Monday, January 17, 2011

Kind of an Acting Gig for Kind of an Actor

You've really got to love acting if you're willing to endure its drawbacks, which is why I quit acting permanently (the first time) when I was 27. I had felt like all my self-promotion efforts were descending into expensive drudgery. And back then, most of the plays I ended up in were turkeys anyway. Plus, the discouragement got to me. There is no shortage of people in Los Angeles to tell actors, tacitly or otherwise, that their acting talents mean nothing to them. Another reason I quit was because I thought I was a writer, although there have been no shortage of people who've tried to discourage me of that, either.

And so it is in Los Angeles that if you have any kind of a reputation as an actor -- or even if you don't -- you get offers to act in people's projects. Now, it's one thing if they're making a short film. People making short films need all the help they can get, particularly if they need people to fill the background. In fact, it's kind of what we do out here. In some parts of the country, people help people raise barns. In L.A., people help people make short films.

But appearing in a stage show is something else. It's not an assignment that's handed out lightly.


This Friday, and running for two weekends, a show called Expressing Motherhood opens at a theater in Hollywood. It's a series of scenes and monologues about, well, motherhood. A talented stage veteran named Susanna Brisk is doing a scene in it, and she approached a friend of mine to costar with her. My friend couldn't do it, but for some odd reason, he suggested casting me, and for some odder reason, she did. She'd never seen me perform before, but based on my picture, my friend's recommendation, and my writing, she decided I was perfect for it.

I'm not sure I agree. You see, I'm helping her sing a rap song.

Now, my friend who referred me did not do so by chance; he once wrote and directed a one-man show for me in which I, among other things, sang a rap song. A cappella. But that was different. It had a meter that was easily recognizable even to a musical short-busser like me. This song, this one that I'm learning for the show that opens in just a few days, is a droll parody of an Eminem song that has a rhythm that can't be explained.

During rehearsal on Saturday, Susanna recognized my musical handicap, further divining that I can't even walk like a rapper. So she mercifully cut down my part to include as little singing and walking as necessary. I will spend a lot of the time on stage doing nothing but keeping one hand on my crotch. Anyone who's read my book probably figures I've had plenty of practice at that, but apparently, I still need to work on it.

An assignment taken must be honored, so I've been doing my part. I've been listening to the song repeatedly and have been practicing walking and standing still as if my junk weighed five pounds. I bought a suit -- actually, a black jacket and black pants that sort of match if you're not looking closely -- at a thrift store for ten bucks. And since the scene may involve me getting kicked in the dick, I spent sixteen bucks on a cup and jock strap. I'm not a total idiot.

All told, this should be a good show, and my modest role in it should be fun once I figure out the beat of this song for the four seconds I'm actually singing some of it. Plus, during rehearsal on Saturday, Susanna kept telling me I was perfect for this, despite the fact that I can't do half of what she initially asked for. On the one hand, I'm a damn funny guy. There are only a small minority of people who can do things like walk on stage with their hand over their crotch and get laughs on purpose, and I'm one of those people. On the other hand, Susanna may have just been blowing smoke up my ass. To many actors, getting smoke blown up one's ass is one of the joys of acting, even if some of them won't admit it -- to themselves or anyone else.

As for me, I hadn't had smoke blown up my ass about my acting abilities in a while, and I realized I didn't miss the feeling. Since my early retirement from acting, I have slowly developed a little thing called security. Plus, acting does not make my heart sing anyway, although it does make my heart hum once in a while, so I'm looking forward to this.

Now, if I could only get more people to blow smoke up my ass about my writing.

No comments: