Thursday, February 10, 2011

Castrate the Director

The last week was a haze.

My depression was profound.

Saturday night, I just needed to see Abe. He was my oxygen. After work, I fed the dogs and cat, then drove down to his flop house in Costa Mesa. I called from the road.

I said, "I am passing the 22 Freeway now. I don't remember ever passing that before."

Abe said, "Are you hungry?"

I said, "Famished."

Abe, "I can make some pasta. I can't talk on the phone baby, I gotta go-" He hung up.

I showed up to his place, and he was frantically cooking me a dinner. I approached to kiss the back of his neck, and he turned and said, "Watch out!" Rushing from station to station, stove to counter top, nothing was going to stop him.

My insides were twisted. These days, food finds no peace in my stomach. Either it creates nausea or . . . the other. The plus side is no one can tell I am defecating in public restrooms anymore. It sounds like I am peeing.

Abe, "So I was over at Willie's . . ."

Willie is this old dude that smokes a lot of pot. That's all I really know about him. He smokes cigars packed with weed down to the stub. After one puff, other guys stumble out on foot and abandon their vehicles for public transportation. They are too high to do anything for the rest of the day. Except for Abe, who will continue to pass the cigar back and forth to even Willie's amazement.

Abe continued " . . . and he was watching this show on the History Channel about beer. How beer was the first thing ever written down in a book. How to make it, you know? And how beer was used as medicine. How most people drank beer all the time, like as much as water. How beer paid for the pyramids to get built. Basically, it said beer is the reason we are no longer cavemen. They even smoked the hops and blew it up each other's assholes. Is that what you want me to do, baby?"

I said, "Not unless its a form of capital punishment. Its a war zone down there."

Abe fondly massaged my tummy, "Awww."

I said, "My vagina misses you."

He said, "I know, baby, but you have been traumatized."

Sooooooo does that mean I am like his sister now? Cause he is frantically cooking me dinner and not touching my pink parts. Trauma negates sex, I guess. That's kinda . . . sweet.

Its hard being home. Sleeping with Abe on his crappy bed watching a movie on his computer was like going to the Bahamas. Even if it was for just a few hours.

Everyone at my home had to be fed and let out so I left first thing in the morning. The animals were the only thing keeping my blood moving.

Thank God for Reservoir Bitches. It made me get out of bed and go somewhere every single afternoon for rehearsal.

DRESS REHEARSAL

I showed up and a girl from another production stumbled out of the playhouse.

Mitchell, "Hey! I mean it, don't ever do this again."

She giggled and popped on her large, buggy sunglasses. I looked to Em.

Em, "She got drunk before rehearsal because her cramps were really bad." Ah, how I missed my Hollywood adventures.

We had a few dress rehearsals before opening. Nerves were raw.

Evie, "I dropped my agent. It takes a lot of balls to do that during pilot season."

Blonde, "I just would like some . . . direction."

Pink, "Just the sound of his voice makes me want to kick the shit out of him."

Evie, "I am on my period before opening so sorry if I get really bitchy."

We all were growingly frustrated with Mitchell. There was never any direction with regards to our performance. He "put his foot down" over trivial blocking suggestions and that was about it. I NEVER got a note about performance. EVER!

I joked to Em and her husband that we were all going to castrate him, put his dick on a flag pole and dance around singing, "Ey yey yey yey" like a tribe of liberated Muslim women.

Mitchell, "When it comes to the actual performance, White, do not dance across the stage."

White, "They were chass├ęs and I thought they were pretty."

I was already worn down from guilt, grief and exhaustion so my general disdain for Mitchell was turning into blood lust. I used to be the patient one, making excuses for him back stage in the dark with the other girls.

Now I was just like the others, flipping him off every time we exited stage. I complained about the sound of his droning voice. Sigh, fuck that kid.

Em said the last few rehearsals before opening are usually the worst. We were forgetting lines. We were disoriented by lights. And Mitchell was barely noticing a thing.

TECH REHEARSAL

On the day of the last rehearsal, I was complaining backstage (in the dressing room we have to share with two other productions) that the bathrooms smelled like piss.

Now, the owner of the theater is best described as Jeff Albertson, or the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons. You know, the one who bought 100 tacos for $100 and carried them home via wheelbarrow.

