Short Story: The Actor as Stalker and Other Anecdotes

April 14, 2008 at 12:45 pm (Acting, Theater) (, , , , , )

The trail had gone cold sometime around June.

We were forced to admit defeat while skulking around the US Embassy. The Man had vanished into thin air and taken his office with him. We were just trying to get out of the rain, plotting our next move, but the nervous soldiers did not seem amused. As well they might be. The perimeter had been breached only that month by an anarchist with superb sniper training. Or so they would have us believe.

At any rate, the result was the same. Precious parking space was taken up by the most paranoid embassy in town, and yesterday’s meeting with the Supreme Being taught us to expand on the axiom “If you want to get something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.” I now add, “(semi-colon) the satisfaction of knowing you shot yourself in the foot is unparalleled.”

“This is it,” I announced. “Prepare to bask in the sunlight of his godliness.”

“Wipe your mouth, you’ve got crumbs everywhere,” my partner-in-stalking answered. I frowned. How could she be so practical about our meeting with holiness incarnate?

“Like he’s even going to be in.” I said nastily. “We’ll be lucky if a secretary opens the door.” Her downcast face made me feel sorry. Perhaps I had gone too far. This was our dream, after all. Besides, cynicism would get us nowhere. We were here because we had decided to Seize The Day. No more waiting for a role to land in our lap; we were going to go out and grab ourselves one.

So, I wiped myself carefully. She brightened up. We fixed our hair. It was no better than before. A junkie on his way to the Square watched us suspiciously. Clutching our CV’s like votive offerings, we rang the outer bell. Immediately, someone buzzed us through. Success made me cocky; she became slightly breathless. I waltzed in and knocked on the Supreme Being’s door, eager to see just who had been chosen for his Ganymede.

A dog immediately went berserk inside, barking as self-importantly as only the most kick-worthy canines know how. My friend’s breathlessness gave way to gasps of fear. She backed away from the door that separated her from the monster inside. I was not in the mood for her – otherwise amusing – fear of dogs. “Calm down, dammit,” I snapped. “Can’t you tell its one of those shitty small ones?”

Before she could answer, the door opened.

The Supreme Being – all five feet of him – looked up at us with terror in his eyes. “Caught!” they seemed to say. A white fluffy mop ran in excited circles around itself.


Call us imbeciles, but we had not thought of this eventuality. Sure, we had imagined him seeing one or both of us and shouting, “Eureka! Call the production crew! We’re ready to roll!” Yet, the case of him simply opening the door and waiting for us to state our purpose had never crossed our minds.

So, we gazed at each other for awhile. I don’t remember which of us managed to croak out a greeting. At this point, he realized he had control of higher ground. And quickly worked it to his advantage. He deftly relieved us of our CVs, (“Are these for me?”) and said, “Thanks, goodbye now!” The door started to shut. Destiny was shutting the door in my face.

“Ahh… Sir?”

Crimson-faced, but unwilling to let him get away that easily, “About your new movie? It’s about Greek-Americans in Canada, isn’t it? I just wanted to tell you that I actually am a Greek-American, and…”

“Actually, it’s being filmed in Siberia. In Russian. Goodbye.”


Huddled together under the rain the next day, we realized there was to be no next move. No one we respected was left on our list. We had done all we could do. Which was not much, admittedly; just a few CVs scattered in the general direction of possible productions. Skirting the embassy barriers, we ran, giggling, hand in hand towards the metro. Our phones never rang.

After that, we gave up our search for quality directors. And then directors in general. The winter of our discontent passed with some of us quitting the scene by becoming chemists, and others entertaining snot-nosed children whose only desire in life was to wreck the scenery and pass on every childhood infection known to man.

Spring came again. And with it, chances to shine (or at least twinkle).

Lying on the filthy red rug of the Rialto Theater, waiting for our turn with more patience than Vladimir and Estragon combined, we regaled the others with the story of the pint-sized actor/body builder who craved testosterone. What else was there to do? We had already chatted to everybody in the room and ascertained that no important information was to be gained from anyone. Inside, only 6 people had been examined in an hour. It was going to be long night.

The audition with the body builder had started out badly. Upon arrival, i saw it was strictly C-quality. My more intellectual audition-buddies were nowhere to be seen, and miniskirts topped with blond heads were everywhere. Every non-talent in the business, upon attaining a role on TV, forms their own production company. In fairness, these people may recognize talent, but they have no use for it. And we run to their auditions. Well, I do. Or, did. I felt (correction: used to feel) guilty whenever I missed an audition. Each audition brought with it the freshness of morning dewdrops. Each one was The One. They all turned into soggy acid rain by afternoon, but tomorrow? And the next day?

