Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dear Thespis

If there are any civilians reading these pages, I should help you out a bit: who the hell is Thespis? Back in the mists of time, before drama was invented, religious ceremonies usually included some kind of choral chanting. A dude named Thespis, our theatre history profs tell us, was the first secular man (as opposed to a priest or king) to step out of this religious chorus and speak words on his own. He is considered the world's first actor, and though I don't believe he was ever officially deified (that is, classified a god by the Greeks), over the millennia, he has come to be a sort of guiding spirit for actors; after all, we are called thespians in his honor. OK, enough of the history lesson, let's get back to the important thing: my story.

Dear Thespis: Please oh please don't ever allow me to act like the jackass with whom I shared an audition appointment this afternoon. I was attending an audition at one of the area's largest and most prestigious theaters. It was late in the day, so when I arrived, only one actor was ahead of me. Let's call him "Actor," since I imagine he is one, as he is currently appearing at one of our smaller local theaters. He and I were seated at a table filling out an audition form when the director of the project in question, and his assistant, and his assistant (this theater is big enough that the director's assistant also has an assistant) popped out of the audition chamber to take a little break. Our Actor immediately launched into Full Self-Promotion Mode. He verbally assaulted this poor director with, "Daniel! (not his real name) Great to see you!" The director, who had only slipped out to grab a cup of coffee, was forced to respond with a generalized greeting: "Oh, hi! How are you?" Now this is where I started to feel my blood get hot. This actor proceded to inflict the director with a litany of self-aggrandizing statements, in the form of small talk. I couldn't help responding in my head.

Actor: "I've been so busy! I'm in a show right now!"
Me (in my head): "So am I, you twit. Let this guy get a cup of coffee without being hounded. No wonder actors have such bad reputations."

Actor: "I just did a matinee and raced over here to read for you!"
Me (in my head): "So did I, you jerk. Everybody came from somewhere."

Actor: "Our show's been extended!"
Me (in my head): "So has ours, you hack. The difference is, your show is in a theater which seats 150 people: My show is in a theater which seats 450 people: And our show is often full. Your show is never full. I am intimately acquainted with your theater, having worked there several times and having many close friends who are members of the company there. And while I don't equate money with artistic worth, I know for a fact that you are making only one-third of what I am making right now, and yet you are assaulting this director, who just wants a cup of coffee, with all this self-centered, self-important crap."

Don't get me wrong, Thespis. I have no problem with self-promotion, when it is at the proper time. If I am in the audition chamber, and the director asks me, "What are you doing now?", I have NO PROBLEM talking at length about the joys and occasional trials of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Olney Theatre Center, or anything else I am working on. I'm all about me me me when the time and place are right. But the time is never right when the director is on a break, and the place is never right when it's in the waiting room. Thespis, I hope you will forgive this obvious dichotomy. I love my work. I love my current castmates. I love everybody in my dressing room and in the green room and onstage at Olney Theatre. I love so much about my chosen career.

But sometimes, I hate actors.