He is grossly overweight, sports some thin/pathetic facial hair, wears the same X-Large blue shirt every day with a black vest over it. Abe said he noticed two female "interns" who follow him around, taking notes and bringing him napkins. Repulsive.

Albertson keeps telling everyone that Al Pacino called.

"I picked up the phone and he said, 'Uh . . . yeah, this is Al Pacino.' And I said, 'No really who is this?' 'Really.. Al Pacino.' So he is going to come out to see the theater."

I would pay to see his expression when walking in that dump.

Albertson told Mitchell, within earshot of us, to keep the cast "contained" and "under control" when (IF) Pacino does come. Blah fucking blah.

Later, while Albertson was directing some shit play next door, I said, "You would think if Al Pacino was coming to your theater, you would bother to put toilet paper on the roll. By the way, don't go in the second bathroom."

Pink said, "Why does everyone have to shit their pants here?"

Albertson walks in, without looking at us and started ranting, "Look, people come in and steal our toilet paper. Nothing we can do about that. I am too busy directing productions to manage the bathroom!!"

Em later added, "If its a choice, can you just clean the bathrooms?"

Blonde said, "Jesus, what was that about?"

We ran through our last rehearsal, a few of us dropped lines, got lost, can't stop smiling, etc. etc. There is still no prop ear or rehearsed blood effect for Blonde and Em's scene. The one note Mitchell comes up with at the end is, "The owner told me you guys are screwing off backstage. We can't have that alright!? Its unprofessional."

This is when I lost it, "I'm sorry, your bathroom smells like piss."

Pink broke out laughing then caught herself.

I continued, "We aren't screwing off, we are just expressing what an embarrassment it is having guests use a restroom that smells like dirty piss."

Mitchell tried to find words.

I say, "I really resent the fact that anyone said we were screwing off. May I say, this is the most professional cast I have ever worked with. We got the costumes and props together, out of our own pockets. We got the choreography and blocking down, all our lines and I am just really proud of this production."

Then, I walked out. Mitchell was still trying to catch up.

I checked my messages on my cracked iPhone in the dressing room. Breathe. I didn't want to look at that slimy fucker.

Mitchell sang out, "Jolie, can you come back here?" I don't think he knows my real name, only my character name.

I came back and heard about the lights, and the music cues, and some other bullshit. He muttered, "Now, I am not going to give you a pep talk. Just pull it together ladies. You've got this."

Inspiring. All I heard was, "Eye yey yey yey yey."

Backstage, in our communal dressing room, Em was taking off her top when Mitchell walked in. Instead of turning his back or even diverting his eyes, he stared right at Em's bra and said, "Hey is Orange back here."

Em said, "Mitchell, please leave. I am changing."

Mitchell continued to stand, facing her, dumbfounded, "But I am looking for Orange."

Em said, "Please leave."

Mitchell said, once again, "But I need to find Orange."

Dude, there are three girls back here and none of them are Orange.

Em rushed the door and said, "I asked you nicely, please leave! God! (she slammed the door) FUCK YOU!"

He asked to see "Blue" before she left. I am sure he doesn't know her name either.

When she was dressed, she invited him back in to talk to her.

He advised that there was a place to privately dress further in back, but this was a co-ed dressing room, and she had to keep that in mind. "Alright?" He always ends all his sentences with "Alright?"

Em said, "Dude, I was in my bra and you just kept standing there."

There was heated back and forth.

Mitchell, "I am the director and keep in mind, I work here. Alright?"

Em, "This room is for actors!"

Mitchell, "I am an actor."

Em, "Not in this production."

Mitchell, "I am simply trying to tell you-"

Em, "Just shut up, Mitchell."

Mitchell, "Hey . . . watch your tone."

Em, "Just ssssh-ut."

I could feel the tension rising and Mitchell wasn't going to back down because he believes being a director is posturing. Directing to this snot nosed kid was telling us to be quiet if we are chatting, even if its about improving the blocking. "Mitchell Directing" is simply saying "No."

Example:

Pink, "Why can't we move the blocks on this part?"

Mitchell, "Cause I said so."

Pink, "That's it!?"

Mitchell, "That's it."

Pink, "Gee, Thanks Dad."


Backstage, between Em, who just went through a very intense scene without all the props and effects ready for opening, and Mitchell who wanted to make an example out of the situation, I intervened. I said to Mitchell, "Give this space. Don't let it escalate. Just let everyone collect themselves and come back to it later."

