Guest Blog: Wise Girl Singer Abby Weitz Shares Embarrassment of Auditioning for Karen O’s Rock Opera
[Editor’s Note: Thanks to songs like ‘I’m a Freak,’ ‘So Broken’ and ‘Stuck In This,’ Abby Weitz has been dubbed the “female Rivers Cuomo.” Indeed, she shares the Weezer frontman’s penchant for confessional lyrics, and her band, Wise Girl, kick punchy power-pop jams the bespectacled tunesmith would surely approve of. A while back, Weitz hollered at Diffuser and offered to write a series of blog posts detailing her adventures in the New York City music scene, and because we value honest, funny, self-deprecating writing — particularly when it’s being offered free of charge — we took her up on it. Scroll down to read episode one, in which the NYC native recounts a disastrous audition for her high school hero.]
It was September of 2011 when I received an email from a casting agency asking me to come in the following day to audition for Karen O’s new rock Opera, ‘Stop the Virgens.’
My name is Abby Weitz, and I am a singer, songwriter and guitarist. I have a band called Wise Girl, and it is my life. I grew up in New York, and my friends and I used to blast ‘Fever to Tell’ in our cars and drive around with our permits at midnight on school nights, because we were cooler than everyone else. We saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform at Bowery Ballroom when we were 16. Karen O was my high school hero, and I was asked to audition for her performance.
Here is a little more information about myself: I do not act, I do not dance sober, I do not do karaoke sober and I had never been to an audition. I am also the 6-foot-tall, clumsy, 20-something female version of Larry David, and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into by attending this audition.
I read farther into the email and saw the description of requirements for the audition, and there were two parts, singing and movement. Singing? I totally had this! One out of the three song choices was ‘Be My Baby,’ which I took as a sign, considering my obsession with the Ronettes and it being a favorite song of mine since childhood.
“It’s in the bag! Now what the f— is movement?” I thought to myself. In the email they described it as a somewhat simple form of modern dance. My brain deciphered that as billowing from side to side like Grandmother Willow, that tree that comes alive in ‘Pocahontas.’ I am tall as hell, and my dad always told me that I’ve inherited my tree trunk thighs from him, so I convinced myself that I was totally capable of this thing they call “movement.”
That night, I tossed and turned, imagining in my head what the next day’s audition would be like. What if they love me so much that they drop Karen O like a fly? “Sorry, Karen — we know that this is your creation, but we have decided to go in the direction of having a magenta haired, Jewish Amazon starring instead.” What if one of the casting guys was the same guy whom I’d side kicked in the stomach in my drunk response to his grabbing my ass at 4AM on a desolated street last year? The situations in my head were endless, and after two midnight-snack breaks and no sleep whatsoever, my alarm went off. It was time to do this.
On the walk there, I told myself countless positive affirmations: “You got this girl!” “You’re gonna rock this!” “WE MADE IT!” I walked into the building, got on to the elevator and started singing Christina Aguilera’s “You Are Beautiful” to myself under my breath to reinforce positivity and warm up my voice a bit. There was a woman with a briefcase and librarian glasses shooting me some really strange, uncomfortable looks. It’s cool, lady. We’ll see who’s shooting who strange looks when I’m on the cover of Star magazine, bitch.
I walked off the elevator to the floor that the casting was on and followed the sign with an arrow pointing to the waiting area. I immediately saw about 10 tiny girls who looked like dancers in tiny spandex shorts and cut off shirts. Standing there in my Who tee and a pair of dark blue skinny jeans, I thought to myself, “Are you f—king kidding me?” These ladies were there for the second call back and were clearly experienced dancers with their tight, taut, coordinated little bodies, while I, the giant bozo in jeans and a tee, stood there wishing for a magic carpet to fly me the f— out of there, or a pocket full of Xanax. Either would do.
I sat next to the door where the casting was so I could attempt to subtly listen to the auditions, Nancy Drew style. A tall, lanky model-type girl walked out of the room sweaty and out of breath. She sat down next to me, and I questioned here like the CIA. “What did they make you do? Why are you so sweaty? Are you a dancer? Can you give me an estimation of the room temperature in there?” She said she that she was and asked not to discuss the audition but did notify me that Karen O was in the room and that there was a lot of jumping involved in the dance part of the audition.
Then it hit me: This “movement” that was mentioned in the email was going to be nothing like the Grandmother Willow Tree movements I’d imagined. This was real dance, and I was screwed! My brain started spinning, and I felt really hot. Tiny beads of sweat started forming above my lip and brows. As I attempted to fight off an anxiety attack, my name was called. Great.
I wiped the sweat from my face and walked into the closet-sized bright sauna. There was a long table of people, about six of them, in front of me. I was so convinced Ryan Seacrest was going to pop out of the closet, because this was clearly an episode of ‘American Idol,’ and I was about to be booed off the stage. The producer introduced me to everyone including Karen O. The choreographer, Mariangela Lopez, a tiny venezuelan woman up to my knee cap, stepped forward and told me she would be directing me. I looked down at her as she spoke.
“We are going to do some movement, so you will just follow what I am doing,” she said to me with her cute little accent.
Next thing I knew, I was leaping around the room attempting to keep up with Mariangela’s delicate swooshes through the air. She landed light on her feet, while my dinosaur feet landed heavily on the ground with a Godzilla-like sound, my shirt flying up exposing my not so taut belly. Then she screamed “ARMS!” Before I knew it, I was doing spirit fingers like a motherfu—er. To help cope with the fact that I was clearly making a fool of myself in front of my high school hero, I pictured myself as Kirsten Dunst on the set of the movie ‘Bring it On.’ I was the star!
The last request was a freestyle. Mariangela said, “Do whatever you feel that you want to do.” That was not a good decision on her part, because WHITE GIRL CAN’T DANCE! I immediately attempted a mix between the Macarena and the dance Shakira did in her ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ video, where her hands are above her head and she’s swiveling her hips side to side, spinning in a circle, all while trying not to accidentally kill anyone with my huge ass.
Memories of my bat-mitzvah floated into my head — the glitter-vested dancers, the seafoam green muumuu I wore that caused me to look like baby beluga in the deep blue sea. The music stopped, and Mariangela thanked me and sat down. I looked over at Karen O, who was staring down at the table most likely holding back laughter along with everyone else. I was asked by the producer to sing ‘Be My Baby’ a capella. I was all out of breath from performing a trapeze act, minus the trapeze. My voice was shaky from nerves and all I felt at this point was defeat. While attempting to catch my breath, I choked out the chorus of the song. They thanked me and I left.
I walked outside and cried, but it was not a sad cry. It was a happy cry. I had put myself in one of the most uncomfortable positions that I’ve ever been in, and I went through with it. I mean, I totally butchered my first and most likely last audition, but I didn’t chicken out. I stayed and pushed through. I made a fool of myself and maybe even entertained the room to some degree.
I want to thank my high school hero Karen O. Had it not been for that horrible audition, I might not be where I am today. I might have given up on music at this point. I might have settled for something less, I might have let my fears and insecurities hold me back from living my life to the fullest. That audition from hell was a huge milestone in my life. I’ve got miles and miles to go, but I’m prepared to go the distance.
I will say that I have given up the prospect of dancing — ever again.