The Travelling Troupe

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Struggling to reach the high notes, Miranda found that Somewhere Over The Rainbow wouldn't cut it for a big audition at her junior school and had to use her own creativity to get her through.

Miranda Keeling is a writer and performer who specialises in observational writing and has lectured on observing at the Lost Lectures. She has read her work on the Verb on BBC Radio 3 and for the BBC's Mark Forrest Show. She took part in a live writing project with Poet Ian McMillan for BBC Radio 3. Her miniature play ‘Bulldog’ was selected for the new writing festival Uncommon Nonsense and was performed upstairs at the Royal Court. Miranda has also written and produced 4 short films and has a horror feature in pre-production. 

Transcript below:

Hello my name is Miranda Keeling and I'm a writer, and I want to share with you a story about something that happened to me when I was about seven or eight. I was living in America, which is where I grew up and and there was an advert on the school noticeboard saying, there was going to be this group got together of children from the school - they'd have to audition - and they would be called the Travelling Troupe and they would go around old people's homes in New Jersey where I lived, doing a singing, dancing show for the residents of the old people's homes and each child would have a pen-friend of one of the elderly people from the final home that they visited. And at the end of the tour of old people's homes, you'd get to meet your pen friend.

I wasn't a confident singer (laughs) or anything like that. In fact, whenever I sung at home, my mum, who was a fantastic singer used to kind of wince. So I was quite afraid of this, but something - I don't know what it was - I told no-one I was going to the audition or anything. I couldn't you know, read music or, I really didn't know what I was doing and I didn't really know - I tried at home practicing Somewhere Over the Rainbow but it just goes up really really high. You know the bit, 'The bluebirds above the whatever,' and my voice would crack and it was always a disaster. 

So, I had a little brother. I still have a little brother, he's now in his 30s. I used to make up invented songs to sing for him, for Dylan. They were just nonsense songs and I thought, 'Right, I'm gonna go,' and I had no knowledge about music so I thought, 'I'm gonna go, I'm gonna audition, I'm gonna use the song I sing for my brother. And because they don't know it,' I thought they couldn't know if it was wrong. I didn't realise about, you know, you could tell if I was flat, just if you had a musical ear. I thought it was more about, knowing a real song and if not, I could fake it. 

Anyway, I got up in front of all these kids, and I was really - I was a British kid essentially, in this American school and there were so many kids auditioning. It was nuts. And I got up, and I got to the microphone and I just started singing this little song that I'd made up, to help my brother fall asleep, about the stars in the night sky and stuff. Anyway, they let me sing about 5 lines and then they said, 'Thank you. Next!' and I got down, whatever. 

Anyway, when the notice went up on the board that said that I had got in to Travelling Troupe, I was, I was, I'll never forget that feeling. And it was one of the best experiences of my life. Going round those homes and singing and dancing for those people. And I had a pen-friend at the end. She was in her 80s. Her name was Pearl. And meeting her was one of the most valuable things that I take with me into my life. 

That's a little over three minutes. I hope it's ok.