Mitchell, "But . . . "

Em, "Shhhh-ut."

Mitchell, "Hey! Now ... watch yourself."

Jesus, this was the last thing we needed the day before opening.

Em vented on the way home, she texted an apology. Mitchell texted back, "Apology accepted. I have to warn you, most directors would have fired you but you are a very good actress . . ."

Dick wad.

OPENING

I was in a piss poor mood all day. Abe and I went to the beach to pick up the audio CD for my pilot that was never there.

Sitting on Venice Beach always cleared my head, but not that day. The bitter taste of reality post-unemployment benefits was sinking in. To sustain the life I want, with an apartment to house my animals and a career as an actress, I would need Abe to move in.

He is not ready to.

I bickered with him all day about it. We have been together for almost a year and, damn it, I could support my animal rescue, live my dream and be happy for half the overhead. When a guy says he isn't ready, he isn't ready.

My mother later asked on the phone, "Why not?"

I said, "I don't know why not."

She said, "Well you need to find out. Its time for the next step."

You know, I don't think I would have married my (ex) husband if my mother didn't bother me about living in sin for two years. I have to remember that.

I don't have money for rent, and eventually, I will have to give up the animals or my acting. Both scenarios feel to be the equivalent of cutting off an arm. Abe could move in and solve the problem. Grrrrrrrr . . . so I tortured him for the day.

He suggested I take a regular day job as if this acting thing is one of many things that could make me happy. Have I thought about being a Youth Counselor? He doesn't understand that acting is the only thing that makes me feel like something other than a total fuck up. When you find that, you hold on to it like there is nothing below you but the ocean floor.

Showtime was 8pm. We showed up to the playhouse at 5pm.

Em set up her make-up station and said, "Its better to be here than just wait for it at home."

I hadn't told anyone but Em it was my first play. I didn't want the cast to get all Lord of the Flies on me. I did have a walk-role or "cameo" in a play during the 8th grade. I had to share it with another girl because I was always too scared to audition or commit to acting. Instead, I helped out behind the scenes for a few productions and then played on an empty stage after everyone left.

Why was I so nervous? Why did I care? Who was going to show up?

Em's brother and husband, a few friends, Abe . . . like . . . what did it matter!?

Pink showed up and said, "I couldn't do anything today. So I ate two junior whoppers and passed out on the couch."

Blonde was dancing with her knife and nursing a belly ache.

Brown came in, practicing her lines.

Brown, "Let me tell you what 'Like a Virgin is about' . . . Its all about this chick who's this regular fuck machine."

Me, "I really needed to have sex last night. (looking in the mirror carefully) For my complexion."

White, "Why didn't you?"

Me, "He was tired."

White, "That's weird."

Me, "Right?"

Brown, "I have never done it. That's why my part is so ironic."

Me, "What? Sex?"

Brown, "Yeah."

Me, "You're a virgin?"

Brown nods.

Me, " . . . (dryly) Why?"

Blonde, "I love this cast."

Evie, "Anyone bringing their agent to this thing? I dumped my agent."

Blonde, "So I finally got a condom to hold the blood in my bra strap. He said he forgot to buy some so he pulled this one out of his wallet."

Em, "Of course. How long has he been waiting to pull that one? What is it? Magnum? Extra Large?"

Blonde held up a Trojan condom and said, "I can't tell."

I said, "Eugh, why would he think anyone would ever have sex with him?"

Evie, who was meticulously managing the make-up on her face, said, "He just needs to learn how to talk to women. Once he gets a girlfriend, everything will change."

I said dryly, "You inspire me to be a better person."

Evie chuckles with a high pitched cackle through her nose. Its my favorite thing about her. "You're kidding, right? I am the biggest bitch here."

Night fell while we put on our faces. I joined various cast members for a smoke outside, even though my throat was hurting from the pack I plowed through after Murray's death.

I confided in Pink, "I am so broke. I am going to have to get an office job and give everything up and that makes me crazy. Abe's grandmother is even saying I need to get a regular job now."

Pink exhaled a cloud of delicious carbon monoxide, "I am getting it from my family, too. I was working in production and making decent money, but I hated it. Now, my unemployment is about to run out and I gotta figure out what I am gonna do. Isn't there an agent out there that can help us?"

