Doing battle with daily dragons

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Never Let Your Daughter Go Into Show Business

I have to admit to a small tinge of jealousy today. The Girl has gotten into drama school.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really hugely happy for, and very proud of The Girl. It takes a huge amount of determination to get through the audition process without becoming a nervous, incontinent wreck, and she obviously had the bollocks to get through it. But it definitely drove home the point for me that it’s probably something I’ll never do.

I’m a card carrying member of the Useless Degree Society. (“Member since 1998. Rejoicing in Knowledge You Will Never Use.”) I graduated with a BA in Theatre and a minor in Communications. (Feel free to laugh in anyone’s face if they ever have the gall to sound snotty about having a communications degree. Chances are they don’t any more idea of what their degree means than you do.) I was ready to do the starving artist bit, I really was. And for a good few summers during my university career, I even got to put “actor” in the Occupation bracket of my tax forms. But then, after moving to the UK, I had an absolutely shattering realization.

I don't really have a performance personality. You know the kind of people I’m talking about. They’re like supremely practiced swordsman, darting and dallying with words; anything you throw out, they can parry. They’ll get up in front of anyone and do absolutely anything. It should have occurred to me earlier, really, when I proved to be not really all that great at improv. Here’s what a good improv scene should sound like:

Actor 1: I’m just a pebble, lying on the beach.

Actor 2: Pleased to meet you, pebble, I’m a rhinoceros.

Okay, it’s not a GREAT improv scene, but you get the picture. Here’s what one with me sounded like:

Actor 1: I’m just a pebble, lying on the beach.

Me: Um….okay. That’s kind of weird.

At any rate, it just didn’t work out. I think, despite being an ESFP, I’m actually quite introverted and inhibited despite throwing my bra on stage at the Rock Star once in a particularly rough pub. I suppose I’ll just have to settle for “being artistic.”

To drown my sorrows, I’ll do my old favorite, My Top Five Theatre Moments of all Time. (inspired just a little bit by Izzle Pfaff)

5. All the Queen’s Men- Let me first say, I came out of this moment a lot less embarrassed than some other people. My senior year, I played Andromache in a rather wordy anti-war play called “Tiger At the Gates”. The moment can be attributed to a small carpentry mishap when a bench that I had been sitting down on just FINE, thank you very much, for the last 6 performances, suddenly gave way, and I ended up on my ass. One of the background guys, a friend of mine who I’ll call The Mexican, rushed, in character, to my aid. “My Queen! Let me help you up!” Unfortunately for The Mexican, his costume (basically a skirt) was a little too short for him and the entire audience was, from that moment on, in no doubt that he did indeed wear tighty-whiteys. (“Dude,” said one of the other background guys later, “Did you not think about wearing bike shorts or something underneath?” The Mexican had not considered this option.)

4. Cat Wrangling- I did some time backstage as well, helping out a friend with his senior performance piece called “The Strangest Kind of Romance.” This piece required the use of a cat. I don’t remember the discussions leading up to the decision to use a real, live cat, but I can’t imagine I was part of them, because if I had been, I think I know what my counsel would have been, especially as I was the one who actually had to be in CONTROL of the cat when it was not making it’s stage debut. However, determined to use a real, live cat my friend WAS. Anyone who has ever met a real, live cat can probably imagine it’s reaction to being in a play, so I won’t go into that. Suffice to say there that the band-aid box was empty at the end of just about every rehearsal. The people who LOANED us this cat gave us some animal tranquilizer for the performance. “She only needs half a pill,” they said. So the day of the performance rolls around. Cat is given her half pill. We wait. Cat doesn’t really seem a whole lot calmer. Friend decides to give cat WHOLE pill and another half. The Rest of Us are not really sure about this course of action, but it's time for Curtain Up.

Ragdoll cats are a great breed. They’re completely pliant and go limp when you pick them up. The cat in question was NOT a Ragdoll, but as I was standing backstage with it, it was certainly exhibiting similar characteristics. I picked it up by it’s armpits and it looked like a big, fuzzy, unconscious sack of flour. One of the lines in the play ended up being an involuntary audience laugh riot. “Look at how she stares at me!” complains the cat-owner’s girlfriend, “Like one jealous woman to another!” The cat, at the time was nearly upside down with it’s eyes crossed and tongue hanging out. I honestly thought we’d killed it, but it seemed okay, albeit with a hell of a hangover, post show. Before I get lots of hate mail, let me just say, IT WASN'T MY IDEA TO DRUG THE CAT INTO OBILVION. I LOVE CATS. Thank you.

3. Cross-gartering- Anyone who’s ever read “Twelfth Night” will recognise the famous scene in which the steward, Malvolio, thinking he’s caught the attentions of the Countess Olivia, comes before her wearing a fashion she hates (cross gartering) and a color she detests. (yellow) In a touring summer theatre production, I played Olivia opposite an exceptional comic actor who loved to try to break me on stage. His “reveal” was care of a pair of Velcro stripper pants which not only revealed cross gartered, yellow legs, but a pair of yellow, smiley face boxer shorts. I had tears in my eyes on opening night from biting my tongue. His totally uncalled for pelvic thrusting in my direction didn't help.

2. Full Moon- The same actor and I starred in our first major college production together in “High Tor”, a rather bad play by Maxwell Anderson. At the end of the play, our characters kissed and stared off stage left at the “beautiful sunset” which was, in fact, the entire cast, with their pants down around their ankles.

1. My proudest ever stage moment- Moliere's "The Imaginary Cuckhold". All in rhyming verse. I was playing Martine, wife of the main character, Sganarelle. Our "house" was a large, beautifully painted flat, suspended from cables attached to one of the batons in the rigging. Halfway through our final performance, both cables mysteriously let go, bringing the whole thing down. There was deadly silence.

I don't know where it came from, but I blurted out,

"Oh my goodness Sganarelle,
Look at that; our house just fell."

I nearly got a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

Perhaps I could have made it after all.