IMHO Installment #44: I Couldn't Act My Way Out of a Paper Bag

16 May 2007
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?

IMHO, I'm probably the Worst Actor Ever. Which is why I'm in marketing and not on some stage or film set somewhere. That, and I have no idea how people can memorize lengthy soliloquies for almost no pay. But I would, however ridiculously typical this will sound, love to direct. I mean, wouldn't it be totally cool to be the suckiest actor in the world, and yet offer direction to others? Probably happens every day, for all I know.

Anyway, I was reading this actress' blog, "Give Me My Blue Blanket," and thought I'd recap my total of two experiences within The Theatre (not counting being an audience member, of course). Okay, so I wasn't even an "actor" per se ... Ages and ages ago, I played piano on stage for a kid's show and played a keyboard on stage during MoliA¨re's School for Wives (which isn't a musical, incidentally). Based on this vast repertoire, I have made broad, sweeping generalizations and have officially concluded that all dramatic productions go something like this:

1. After casting, everyone shows up and gets to know one another. The director comes off as nice and friendly at this point. You sit in a circle and take turns telling the group something personal and feel-goody about yourself. Some push the limits and offer risque details of their sex lives -- usually someone secretly interested in sleeping with the director.

2. You rehearse like crazy for a while, scripts in hand, as the powers that be work out the staging / blocking, etc. Others are running around in the background building stuff, screwing around with the lighting, etc. Most people are nice to you if you're just there playing the piano.

3. Some actors seem to know their lines from the get-go. Your play will contain: (1) at least one god-awful actor/actress, (2) several players ranging from "okay" through "very good" and (3) one super-star, truly talented "that person's going somewhere" type. There'll also be an all-business stage manager-type running around who doesn't seem to like you or anyone else very much, and the feeling's mutual. It's possible that she's a lesbian, though you can't be sure (not that means anything beyond the purely trivial, of course).

4. After a while, most people know their lines, with the exception of a few. People try to be nice to these folks, even outwardly encouraging. As the piano guy, you begin to wonder whether they'll ever learn the lines (especially as even you know them by heart at this point). Still, the director isn't really happy about everything and begins to show subtle signs of anger and/or psychosis.

5. Even though things seem marginally okay (again, from the perspective of the piano guy), the director enters nuclear meltdown phase. Everyone gathers on stage for a thorough ass-chewing. It's quiet and dark, except for the ghost light, and you all just sit there as the director paces around berating the cast. Then he/she lays down the old tomato : This thing is going so shittilly, he/she is actually considering calling it all off, completely. Furthermore, he or she may never speak to anyone in the cast again. [Director and lackey exeunt, dramatically.]

6. The actors look at one another guiltily, as though they've never seen someone so upset (even though, in my experience, this happens near the end of every single production of every single play ). As the piano player, you begin to wonder whether this is all part of the whole "acting" thing. In other words, the actors actually know it's going to hit some dismal low, and then get to act really upset about it and then act like they're going to get their ass in gear to fix it.

7. Magically, things start to fall into place. The very next rehearsal, people hit their lines and their marks. The play continues. Everyone's in good graces with the director again, but he/she remains somewhat aloof.

8. Dress rehearsal goes okay. A few people flub a line or two, but all in all, the director's blood pressure starts to normalize.

9. You have a cast party.

10. Someone sleeps with the director.

Well, anyway, that's how it always went for me (both times). Could some more established actor/actress tell me how accurate this is?

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On May 16, 2007, Grant Miller wrote:

I was in a few shows in high school. I remember the cast parties, but never slept with the director.

On May 16, 2007, Reg wrote:

I was the head guard in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the narrarator for Jack and The Beanstalk. These both occured before grade 6. At that time I would have been happy with a peck on the cheek let alone, you know, that gross stuff grown-ups do.

On May 17, 2007, yllwdaisies wrote:

Our director was this manly woman. And the thespian-girls were not yet lesbians at that time.

On May 17, 2007, Kevin Wolf wrote:

So, Patrick, how did it go with the director?

On May 17, 2007, blueblanket wrote:

Patrick, you are extremely astute!! Observations spot on!

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