Bummertime Blues in the Vienna Woods

November 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm (Acting, Culture, music, Theater) (, , , , , , )

Some days it’s just a bummer being sentient.

I feel heartless packing my tupperware lunch while hostages are dying in Mumbai, but what are am I supposed to do, starve? It’s quite surreal watching CNN’s panic-driven coverage and calmly cutting up little squares of roast beef in my serene kitchen.  I feel queasy, because it’s obvious that the networks had been praying to Satan for such a newsworthy story; amidst their anxiousness for their fellow-reporters, glee – get cameras! stories! i-reporters! should we use the holograms again??? – is oozing from every Max Factor-ed pore.  I don’t know what caused me to pull over on the highway on the way home, puking my tupperware lunch 50m from the Kifisia exit, but the nausea had been steadily building all day, and has carried on through my weekend.

Nausea with the play I saw last night, and nausea at the sickness of modern consumerist society, that left a Wal-Mart employee trampled to death in Long Island, and two men dead by their own hand in Southern California. Why does Wal-Mart end up being blamed for not having enough store security? For pity’s sake, what are we? Animals that need herding? Can we not live peacefully without the fear of the whip?

Yes, the credit crunch>recession>New Depression has left many of us much worse off, but can a simple sale at a store cause such pandemonium that people would claw and flatten their fellow beings to get a three dollar DVD or ten cent tomato? How can we act this way? In California, two fearsome hausfraus had brought along their gun-packing escorts to the Black Friday Sale, who actually shot each other in bizarre knightly fashion, after the ladies fought over some frivolous discount item.  I am reminded of Huxley’s Savage, quoting excitedly “O brave new world that has such people in it!”  And what a bummer that brave new world turned out to be.

Perhaps misanthrope Odon von Horvath was right all along. Truly, I have never felt so sickened by a play in my life. On the one, more inconsequential level, the performance Tales from the Vienna Woods proved that the more A-list talent you hire, the worse a show will be. All  my indie favorites (now playing at the National Theatre, thanks to the demise of Nikos Kourkoulos) were there, hamming it up in an obscene parody of themselves. There was my beloved Nikos Kouris, spitting freely and yelling as he tried gamely to support his nasty, cardboard-cut-out character. Aggeliki Papoulia gazed as wide-eyed, trembly-voiced and knobbly-kneed as ever, as she tried to ignore the play she was in.  Themis Bazaka and Akyllas Karazisis had decided between themselves that they would compete for alpha dog status in a shouting match, overpowering even the amazingly strong lungs of wizened Titika Sarigouli.

At first I was confused. I couldn’t understand why director Yiannis Chouvardas would want to mock the genre of big, ensemble musicals in such a mean-spirited way. I mean, Ok, you’ve got the National Theatre, already, it’s yours. Only experimental performances from now on — must you rub it in the face of more mainstream theater-goers? They love the theater, too. We need them to keep coming and paying tickets for our shows, or else we might as well set up shop in our backyard, playing only for ourselves, the self-satisfied, arugula-chomping elitist crowd.  I believe that the National Theatre of any country is obliged to offer fare for all tastes — the name says it all. National. Last night, the curtain went up and we saw a set that could be the backdrop for Guys and Dolls — and were then forced to watch every stock character (the butcher, toymaker, granny, vamp, etc.) turn into horrible, crooked caricatures.

Yet, as the hours (3 of them) wore on, I realized that the course jokes, exaggerated acting, and endless Austrian ditties (one was played at least 9 times — I was amazed at Kat’s self-control) were all trying to cover up what a bad play this actually is. It is not a window into pre-Anschluss Austria, it is a portait of vulgar, nasty, loud, idiotic louts who sing, drink beer and get on with their miserable lives. Von Horvath’s goal, according to the program’s notes, was to “harshly rail against stupidity and lies.”  The author goes on to say that he despises stupidity and lies, and supports logic and honesty. Fine. So why is it that the only character who tries to escape from stupidity, lies and a fiancee who can’t kiss without biting, is left up Shit Creek without a paddle?

