April 7, 2003
Snoopy the Intern
This month, how about a semi-short entry? Something that happened a while ago, when I was a casting intern at a certain theater company that shall remain nameless.
After a day of particularly grueling auditions (at least, they were grueling for me), I asked the Casting Director (let's call her Liz), "Why don't you ever cut people off? We ask for a 2-minute monologue, and yet so many of them run way over time, and they aren't even that good. Don't you think, if you've already decided you don't like them, that you shold just cut them off and say thank you very much?"
"Oh God, I could never cut people off, that's so cruel! I figure they've put so much work in, the least I can do is let them finish."
"But, they're blatantly not following the instructions by doing an extra-long monologue. And so many are just painful to watch."
At this point the big-shot Artistic Director (let's call him Rick) has joined the conversation. "Oh, no you can't cut people off. That's just mean."
"Come on, sometimes we want to get cut off."
Rick and Liz: "What?!"
"Sure, if we're doing like a comedic piece, and we're not getting any laughs, sometimes, we just want the people to cut us off and put us out of our misery."
Rick: "Oh, so we're supposed to get inside the actor's mind and GUESS if they want to be cut off?"
"Look, I just mean--"
"How 'bout this Amir, when YOU run a theater company, you can cut actors off all day long. OK?"
Sigh, I guess I wasn't gonna win.
So a few days later, I actually had an audition For Rick and Liz. I was to do a monologue from their upcoming play. I had a heck of a time connecting to the material, and I didn't feel 100% comfortable, but it was an important audition, so I went for it. I get in there, hi, hi, and it's really great. I've been working with them for months, so I feel really good, not nervous at all. Then I start the monologue. I had this funny gag worked out at the beginning, but I didn't really get a laugh. Ok no biggie. But as the piece continues, a deafening slience grows. I start thinking more and more about the fact that I'm just not getting ANY laughs. And then I think, wow, I'm only halfway through! My mind is racing. God this is going poorly. I wish they'd cut me off. I'm totally sucking right now. They should cut me off! Oh, why won't they cut me off? Should I cut myself off? Should I just stop? It can't get any worse than this. This is horrible. All these, by the way, are not the best thoughts to have when trying to act. So basically, it's getting worse. The bright spot? I'm almost done. So I finish, and Rick goes, "Hm. OK. Very good. Thanks Amir." LIAR! I wanted to say "Listen, I know that sucked. I don't know what happened. I'm sorry" But instead, I just walked out with my tail between my legs. "OK Thanks guys!"
The next day, I fought embarassment and came to work. In the office, I saw the stack of headshots from the auditions. They were just sitting on the desk. Each headshot had notes on it, usually 2 or 3 thoughts, like "Good sense of pace" "Stiff physicality" or "very commanding voice". I wanted to know what things Liz had written about me. But that would be so wrong!!! I'd be violating the trust of my position! But, I knew I couldn't get caught -- I'd easily hear liz coming down the hall, so I'd have enough time to hide any evidence of my snooping. I was so torn. There was no real point in looking; I knew it would probably be bad, but I still had to know HOW bad I'd done. I finally decided to go for it. I flipped through the pictures, and I finally came to mine. There was my sweet, smiling face. You could never tell from that picture that I'm actually a sneaky, snoopy intern. I took a breath. I turned my smiling face over, and on the back, Liz had written just 2 words: Not Funny.
OUCH! OW! OWWWWWWWW! OH MY GOD! The pain! The pain!! My heart dropped. I saw my career flash before my eyes. There was a sense of panic. Not funny! NOT FUNNY! Never had anyone said such a thing about me. I have never been strong, or good at sports, or successful in romance, but I always knew I had a sense of humor. And yet there it stood, like a monument commemorating my failure. NOT FUNNY. The words haunted me. They rang over and over in my head.
I had to do something. I had to do SOMETHING! As it happened, I had another audition coming up, again with Liz. But this time, I could choose the material. I chose the funniest monologue I had. This thing was so funny, friends of mine used to REQUEST it from me. So I go in there, and I start slow. I do a short dramatic monologue, setting up the knock-out blow. I then give her a choice: "do you want something classic and sort of light, or something short, like 45-second, modern, and broadly comic?" If you want a Casting Director to pick one of two monologues, always use the word SHORT. If you can say 45 second, that's even better. So of course, she picks the one I want her to pick. And baby, I knocked it out of the park. BOO, YAH!
The next day, I snoop thru the headshots again. I know, it's just wrong. But screw it. So I get to mine. Deep breath. I turn it. She's written a bunch of notes about my first monologue and just two words about my comedic one: Very Funny.
YYYYYES! YES YES YES!! Ha HA!!! Take that, Not Funny! In your face! WOOOOOOOOOWEEEEEEEEE!!!!