At what point does optimism turn into foolishness, you ask? When you start to feel like a fool.

Which brings us back to our charmless chunk of manliness. He was more self-important than Napoleon and ruder than a sleep-deprived truck driver. Up and down he ran, list in hand, muttering like truffle-hunting pig. Napoleon the hog. And definitely not as quick on the uptake as Orwell’s Napoleon; I mean, OK, artists are not renowned for their IQ but this was ridiculous. All he had to do was call out our names in the order in which they appeared. Nope. Too difficult. He kept getting mixed up. And sweating. (As pigs do.)

Glory and he had gotten off to a bad start; he had actually folded her head shot in two. She bristled, and (extremely Lady Bracknell-like) said curtly, ” Please refrain from folding my picture. ”

“Huh?” said the genius. “Why?”

“I simply don’t like it being folded. It makes me uncomfortable. Please straighten it out!” Imperio!

Proving his genius, he turned to me and made the motion we used in school to imply someone was a head job. Glory’s mouth started twitching.

“So you’re the director’s assistant?” I asked.

His eyes bugged out in horror. Extremely insulted, “Shit, no way! I’m an actor. I don’t do that shit.” A little more magnanimously, I’m just helping the guys out.”

“Oh, are you going to be in the cast?” Should I even bother to audition?

“In both productions,” he said proudly. “I don’t understand why you people go to auditions. I’ve never gone to audition in my life and I’ve never been unemployed. You guys are totally crazy.” Glory flexed her manicured nails.

“And how, exactly, do you find jobs?” she asked icily. The “you disgusting slab of overripe munchkin” tone was not noticed by Napoleon.

He leaned over (and up) and said, “Girlie, I just go up to the people I want to work with and my powers of persuasion do the rest.”

My stomach cramped with suppressed laughter. This guy just killed me. I wanted to crack up on the floor, but we could not afford hysterics. It was almost our turn, and Glory’s cackle is the one of the most infectious you’ve ever heard. Desperately, I said, “So, did you hear, Glory? Tina’s quit show business!”

“No way,” she said, wiping tears from her still-laughing eyes. “Unbelievable!”

“I know. She’s gone back to being a chemist. She’s working crazy hours at a pharmaceutical company.”

“Who works at a pharmaceutical company?! Do you work at a pharmaceutical company?” We were interrupted by a rabid Napoleon. “GIve me your phone number now! Can you make me some testosterone?” Gone was the smugness of before; I was looking into the eyes of a psychopathic junkie.

“No, no, no not me! ” I backed away in terror. “A friend!”

“Where is she? Is she down there?” He made to go downstairs.

“No! She’s at work,” and thank Dionysus for that. A minute later his watery junkie eyes were inches away from mine. A drool-drop coyly hung from his lower lip. The stench from his piggy mouth was indescribable.

“You tell her I’ve got a business proposition for her. Promise me you will tell her!”

I promised from a safe distance. I fully intended to keep my promise – over a few bottles of wine and an audience.

“Listen, ” he said seriously, “It’s a really good proposal, I’m not shitting you. I’m into body building, for like, a hobby, you know?”

“I thought you might be!” Glory exclaimed. She beamed at him. “It really shows.” I glared at her. Didn’t she realize we were dealing with a madman?

He reddened. “Um, yeah, well, anyway. If she could make us some testosterone at the lab, we’ll do a, uh, deal thing, and she’ll definitely like the terms. We’re talking big, fucking huge money here. Do you know if she can make testosterone?”

“I have no idea, but we’ll find out,” I assured the mad munchkin pig.

“Today!” he insisted. “She’ll be rich, tell her. And don’t worry, I’ll protect her from the mean fuckers, she’ll only deal with me, she won’t even meet the others, OK?”

“As soon as I get home,” I told him. And I did, after telling a funny story for my audition instead of Euripides. It seemed more fitting, under the circumstances.

I kept my promise to Napoleon. I argued in his favor, opined that it would be a great story for grandchildren, but my chemist did not want to hear of it. She is way too cerebral at times. Later, I wondered how long the poor fuck waited for her phone call. How important a thing had we mocked? Was his fury the reason for my not getting the acting gig?

Nearly a year later, we’re all living in a Chekhov play – nothing has changed.

