And I don’t mean kill like in stand up comedy!
I went to an audition yesterday with high expectations. I had an email from the artistic director of the theatre, not the director of the play, but still pretty flattering. The artistic director did improv in the 1960’s. The director of the play is a classically trained actor. The director of the play announced that although there were women who were at the audition she couldn’t see using them in any part but one, even though it was an improv based play. Some of the humor in the play was based on cross dressing but I could easily see my way around that. Cross dressing is so Benny Hill anyway. Theatre is supposed to open and welcoming to people of all races and folks in wheelchairs etc but at least she read us for all the parts if we asked.
After all these years I still hesitate to call myself an actor. I’m more a comedian and an improvisor. I don’t have a degree in theatre, I am an attention magnet because of my height. When I’m onstage you don’t know what is going to happen and that isn’t what most directors want. I am also political so this can be dicey for people who just want to have fun or play it safe. One of the reasons I like to write my own shows and do improv is that I can challenge the status quo. But just being known for that is not a good thing either. I try to find a balance. Sometimes I fall from a great height. That’s usually because my expectations took me there.
I thought I was going to have fun doing an improv audition but I got real nervous. My hands shook harder than usual, like I was at sea and it seemed so dark in the theatre that I couldn’t read the script. I forgot I had been sick and hadn’t slept the last few nights. My expectations of my own performance and of how I would be received were dragging me down. After a couple hours I had used up all my nervous energy. I hadn’t paced myself. As a young person I never had to, but being over 50, with no sleep, makes pacing imperative unless you are using cocaine or something a la Michael Jackson ( same age as me and dead due to pacing errors).
At the end, we had to improvise a book in 30 seconds. Some of the improvs seemed longer than the books themselves. I couldn’t think of what to do. Everyone was trying so hard to be smart and funny. I gave up on trying to impress people with my acting. I used my last twenty seconds to kill my chances. I got up and told them that I read too many serious books. I thought about doing the white characters in 12 years a Slave at which point there was a sick silence. Instead I took the last 15 seconds to act out Yossarian reacting to the face of the tail gunner in Catch 22. I told them what Catch 22 was. I didn’t tell them that I feel that being an artist is like Catch 22. You have to be crazy to be one and you have to be crazy like me to be excluded.
I feel like that about being a therapist. Most people know that therapists and social workers have their own mental health issues which may have consciously or unconsciously brought them into the field. At my job I am a peer provider, meaning that I share my own mental health challenges with the people I serve so that they can travel the road together with all of us in recovery. When I went public about my mental health challenges I didn’t think I had much to lose. I don’t hide my anxiety or depression very well. I can be seen as passionate or damn angry, thoughtful or negative, goofy or unhinged, funny or scary. I did not think that I might want to foster a child or house an exchange student one day when my mental health recovery would be looked upon as a failing. Apparently this is something to be considered.
Unpredictable actress given a powerful weapon – a microphone!
The good thing about the audition is that I see more where I fit in. I can focus on doing political improv, even feminist improv. It will be difficult to find people who want to do this in Alaska but then maybe I need a change of venue. I need to take an inventory before I go into the theatre. If I’m run down, I can try to have fun but not expect miracles. I can appreciate that every audition is a performance for an audience. I can remember back to the time when I had good auditions and didn’t get the part and auditions where I was so depressed I hardly got through the lines and yet I got the part because they were looking for someone who could play depressed! I can also remember that I’m brought to the theatre for my own illness (wanting others to accept me and laugh) as well as for my own healing( to claim the stage authentically.)
May you enjoy and learn from all of life’s auditions. I felt pretty bad yesterday but I feel better today. And may the odds forever be in your favor.