Everybody else ends up just the way they began in Act One. They have a few adventures, a few ups and downs, and that’s it. The moral of this play is, all ends well if you don’t try to be an honest person who strives for integrity. The one who does try to follow her heart becomes a single, cabaret-dancing mother – who then loses both her child and her crummy job — and ends up (with permanently sore lips) back in the arms of the fate she tried to escape. If that’s not a bummer, then I don’t know what is.

And let me just say – before I go back to reading up on nuclear fallout and measuring the miles that separate the Indian subcontinent from Greece – that people have using make-up in the theater for the past 2000 years – Mr. Chouvardas, do you think you know better?

Let us ponder. Hmm… that would an emphatic NO.

My gorgeous, Carmen-like friend Kika may be able to get away without wearing makeup, but quite a few of the others were pale, pasty, and scary — logical, with all those bright lights shining on them, non? Think of Ms. Bazaka’s age and lack of eyebrows, and then reconsider if a middle-aged vamp would even go to the window without make-up. But Chouvardas needs to be an iconoclast, so he acts accordingly — even if it is to the detriment of a show.

It’s like those Greek rappers/low-bappers the other night — Totem, DJ Moya, and Xnaria. They have these crazy insecurity complexes, and must, at all costs retain negative attitudes, so, instead of being happy at opening for Public Enemy, they told us 5 times that they’re not getting any money for this show, and rapped with rage against managers to the refrain of “What do I say? Fuck the USA!” The crowd loved it.

Now, that just drives me crazy. You wouldn’t even know what rap was, you dumb bastards, if it wasn’t for the USA. That’s where it was born, like it or not. And you’re wearing your hoodies in emulation of the rappers of that country. So just shut up. Oh, you’re angry white boys? Well, why don’t you say say Fuck Agion Oros and its dirty priests/ Fuck Pasok and Fuck Karamanlis — those are the ones damaging this country, in case you haven’t noticed.

But you don’t notice, because you’re too busy sneering at Public Enemy’s 20-year history, saying to the crowd, “Well, I would have been excited doing this 10 years ago, but nothing good has come out of that country since then.” Dude, don’t open for the legendary Public Enemy, then. Put your money where your mouth is, Monsieur Ellinaras. Some manager must have gotten you this gig — or would you have preferred he wangle your opening for Peggy Zina?

Then Public Enemy took the stage. And I boogied like it was 1989, sweaty and happy, for the next 3 hours. They were simply amazing. Uplifting as hell. Their musicians (on bass, guitar, drums, and the uber-scratching DJ Lord) were excellent, their sound hard, and they did not stop smiling and jumping around like they were still 20 years old. Chuck D and Flavor Flav’s genius lies in the way they mix their “happy” music with lyrics full of political criticism completely lacking in nastiness.

And when you show how happy you are to be on stage performing, when the love for you do is so obvious, then the audience gets in sync with you and just keeps wanting more — without being bummed out or wanting to beat anybody up after the curtain falls.

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Valse Oedipalle

August 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm (Acting, Culture, Film, Movies, Theater) (, , , , , , , , , )

Obviously, I am no state to be watching art these days.  How else to explain the nervous giggles, acute boredom, and disbelief I have experienced in the last two shows I’ve attended? Two creations that have as much in common as Dubya and ingenuity? Either my id is acting up as a result of quitting theater and my I’d-rather-be-in-Gori-nursing-shrapnel-wounds-rather-than-auditioning attitude, or I truly did witness a double violation of the thespian craft.

Perpetrator number one was definitely more painful than the second.  A Greek dream team of actors took part in Roula Pateraki’s double Oedipus, including my second-favorite director ever, in whose theater I had just rehearsed.  I was ecstatic at finally going to Epidaurus, as for most of June and July I could only listen wistfully (OK, I was pea-green with envy) to the raves regarding the performances in this year’s Athens Festival. For me, being part of it was not enough. I don’t think I will get over missing Fiona Shaw playing Happy Days in Epidaurus; my taste of the Wooster Group’s exquisite Hamlet had only whetted my appetite for cerebral, avant-garde theater. Being a working actor means you never get to actually watch any performances other than your own, and even then, not properly. (The last show I was in, people kept telling me how much they loved the lighting design; I had no idea what the lighting looked like, and thanked them with cluelessness painted all over my face.)

