So I've been looking for more shows to audition for. Here's the thing: I like being in shows. I can memorize lines, take direction, and I'm a solid, if not gifted, performer.
But when I mention a show I was in, and people say, "oh, you're an actress?" I feel like a fraud if I say yes. It's not that I don't like the stage; I do. But I don't love it. I'm comfortable being the center of attention, but I don't care if I am. I can walk into a party of strangers and have them eating out of my hand laughing in twenty minutes, but I'm just as happy sitting at home with a book.
I also prefer to be cast in plays without having to try to earn the role. In other words, I'm lazy.
When I'm around people who consider themselves actors, there's an edginess about them, a hunger for the next role, the next thespianic fix. A need to be taken seriously, to be validated. A profound inability to laugh at themselves. (Yes, I'm generalizing. It's what I do.) It also means they practice and take acting classes and well, improve.
Since my move to Chicago five years ago, I've done precious little, and most of it very bad (one of the drawbacks to a city that has a ton of theater is the corollary that there's a lot of bad theater).
My last show was a sketch show, and it was fun and decent. I recently saw an audition for a play, which appealed; I'd like to be able to play a single character and stay in that character. The notice said no monologues necessary; the audition would be short and sweet. Great; no need to dust off the comedic or serious or Shakespearian.
The bus took forever in Saturday traffic, and as an added treat, I had the two ghetto chicks right next to me. They'd been at the bus stop at North and Clybourn, and they were clearly friends. North and Clybourn is by where the old Cabrini-Green projects were; the buildings may be gone but the social etiquette is alive and well. They carried on simultaneous cell-phone conversations.
"What, you didn't hear your cellphone when I called you? Oh, OH, the ringer was OFF. Why is yo ringer always OFF when I call you?"
"Im not playing you -- I'm on the bus. ON THE BUS. *tooth suck* Shit, bitch, I ain't playing no games; I'm ON. The DAMN. BUS."
"No- NO. Every time I call you say yo ringer's off. What's that about? No, I'm on North Ave., on the bus."
"Hold on - she's talking loud right next to me. Why you gotta talk so damn LOUD for?"
"Hold on -- HOLD ON. What the hell is your problem? No, not you..."
This went on at full volume for a half-hour.
By the time I got to my stop, I had five minutes to get to the theater for my audition slot. I ran. I ran up Milwaukee Ave. past the bakery and a pub and a car shop and a South American restaurant, a tea shop, clothing store.
The theater is the same one I performed in last, a small, low-budget fun place that exits to rent space at an affordable cost to people wanting to mount their own shows. This is a great concept, but one of the unfortunate side effects is that anyone with a printer, some cash, and delusions of artistic genius can produce even the most undiluted crap.
When I arrived there was one other woman in the lobby. We smiled at each other while I filled out my form. Would I dye my hair? For Steppenwolf, yes; for a no-pay four-night show at Gorilla Tango, hell, no. Would I accept a nonspeaking role? Uh, no.
The other woman went in, was in for all of two minutes, then came back out. I went in, and faced the director and a woman. I was given a sheet, read one part, the director read the other. This happened three times. I gamely tried to bring nuance and meaning to lines such as, "I know you came to tell me that Im dead," but I don't know which of us was the most bored. I was disappointed to see that the sheets were typed, not from a published script.
"Is this an original work?" I asked.
"Yeah. It's kind of a post-apocalyptic Garden-of Eden thing," the director shrugged. Way to sell your show.
I got the usual, "We'll call people by...blah blah blah." I tuned it out, because I already knew I wasn't going to accept a role if one were offered, and I knew I wasn't going to be offered a role.
Afterward, I consoled myself with lunch at Sultan's Kitchen, where I had an amazing sandwich for all of three dollars. And read some monologues. And dreamed of a good script. Or of writing my own.