Pink is a single mom with a little girl at home. Her strain to provide is tenfold mine.

Em, "My agent has never sent me out. And I got my last unemployment check this week."

Why must dreams be contingent on state benefits? Its so depressing.

Mitchell came back and said, "5 minutes."

White said, "That's the most professional thing he has ever done."

The cast gathered and we put our arms around each other to say how awesome we were. Then, we went out there.

My first two scenes were relatively flawless. I threw in some new words for female humor and hit my beats. Switched out "piece of shit" for "twat".

"Choo? Toby Choo?"

After our opening, Evie, White and I scadaddled to the lobby for entry on the third scene. We stopped in the lobby to share a few sips of some cheap Cabernet out of the same, plastic cup. It reminded me of Communion in Catholic School. We were always excited to drink from the wine goblet during Mass. It felt so devious and there was nothing anyone could do since we had God's blessing.

"You know how to handle that situation. You shit your pants, and dive in and swim."

Then, my two back to back dialogue scenes had moments of flutter/stutter/fuck utter. They were subtle, but I was not proud.

"Its a five girl job. Bustin' in and bustin' out of a diamond . . . (eyes up to catch my word) wholesaler."

My monologue scene was decent.

"You ain't Ms. Purple. Some other girl on some other job is Ms. Purple. You're Ms. Pink." Then . . . pause. I always forget this line.

I throw my hands in the air and widen my eyes, oh yeah! "Be thankful you're not Ms. Yellow."

Arg.

After that, no Jolie until the final confrontation. I fell a little early after White shot me, rather after the gun shot effect from Mitchell's "sound booth" not that they have ever been on time anyway. When ever I recreate tech rehearsal for people, I shoot my gun and make the bullet sound a few seconds after, cause . . . that's how it is.

When Evie, White and I fell to the floor in the dramatic, Shakespearean conclusion, we heard laughter from the crowd. Were we really that bad?

I asked Mitchell after the performance. I forced the issue, "No really, how were we?"

Mitchell said, "You girls were great at bringing in a crowd." Of course, all he cares about is actors bringing in $15 a head. "Decent with the blocking and the lines, there were only a few mistakes, you know. I was paying attention to the music and lights mostly, so I didn't notice all that much."

I pushed his shoulder and said, "Come on, I am asking about PERFORMANCE! Your cast needs validation."

He said, "Alright. You're walking down the red carpet . . ."

I said, "Oooh. I like this."

He continued, "You are in a stunning evening gown with your fiance by your side."

Abe obviously. Go on! I said, "Yes!"

He said, "You turn your back to the paparazzi to face the marquee. No name is needed, all it needs to say is . . ."

Me, "YES! YES!" I was dancing like a little girl with my hands clasped under my chin.

He finished, "Starring . . . (insert my real name here). Cause she's that good." He DOES know my name!!!

I jumped in the air, "YES! Thank you!!!" And I left.

Meandering outside, I was still kicking myself over my line fumbles. It ruined my performance. Honestly, theater isn't really all that wonderful for me. Its less personal, with all that space between the audience and my eyes. I speak with my eyes. Not to mention, my best take is lost in time. That annoys me.

We all got drinks after and I had to suffer through compliments I didn't feel I deserved. Someone did say that I was crazy enough to pull off an interesting Ms. Blonde. That made me feel good.

Abe and the one friend I have who will ever show up to a show complimented Evie and Em the most. I said (half jokingly), "Those bitches upstaged me!?"

My friend said, "You are still very raw from your performance. Let's talk about it later."

Evie was great. Em was great. I was good. Ok.

Abe drove me home, and his grandmother's comment was digging into my ribs like cowboy boots on a starved horse. Since I couldn't afford my own drinks, I was high on someone else's wine and Em's vodka-drink-o-mystery.

Abe purchased rosewater sorbet to help my tummy and warmed up the apartment while I got on-line and read aloud Office/Administration job postings off Craigslist. I inserted the occasional, "Oh yeah, data entry, no benefits, $12 an hour, 40 hurs a week. I will be much happier."

And then I "drunk applied" to about eight positions out of spite before crawling to bed.

In the morning, we made love three times. My stomach was better. My mind was clearer. And, I got one interview.

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