spot and sat down to wait.  Auditionees were called up in the order in which they signed in. Sometimes auditions went on into the evening.

Somebody once said that Muni auditions were “the best show in town”. It was so true!  Back then, anyone who wanted could come and watch. Auditions were held before a huge audience and could range from the ridiculous to the sublime. It was obvious when someone was really good, because all the talking and hustle and bustle stopped. The audience and the show staffs sat up on the edge of their seats and listened.  Some people came with fully choreographed, rehearsed, and costumed auditions while others just got up and sang “Jingle Bells” or “Happy Birthday” acapella. There was no enforced time limit and some people performed for 5 minutes while others heard that dreaded “Thank You” after 30 seconds.

People cheered, applauded, laughed, critiqued and sometimes sang along with the auditions.  But everyone was also encouraging, friendly and welcoming. I felt like I had found a new family of friends. The family is not limited to performers.  Hundreds of volunteers in every capacity work at Muni every year and they are all indispensable. I have been especially proud to watch many of my “Muni children” grow into fine actors, directors, designers, choreographers, vocal directors, builders, stage managers, techies, publicists, and all around talented, amazing adults. I am proud to be a part of this wonderful organization.  

See you under the stars,
Laurie Barnes