Acting As Kinda Your Sacred Lover

September 3, 2017

Most every actor I know has 'the story'. The story of that one audition that they put their entire 'being' into...and it went to shit. The one they spent themselves on, transformed their life to get, made some radical physical change, braved looking absolutely foolish and...nada. Worse - epic fail. Worse still - epic fail and learned nothing. Some, from that moment forward, were more careful. Some took fewer chances. Or, began cheating on their Sacred Lover; stopped caring, exploring, pushing their boundaries, or gasp, plain quit. 

 

Mine was a movie called Funny Bones. When I read the script, I felt destined to play the role. I would have to work my ass off: I'd never done a comedy, and my agents didn't think I was funny. But, I was a monster at working my ass off AND loved proving people wrong.  

 

The audition sides were massive - two monologues and two long scenes with lots of slapstick - some twenty odd pages. I had one week to prepare. I got my friend Richard Belzer to work with me on the monologues and tell me everything he could about standup. An avant-garde vaudeville play called Fool Moon (watch a clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUh0Wq4SLpU) was in town and I booked a ticket. I collected props, costumes, I read everything I could on vaudeville and slapstick, watch hours of old films. I for damn sure would be ready. 

 

For a moment, look at these ingredients with either admiration, doubt, like, "ewww...this will for sure go to shit", then add in one more element: 

 

A healthy dose of high grade weed.

 

I smoked it during my marathon 'rehearsals' in my cramped abode; while I was watching the movies and reading the books. I even went to see Fool Moon (in my clown pants)...flat-out stoned. I sat way back in the nose bleed seats - laughing myself into catatonic bliss, and, then, in a kind of strange, God shot - I was pulled out of the crowd to go on stage and perform with these two master clowns. I recall dancing a balletic, love-murder-suicide scene in a silent film - being happily manipulated by these comedy masters - and reveling in rapturous applause (I recall Kathleen Bigalow in the audience that night). 

 

Yes, I was finally ready for Funny Bones. The next day, I happily packed up my car with costumes, props and funny shoes - never once imagining that I would be anything other than magnificent.

 

There were other actors when I arrived. Each one hamstrung with only what they were wearing and a script! The assistant found a wardrobe rack for me (where it came from...?). Though I hadn't quite worked out how to move easily from one costume to the next, I judged myself an instinctive actor and would work those minor details out on the fly. Peter Chelsom, a lovely director, whom I had researched carefully, would be pleased to the gills to meet me and offer me that job on the spot. 

 

Did I notice the hesitation coming from the assistant when she saw my massive collection of goodies? Maybe. But I interpreted it as Awe. 

 

My name was called. I jumped out of my seat, fully prepped. I wheeled the clothes rack in front of me, not behind, and opened the door to an atmosphere of numbness. Peter Chelsom, looked the rack over, not for long, and said, "We're just doing a portion of that first scene. Play it as you are." 

 

Within less than 2 minutes I was out of there. Pulling my stuff off the rack, carrying it grimly down the elevator. Stunned.

In my head I added up the hours of hard work I put in for those two minutes. However, I didn't add up the amount of weed I went through. It was prodigious. 

 

Despite days of anger, embarrassment and self-medication: I didn't give up on acting. Finally, I chalked it up as a learning experience - but, gave myself a note to cut back on props (though it would be three more long years before I cut out the drugs). To this day, I continue to against any self-imposed, stay alive and sober, and be held in the embrace of my kinda Sacred Lover. 

 

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