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Authors: Elizabeth Eulberg

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Take a Bow

BOOK: Take a Bow
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For the biggest rock star in my eyes

DAVID LEVITHAN

editor extraordinaire,
unparalleled karaoke partner,
and above all, my dear friend

“Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?

— THE UNDERTONES, “Teenage Kicks”

M
y life has been one big audition.

I can’t even remember the first audition my mom dragged me to. It was for a diaper commercial back when we were living in LA. I was six months old. While most kids’ first memories are of playing with friends, mine are of sitting in cold reception areas waiting for my name to be called. The only plus side was that after I auditioned, Mom rewarded me with McDonald’s. That was the only time I ever truly felt like a normal kid.

After I got cast in the first
Kavalier Kids
movie, I didn’t have to go on that many auditions. The roles came to me. By the time I was nine, I was on the cover of
People
magazine and a presenter at the Oscars, the basic go-to kid for cute. I was the on-screen “son” of every big-name actor. I’ve worked with the best. And with the
Kavalier Kids
franchise, I was featured on countless lunch boxes, pillowcases, Happy Meals — you name it, my face was on it. (I don’t think I’ve recovered yet from seeing my toothy grin on a roll of toilet paper. Really, toilet paper. Apparently the studio’s marketing division had no shame.)

I’d shoot a big-time movie during the spring and a
Kavalier Kids
movie in the fall (for a major summer release). And even though my childhood was anything but normal, I look back fondly on the
Kavalier Kids
movies. The other child actors were like friends to me. At least they seemed like my friends, or what friends should be. But we only hung out on the set. There were no sleepovers or pizza parties, just on-set tutors and line readings.

Things were great, but then there was a — let’s call it an
altercation
between my mom and the producer. I got kicked off the franchise. A new wave of cute kids came into Hollywood and I was relegated to being a featured guest star on network crime shows.

So I made a decision. It was the one thing that scared Mom more than anything, even more than crow’s-feet and taxicabs. And it wasn’t moving to New York City or starring in a soap opera that was “beneath” me. No, we did those things so I could do the thing that was even scarier to Mom:

High school.

Yes, Carter Harrison, former child megastar and current soap opera actor, wants to go to school.

But as I sit in the hallway at the New York City High School of the Creative and Performing Arts, I know that this isn’t a normal school. It’s one of the most prestigious performing arts high schools in the country. I knew I could convince my mom to let me go if I talked about how this would help me with my craft.

Yes, I actually used the word
craft
to describe what I do. But my “craft” is more on a par with the caricature artists in Times Square than with a true artist.

I play pretend. I’ve been doing it my entire life. I’ve been doing it so long, I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’m more comfortable being someone else than being me. I don’t even feel like me when I’m “Carter Harrison.” The paparazzi were waiting outside the school today when I arrived, and I flashed that famous grin at them … but that wasn’t me. That was a role.

As we wait for my name to be called, I glance at Mom hiding behind her oversize sunglasses. She didn’t seem all that surprised to see the photographers outside. Gee, I wonder who leaked that my audition is today? It’s not like being on a soap opera gets you a ton of press, but when you were the biggest box office draw at the age of ten, people like to follow you around. See what you’re up to. It’s like my life is a never-ending episode of
Where Is He Now?

At least I’ve gotten used to the attention. I’m really good at blocking it out. Plus, it helped me get a role on a show that only requires me to work a few hours a week. This way, I stay on television to appease my mom and I get to go to school for me.

I’m not even nervous as I wait for my name to be called. Stepping onto that stage and reciting my two monologues (one from
Our Town
and the other from
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
) will be easy. That’s a normal day for me. But the thought of getting to go to school is what will make me nervous.

What’s ironic is that Mom is the one who doesn’t want me to go to school. She thinks I won’t be prepared to handle being in a school with other kids.

Let’s see, I’ve spent my entire life being judged, critiqued, and picked apart.

I think I’m more ready for high school than anybody could be.

I
t’s all going according to plan.

This audition is just one more box to check off on Sophie’s Plan to Superstardom.

Basically, the list so far has consisted of me performing at every possible talent show, wedding, sporting event, bar mitzvah, birthday party, etc., in the Brooklyn area (check!), getting Emme to write me a can’t-lose original song for my audition (check!), and getting into CPA.

Of course, once I’m accepted, I’ll have my work cut out for me. I’m not that naïve. So once I get in I need to become the star pupil, land the lead in every play, get the most coveted spot in the Senior Showcase, and then get a record contract by the time I graduate.

I will have a Grammy before I turn twenty. Even if it kills me.

I’m not even nervous. Are you kidding me? I LOVE being onstage. I LOVE the glow of the spotlight. It’s the waiting that’s killing me.

I look around and notice a few other contenders for the vocal department at CPA from different talent contests that I’ve done … and won. They’ve got nothing on me and they know it.

All the singers (at least in Brooklyn) are jealous of me. While they’ll be auditioning with songs from
West Side Story
,
My Fair Lady
, and
The Sound of Music
, I have an original Emme Connelly song written just for me.

For a second, just a second, my stomach drops. I hope Emme gets in. Her audition for the music composition program is in a couple weeks. Although her acceptance (or rejection) won’t really affect my Plan. She’ll still write songs for me. It would just be easier if she would also be at my school. Don’t get me wrong, she’s talented enough to get in, but being center stage really isn’t her thing. She gets nervous.

Not everybody can be a natural.

“Sophie Jenkins.”

I hear my name and enter the auditorium. I can’t wait to show the panel what I’m capable of. I’m ready to move on with my Plan and be the star that I know I am.

This is just one small step.

Check.

I
want to get this over with.

My stomach has been in knots all morning. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve been a wreck since I got the date of this audition. Maybe going to CPA isn’t the best idea. I’ve got it pretty good in Greenwich. I’ve got friends, and even better, I’ve got Kelsey.

Although, I just got a girlfriend and what do I do? I audition for a school in New York City, which means I’ll have to live at my parents’ Park Avenue apartment during the week.

Leave it to me to complicate one of the few good things in my life.

I almost considered backing out of the audition and not going to CPA, but — and I’m fully aware of how corny this sounds — music is my life.

At first I didn’t know that it was unusual for someone to hear a song and be able to play it back instantly on the piano or guitar. Or that not everybody can sit down and write a song. I’ve been playing music,
my
music, for as long as I can remember. It flows from me with ease.

It’s just the lyrics that I suck at.

I’m a thirteen-year-old kid who lives in a huge house in Connecticut with my investment banker father and stay-at-home mom. What do I have to write about? I don’t know anything about suffering or pain. Or love.

I guess the one good thing going for me is that I don’t have to sing today. I’m doing a couple of instrumental pieces. I hate singing. I hate it when people look at me. I wonder if they’ll let me perform behind a screen?

I try to get my legs to stop shaking, but if they stay still, what will distract me from the bile that is slowly rising in my throat? I go to bite my nails, but there isn’t any nail left.

Dad squeezes my shoulder. I hate him knowing that I’m nervous. Why can’t I just tune out the voices in my head telling me I’m going to mess it up, like I mess everything up? Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I do something without thinking of the fourteen thousand ways that I can mess up?

Actually, there is one thing I can do to quiet the voices. The only thing that I am good at, which is playing music.
That
I can do well.

It’s everything else that’s the problem.

BOOK: Take a Bow
5.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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