But there I was, finally perched on the holy hill, grinning happily and squirming on the still-warm rock. We were sure that the performance would be exceptional; our only worry was that our sweet Marmarinos might not have the acting and vocal prowess to properly portray both Oedipus Rex and At Colonus.  We traded insider gossip, as only the most jaded, theater-going, know-it-alls do. We worried about his mouth surgery.

We needn’t have.

Marmarinos and the guy who played Creon as a baddie in some Zorro movie (circa 1940) were the only two people having a ball in this excruciatingly bad production. Four hours later, with a third of the theater gone and feeling like we had been beaten up, our only questions began with Why? Why? Why? We just couldn’t understand – anything at all.  As my shitlist of bad productions was given a new numbering system, we wondered:

Why pretend to use (i.e. light, and place a few benches on) the entire forest backdrop? I am all for treating actors and extras with the gentleness they deserve, but this duped us into thinking that it had some dramatic purpose.  Nope.  It was only for the guys who made the pretty patterns with silver dust in the orchestra to hang out on, until they had to go back and remake the pretty maze that the actors had the bad taste to spoil by stepping all over it. (We felt intellectually stumped as we debated the reasons.  The characters ignored the restraints of the maze of life, thus provoking the Gods’ wrath? The characters try to change the paths that Fate has laid out and fail?)

Why was everybody dressed Neanderthal-style, but the extras making the Silver Maze dressed like exterminators? Why could we see them? Why did they give up on the maze on the second part of the performance? Why did Antigone become an extra all throughout the second part? This brings us to:

Why on earth was Oedipus at Colonus performed first? I won’t begin to recount all the reasons we thought of; suffice to say, I stand by our last.  It simply was much better than Oedipus Rex, and they were aware that people would leave in droves.  When, a few days later, I found out the “truth” – all this was supposed to be Antigone’s recollection of her dad’s misfortune, and that was why she remained onstage throughout – I was aghast. I am sure there were a few simple things that could have been done (or even explained in the program – they weren’t) so that I would not have had to hunt throughout the acting community to find out.

Was this what the director had been dreaming of throughout her much-documented quest for the perfect production of Oedipus?  This was the summation of a year’s work? A leaden, academic reading of the two plays? With a few misguided directorial flourishes? Let’s not even get into the scratchy-voiced, shuffling, paper-clutching, half-monk, half-Star Wars extras that was the chorus.  The less said, the better about the emasculation of the most important part of any ancient Greek play.

Why was Kariofilia Karabeti as Antigone so unrecognizably bad? An Epidaurus veteran and with the sexiest voice in Greek theater, she normally has a knack for looking good even in bad productions; this time she bounded around like she was auditioning for Xena; the shrieking Ismene was her Gabriella, and they excelled at motion-stop-motion-speak/screech-start-motion-again acting. Amateur? Amazingly so.

Why did everybody wave their hands around, emphasing Ev-er-y syllable, in the most unnatural manner, and then stay stuck with their hands in the air for an indeterminable amount of time? Why? What was the purpose? Even our Press Secretary speaks with more feeling.

Why was the audience treated to a most kindergarten-like THERE WILL ONLY BE A 7 MINUTE BREAK (to a four-hour show) warning, and then forced to watch the most artless scene-shifting in history? (Lefteri, your Prince of Homburg was pure poetry; where are you in our hour of need?) The intermission occurred 4 minutes before the end of Oedipus at Colonus, provoking another Why? At this point, the only thing we were sure of was that there was not to be any experimental theater going on; so why don’t you just make a nice, classic production of it? Why?

The anti-intellectuals in theater may have a point, after all. (Dear Teacher, all is forgiven.)

