Emma Watson doesn't know about it, but we've been in a fight since 2001.
To borrow a line from Paris Hilton, She knows what she did. See, Emma Watson had the gall to be cast as Hermione, when I — another hopeful 11-year-old frizzy-haired girl named Emma, who actually had the buck teeth the role required — never even had a chance to audition. And while I harbor no ill will toward Watson (ENJOY GETTING KIDNAPPED BY A TEN FOOT TALL BEAST, GIRLFRIEND), watching her lead the life my prepubescent self once dreamed for myself has been less than precious, to say the least.
But it's been 16 years, y'all, and my time in the sun finally came: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child auditions were being held in New York, and the Bustle offices just happened to be a cool nine blocks away from the hullabaloo. And you can bet your bottom Galleon I went in there, wand a-blazing, to claim my rightful spot in the Potter empire.
A bit of backstory here (I'll pause while someone starts playing the world's tiniest violin): I actually did harbor legitimate dreams of being a performer once. In the years after Emma Watson's betrayal, I spent my adolescence training as a singer and an actress, frequently taking the five hour bus from D.C. to New York and back for grueling day trips to audition for everything from the tour of Fame to the movie version of Les Miserables to the parody musical of 50 Shades Of Grey (WORK IS WORK, GUYS). I went to college with big theater dreams, realized that they were slowly turning me into someone with fewer shreds of sanity than a character from an Edgar Allan Poe short story, and gave up said dreams to pursue the far more lucrative paths of majoring in psychology, songwriting, and internet journalism. (My bank account gently weeps.)
But through all those broken teenage dreams and vocal nodes and angsty belt-alongs to Miley Cyrus's The Climb, one thing remained as steady as Ron's contempt for Viktor Krum: my adoration and unrepentant nerdery for the Harry Potter series.
And so for a day, just one day, I decided to shed my Hufflepuff skin, channel my inner Gryffindor, and march over to the Cursed Child auditions, life-scarring theater-related flashbacks be damned.
(^ My old headshot, from back when I had hopes and dreams and a sick leather jacket.)
If you've read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, you'll know that, as a 25-year-old woman who has on more than one occasion been chased down by doormen at PR parties after being mistaken for a teen, I had a snowflake's chance in hell of getting considered for any of the OG Potter squad. The audition had some very specific requirements for casting in terms of age and height, but looking at the listings, it became clear that I was only suitable for one of these iconic roles ...
Moaning Myrtle / And Others: Female. 18+. Must be 5 feet 7 inches or shorter. Ghost of Myrtle who died at Hogwarts.
Yes, this is a picture of me posing as Myrtle Elizabeth Warren, notorious sewage ghost of Hogwarts and known Draco Malfoy sympathizer. Why, you may ask, did I drag Bustle lifestyle editor Tanya Ghahremani into our office bathroom and drape myself on a toilet as she snapped pictures and immortalized this ill-advised, germ-ridden journey? BECAUSE I'M METHOD AF, Y'ALL.
There was, of course, a tiny hitch in my plan. OK, a not-so-tiny one: the auditions were Equity only, which meant that you had to be an actor with enough paid credits to join the acting union (which, as we have established from my #brokendreams, I am not). But back in my youth when I was still a naive innocent little sea fish, I frequently went to these auditions anyway, and every now and then they would sneak non-Equity punks in to read for the casting directors in between Equity appointments, so maybe all hope was not lost.
Aside from the fact that, uh, I can't act. Or do a British accent. But like, other than those three itty bitty issues, what could go wrong?
So on the day of days, I left my desk after a busy afternoon at Bustle, heading for Pearl Studios in Manhattan — a place that, thanks to the Dark Days Of Auditions Past, I knew all too well. I opened the doors and was immediately overwhelmed by strange memories: sitting semi-deliriously with my butt against that same marbled floor in a line of two hundred girls in the pre-dawn hours; watching a girl take an entire bottle of honey to the face in a holding room just before she was called in to sing; and one particular audition so brutal that they literally lined us up against a wall, plucked out the ones they liked, and told the rest of us to go home before we even opened our mouths. Ah, the sweet nectar of childhood.
This was the sign directing us to the audition. Take a good hard look at that sign, everyone. Now take another look. Are you seeing the thing I should have seen, but in my holy Harry horror, did not? Auditions had been moved to the other Pearl Studios space across the street. Cue me and a similarly disgruntled woman auditioning for Ginny riding the elevator back down and jaywalking across 8th Avenue, a feat I have not attempted since I was 19, the last time an audition yanked my chain like this.
When we finally made it onto floor where the auditions were being held, the elevator door opened to what I can only describe as a sweaty terror swamp. It was suddenly 20 degrees warmer, and the floor was more crowded than I'd ever seen it — wall-to-wall with Potter hopefuls, from tall Hagrids to wry Ginnys to seemingly infinite punk rock Delphis. There were people pacing the floor, people in straight-up Hogwarts robes, and people using the words "I'm going to throw up" a little too liberally for anyone's taste. It was horrifying. It was home.
Unsurprisingly, I was told by the woman running the auditions that no non-Equity performers were being seen that day, and then given a look that I can roughly describe as "Please don't make my life anymore difficult than it is inside this hotbed of unbearably neurotic performers, and just go without me telling you to, so help me Poseidon". I obliged. But not before asking a girl who actually was on the list to get seen that day to take this picture of me making a sad face outside of the room I'd just been low key kicked out of.
It was, perhaps, for the best; if I'd actually by some ridiculous fortune been seen by the casting team, I probably would have ended up just as wrung out and terrified looking as the humans in that holding room, who were existing in a scary, too-bright world I had long since left behind. I did a lap just to make sure nobody I knew was there — back in the old days, it was rare not to run into an old theater friend — but it was a sea of nervous strangers. As I was leaving, a woman who finished her audition got into the elevator with me and said, "Six yesterday and four today; I'm exhausted!" And I just nodded like I knew how she felt, because at one point I guess I did — but damn, did I not envy her one bit. I couldn't even find it in me to be disappointed that I hadn't gotten to audition; the elevator doors shut closed on the lot of them and I felt a liberating kind of relief.
So, was it still worth going to this audition I knew I'd probably never get seen at? Weirdly, yes. Gatecrashing that audition was one of the few times I've been able to look back at the life I once led and measure it against the life I lead now, and I am happy to report that I like my 2017 life very much. Even if I did have the talent to ~make it~, it turns out I'm much, much happier on the other side of the curtain, typing my feelings into a computer instead of spilling them out on a stage — my longstanding, one-sided feud with Emma Watson aside.
That being said, I will always be the Myrtle Elizabeth Warren of the American cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in my heart, and no amount of fact-based evidence can take that away from me.
I'd like to wrap up my feelings about this experience with a few wise words from Albus Dumbledore: "REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA." Which, I guess, in this case translates roughly to, "(Actually please don't) REMEMBER MY LAST (failed attempt getting into your auditions), CASTING DIRECTORS OF CURSED CHILD."
But hey — can't blame a Muggle for trying.