“See? If you’d made the drugs for him, you’d have made a shitload of dough! More than teaching chemistry to brats, that’s for sure.” Tina, that artistic spirit, had lasted three months of misery, hate, and exploitation before quitting the pharmaceutical company. “And you wouldn’t have ditched last night’s audition to go teach. And they would have hired you and we would all have been hired together!” This was true. Our resident chemist was far better at dancing than us; dancing as if the wind was blowing her around would have been a piece of cake.

Why had they hired us? God knows. That’s the funny thing about acting. When you do get hired, you always wonder, why me? But, I didn’t do anything special! I totally screwed up my lines/songs/acted like an idiot…

Why? There is no why. If they want to hire you, they will. Even if you don’t fit the prerequisites of a role. It really makes no difference. 95% of the time you lock down a role before you even open your mouth. This is often called “the magic of theater” by those not inclined towards cynicism.

Our bonny chemist pondered on the perks of a life spent cooking testosterone for the millions of short men with inferiority complexes who inhabit the gyms of the world. Our turn was approximately 4 hours away. Someone had popped off for a class at university and would return shortly. There was no fear of missing their turn.

And then- a lead, burning red-hot was thrown onto our lap! The Man had been found. Cynicism went out the window, and hope bloomed magenta. There is nothing like the hope of an artist; we may grumble and groan and complain that all auditions are rigged, that all directors are assholes, that everybody falls from their pedestal once you get to know them; but hope never ever dies, and at the carrot of a chance to get up on a stage you dump your weekly paycheck, tell big Pharma (well, medium-sized) to take that Bunsen Burner and shove it. Before long, in tears, you print out some more non-actor resumes.

But tears were for later. In a hushed voice, the Cretan explained at length how he managed to get a hold of the Man’s email address, how they replied immediately (!!), and how he triumphantly auditioned at The Man’s new offices.

They were located somewhere in the wilderness of the Eastern Provinces. We debated the reasons for such a move. Was he ecologically minded? Did the sirens keep him up at night? The Man was old; perhaps his doctor had sent him there, far away from downtown’s cancerous atmosphere.

We gleefully planned our new and improved excursion to The Man. To explain: he is one of two people that can make television shows look like art in this country. Two. That’s all. And when I say art, I’m not being an intellectual snob. My Name is Earl is art, too. Are you beginning to get the picture?

The eastern provinces of our city are a shitty place. Roads form, sputter, die, and then turn up over the hill somewhere beyond the goats and the garbage. I parked carefully between two potholes. The stalking had begun.

We were looking for a two-story house somewhere on this road. We had no address, phone, email (the Cretan had accidentally deleted it in his joy) or office hours. Sweat started to form on my lips. School-age children walked behind us, curious and whispering; old ladies stood ready with their brooms, daring us to approach. Ignoring them, we meticulously checked mailboxes. We already had three possible contenders, and all afternoon to kill. Our only problem was our rapidly melting bronzer.

But knocking on strange doors was not to be necessary. The Man had been so confident about his newfound seclusion, that he had recklessly put his real name on the mailbox. Busted you are, my friend and victory is ours. The window was tantalizingly open, the gate unlocked. I grinned, and went for the stairs.

“Where are you going?” Kat whispered. “Let’s just put it in his mailbox.”

I shook my head. “Oh, no. Uh-uh. The trees that made the paper that my CV rests upon will not have died in vain. This time, we’re not leaving until we film a reel. Come on.”

I climbed the stairs, knocked on the door and we were ushered into a small, unkempt office-kitchen-whatever kind of place. A girl came up to us, “Are you here for the casting?”

Kat began to say something about dropping off CVs, but I cut her off.

“Yes, we are,” I said firmly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, but Helen isn’t here, so I didn’t know people were coming,” said the girl worriedly.

“She’s not?” I said disappointed. Who the hell was Helen?

“Oh, but I can shoot a reel for you, it’s no problem!”

I smiled kindly at her. “That would be fine,” I said. She went to get the camera ready. Kat and I could barely look at each other; the excitement was more than we could stand, and the butterflies in our stomach were feeling expansionist. We were going to finally film a reel for The Man.

Our hearts were full of joy that day. Grabbing life by the reins, forcing dreams to come true, and other such nonsense filled our brains. Oh, what happy, silly children with such fragile hopes! They won’t be dashed until filming begins, and perhaps even not then.

I never switch off my phone.

We wait.

And then we wait some more.

If there is a tree to wait under, so much the better.


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