My fit of giggles occurred during the lowest point of the performance.  Jocasta (played by Mania Papadimitriou, another revered actress) was dressed as Peter Pan, posing as a two-armed Kali and held aloft by two men on a white saucer (come on, National Theater! Where did all the budget go? On Ismene’s “horse”?) She admonished the quarreling Creon and Oedipus in such a funny, you-silly-silly-boys way that I keeled over with laughter.  Taking deep breaths, i watched, shocked, as she soon hopped off her palanquin, started screeching like a savaged pig, “KAKOTYXE!!” and crawled through the palace “gate” moaning – and only then did they guys holding her realize she wasn’t on her white saucer anymore, and they rushed after her a full 5 minutes after she had begun having contrived hysterics.

These people are all professional actors and directors of quality.  They have acted in and/or directed incredible performances.  Let’s not nitpick anymore.  Therefore, my final query is, Did you know what you were performing in?

What was left of the audience clapped madly, and I even read a blog that actually raved about the show.  Is it me? Us? We bowed our heads and rushed out to drink mass qualities of ouzo, averting our eyes when the performers walked by.  Only a few hours before I had fantasized about introducing myself, and now I couldn’t leave fast enough.

On to perp number 2.

I decide to go to my favorite open-air cinema, drink a Carib and watch the latest in Greek nepotism.  I had heard positive things about Kostantina Voulgari’s Valse Sentimentale, and I have a soft spot for the “alternative” lifestyle of my youth, so I figured in I was in for a pleasant evening.

The whole movie was set in my beloved Exarchia district of Athens, and I cooed at seeing pigtails, Doc Martens, Chartes cafe, Club Decadence, the steps of Kallidromiou Street (fondly, I recalled drinking cheap beer and singing on those steps); I began guessing (correctly) at the other locales that would be used in this ode to the anarchic neighborhood.

The game soon wore off.  If this had been a short, 15 minutes max, it could been a masterpiece.  At two hours, it was almost painful.  Let’s ignore the fact that the camera was held by an epileptic, the acting mediocre, and the lighting non-existent.  (No “wow, what a cool shot!!” here, you were lucky to see anything at all.) We’ll just assume Ms. Voulgari is of the make-your-audience-uncomfortable mentality.  So far, OK, live and let live.  But.

My basic disagreement with this “love story about nothing” is that Stamatis, the love interest, was so obviously an immature, unattractive, self-involved, verging-on-mental-retardation twat.

I don’t think I would have fallen for his line (by line, i mean his mumbling incomplete sentences) had I been 14 and he even remotely appealing.  To see the cute little punk-metal chick aching over this jerk was excruciating to the extreme.  Their conversations were infantile, plebian, and boring. Yet, there was even a gorgeous former girlfriend who practically had a fit when the git left her birthday party.

In a nutshell? This movie is forgivable only if the director’s age is not yet 18. (She’s pushing 30.)   I argued that her own sentimentality was to blame for this movie that had so obviously been in her drawer since junior high.  But, when you consider that her father is a respected, successful director, you realize she could have made this no-budget flick back then.

So, again, we are back to why? Why was this movie made? What was it trying to say?  That there are some women whose self-esteem is so low that they will pin all their hopes on an ugly fucker with the IQ of a cucumber?  That awkwardness and bad sex are cool?  That its ok – nay, nice – to put up with a disturbed “artist” (reaching for my barf bucket here) who can’t sleep in the same bed with you, and sends you on your way after the aforementioned bad sex? (“But I thought we were good,” she snuffles when he dumps her. Why, honey? Why? Are you retarded, too?)  When she picks up the used hanky he has thrown disdainfully on the floor and blows her nose, I wanted to shake her.

Valse Sentimentale is not a love story about nothing, because there was no love involved. Let me rephrase that, if that is love, I hope I never get it.  But that’s the thing.  I have gotten it and I know what its like; in its worst, most suicide-inducing moments it is not like this.

And then, for some reason, they hug and the credits finally roll. And I get Total Recall: The screeching Ismene and our pathetic movie heroine? One and the same.  Loukia Michalopoulou, unlucky girl, make better career decisions or else people will actually come to believe you’re a bad actress.

Fucking Karma.  I must have done something bad again. This must mean something.  I have to figure it out before next Friday’s excursion to Epidaurus; i don’t think I can handle 3 crappy shows in a row.

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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.

Silence.

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.”

Oh.

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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