Whine with your Cheese?


One of the ways in which I'm assured I belong in my quest to create theatre full-time is that, after a certain period of no long-term work ("long-term" in an acting context being about the span of a month) I begin to exhibit symptoms of depression and desperation. I crave the stage, or at least a studio, a script, or at least a scenario and a scene partner, or at least a director. To put a finer point on it, I suffer from withdrawal. (This of course is also how I know that I'm meant to drink and smoke. My logic is an impenetrable fortress. Or will be, until I die of heart, lung and/or kidney disease.) And guess what, my fine, feathered friends? Today I have the shakes.

Of course, I always have "the shakes" to some degree or another. As those of you who know me (I mean, really know me) are aware, I have a mysterious condition that causes my hands to tremor at times. It ain't Parkinson's, it ain't MS. Frankly, the doctors are stumped, and in being thusly stump'ed (that's with an accent on the "ed" for best scansion) they have theorized that I suffer from Essential Tremors, or E.T. The humor of this acronym doesn't fail to escape me. Neither does the humor of our medical science's tendency to name a condition when they can recognize it, yet have little idea about what causes it.

What I am referring to, however, has naught to do with my ability to hold a glass of water in a relaxed manner. No, rather, I refer to that incomparable feeling I get when it's been a while since I've tread the boards. It's glorious. Appetite, insecurity and aggressive temper all rolled into one glorious experience. I love it almost as much as I love my day job. Almost.

Perhaps I've seemed busy. I have been, but with all manner of things ancillary to playing a role on stage or film. I've been teaching workshops. I've been traveling. I've been teaching high-schoolers. I've been helping people get divorced. I've been designing brochures. I've been networking with other actors and the occasional producer. I've been participating in readings, discussions and revisions, website consultations and typing in this here 'blog. None of it really feeds the urge. It just stems it a very little bit.

Notice I did not say, "I've been auditioning." Dagger, thy pointe is for me. No. I haven't. I tried last Friday (for The Irish Repertory Theatre) but one thing led to another and I had to choose a little in-flow of money over it. And, I'm terrible at cold auditions. It's a sad fact. Those supposed E.T.s are linked to nervous energy, and nothing makes me more nervous than standard audition procedure, so the two compound one another. (I'm nervous about auditioning, my hands shake, I'm nervous about my hands shaking, etc.) I don't have stage fright, but I have audition fright.

Jeez, Louise.

But really, what could they have done to make a cold audition more terrifying? Anything at all, short of hanging eviscerated cadavers from the ceiling and jumping from a corner shouting "Boo!" when you walk in? You get up at Stupid O'clock in the morning in order to stand in a line of your fellow aspirant actors for at least an hour in order to get the audition slot you need to fit the thing into your day. Then you're either called to wait in line again (This time: sitting!) or go away and come back in time for your slot. As you wait, you get to watch carbon copies of yourself, only with better (Choose three [3]: hair / bone structure / physique / voice / height / experience / charisma) prepare and go through The Room. You shuffle your stuff from seat to seat as you move down the line, calculating where you'll put it all while you're in there, and trying to make sure you don't go up on at least the first line of your monologue. Finally it's down to you, and two minutes stretches into a lifetime....

Then the door to The Room opens. You pause to calculate that indeterminate amount of time they need to breathe between applicants, hoping you didn't rush them but aren't wasting their time, either. In you go, and The Room is always 1) small, 2) stuffy, 3) lit with fluorescents, 4) white. (Ever had a friend run you through that verbal "psychological" test that always ends with you providing three words about how you would feel in a windowless, doorless white room with a giant white armadillo in the center? That's The Room.) There are 1 to 10 people waiting for you inside (yes, 10--it's happened to me) at the far end, seated behind a table. You introduce yourself, your piece, and go. You have at most a minute-and-a-half to blow them away.

Then it's over. You're outside The Room again, a flush of heat rising to your face as you relax from all the adrenaline. At some point, there was a "thank you" that ushered you from The Room, but that doesn't matter now. What matters is that you've just realized that the person behind the desk was about 20 years old. Which means s/he was a casting assistant. Which means they have no authority or respect. Which means you didn't actually audition for the theatre, but helped fulfill their "audition process" required by Actors' Equity Association. So you go to work, and for two days try to convince yourself that you're not hoping to hear from them again.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I also know there are plenty of people who don't feel this way, and who weather these things regularly just fine. Have I only myself to blame for my lack of work recently? Possibly. All right: Probably. The two regional theatres I work for regularly (The Northeast Theatre and Signal & Noise Productions), for different sorts of compounded reasons, haven't hired me this season. My crutches fell. My suppliers ran dry. The corner bodega is out of Newcastle and American Spirits. So I must rally, and walk a few harrowing blocks to the bodega that doesn't know me by name. So be it!

But does somebody want to hold my trembling hand?
 
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