Being in the theatre world is such an advantage/disadvantage paradox. On the one hand I have automatic community, automatic camaraderie, automatic sympathy with a large group of New Yorkers when I admit “I’m an aspiring actor.” I’ve been lucky to land a job where this makes perfect sense to all my coworkers. When I’m in the city I almost interact with people to whom this makes sense. Where it makes sense I’ll work a shitty unfulfilled failing hundreds of times to land the job I really want. I’m a New York cliche and New Yorkers understand that. Outside the city, I’m a freak, a derelict, a slacker, a stupid, naive, damsel in distress. A “what if you could get a better job?”, a “don’t you realise the odds are mad/wicked/hella stacked against you?”- the perfect “don’t you realise you won’t be a movie star? let me save you from your silly delusion. And as that’s the case why the hell would anyone want to be an actor?”
Because I can’t not be. I can’t explain it better than that.
Thank god I can be in a bubble where that makes sense.
Of course this bubble is relatively small. They say the theatre world is a small one. And it is, as all accounts of my previous post attest.
And yet the island has proved surprisingly small even outside my bubble. Let’s journey from the semi-theatre related (because let’s face it, it’s hard for me to break away) to totally non-theatre related through this series of “It’s a Small Island” posts.
On the same rained out night where I was mistaken for Lauren Ambrose, I was making my way over to a house party in Brooklyn (and if I lived in the apartment where said party took place, my cliche-ness would be complete. The perfect cliche Brooklyn residence complete with view.) The premature ending of the show left me with a couple hours to kill, which was no problem- two hours after leaving the theater I’m down 70+ blocks trying to catch the L. And there standing next to me are two people who had tried to see the show that night. Who had stayed until the final announcement after one hours wait in the rain and one soaking to the skin. I had admired their perserverance and “eh, it’s ust water, I’m too cool for an umbrella anyway attitude.” And they were both around my age and kinda cute and ok, which didn’t hurt my remembering them 70+ blocks and 2 hours later.
So we’re standing on the platform and I do something very out of character. I approach them, I chat them up. It was a victory in my ongoing battle against my insufferable “I make people come to me” nature. They were from Canada. Now residing in Brooklyn. I learned the key differences in American and Canadian dialects (we say “roof” they say “ruff”) and that in Canada every Walmart has a McDonald’s in it (eeeeeew), and the most valuable lesson: if you want to go up and talk to someone, just fucking do it.
in the works: NYPride (Mika you should give me access to pictures so I can post them), I got a new (totally cliche) job, Scottish con men, Central Park Guy update, Bronxville and moving out of it
According to wikipedia there are 8,274,527 people who call New York City home. According to facebook I know 29 of them. Neither figure is from an exactly sitable source, but I more or less know 0.00003% of the city. Give or take. Math makes me feel like I am a tiny person in a gigantic world. And yet my month of living here has made me feel like the world is undeniably small. I keep running into people I know.
This started my very first day here, my very first day on the job, my very first viewing of the play when everything was new and fresh, before I could recite monologues or pet peeve about actors’ decisions that really don’t make any sense if you think about them. I’m sitting there watching and all I can think of is That guy looks so familiar. Who is he? I’m I just doing that thing like when you go to college for the first time and everyone reminds you of some one from home? Perusing the program after the show does not answer all my questions until BAM. He’s a guy from the theatre program I did last summer. We used to go running together every other day. He had to create a stage name for union reasons. Sure enough, I approach him the next day and it all comes out. I know someone in the show I’m working for? Crazy.
It gets better.
I go through the same thing about the guy who’s doing props for the show. He looks so familiar, I swear I know him from somewhere– holy shit. He’s been in my apartment. Yes he has. See, the lovely luxurious huge apartment that I lived in my senior year of college was pretty much perfect for throwing parties. Among the many fetes held over the course of the year was the cast party for the spring play The Good Woman of Setzuan. The debauchery that went down at that party is another story and a moot point because it all happened after our director and his friends who had come to see the show that night stopped by. In my tipsy-omg-this-may-be-my-last-show-in-college (fortunately it wasn’t) haze I remember talking with them about plans after graduation and how I was probably moving to NYC, and that one of the friends was moving too. Little did we know then we’d be working at the same theater.
It’s always a little risky with these people. You’re 95% sure they are the person you think they are, but the 5% of doubt makes it scary. I approach Props Guy thinking If he is not who I think he is, he will think I’m fucking crazy. Hi, are you Rich Vibrose’s (sudonym, but it captures the gist of the actual) friend? I love watching people’s faces change from Why the fuck are you talking to me to Oh hey! which was exactly the reaction this question received followed by the cast party story in conversation form.
I have yet to embarrass myself. I have successfully identified four people I went to high school with who I haven’t seen in 4+ years, several other people from the theatre summer program, as well as the golden couple of the theatre department my freshman year who are still together 3 years later. Other people have not been so lucky. I’ve been waved at by total strangers (he was clearly an international tourist and perhaps it was a come on, and no it was not to some person in back of me) and been questioned, Are you from Alabama? and been stared in these eyes and told I looked really familiar (and I’m 95% sure she wasn’t hitting on me). But my absolute favorite misidentification happened on a night the show got rained out.
When the show gets rained out that means we ushers get to stand in the rain for probably an hour-roughly the time it takes to decide the storm isn’t just going to blow over. We aren’t allowed umbrellas, only clear ponchos. Thus this is the only place in the city where plastic ponchos do not automatically mark you as TOURIST, MUG ME.I don’t have an umbrella with me, and it’s still storming as I leave the theater and after weighing the options (wear the poncho, don’t get wet, risk getting mugged vs. don’t wear the poncho, get soaked, get raped because I look like a wet t-shirt contestant) I decide to wear the poncho out. I am shrouded in clear plastic as I walk out of the park. There are two paths to exit the theater, and I see two of the actors from the play leaving the path which means I will pass in front of them and they’ll be right in back of me on the main path out of the park. Yay, I bet I’ll get to overhear some of their conversation!
Which was true, but not as exciting as I hoped until my absolute favorite actor in the play who has the best voice ever says to his companion Is that Lauren up there? That looks like Lauren! Hey, Lauren! he yells Lauren! I know there is no one in between me and them, and the only person infront of me is a fat lady HOLY SHIT, HE’S YELLING AT ME! THEY THINK I’M LAUREN AMBROSE! Eeee! What do I do?? Quick! I turn around No I’m not Lauren, but I’ll take the mistake as a complement, and can I pay you a complement? You have the best voice I’ve ever heard and I’m an usher so I loved watching your performance every night. Response? Oh you are so sweet. And just like that, I’m in. For the next 2 blocks I am in. Introductions and brought into the conversation and I even get called adorable. It was awesome. Icing on the cake of looking like Lauren Ambrose…at least from the back and shrouded in plastic!
As an usher at Shakespeare in the Park, I have the privilege of watching the show every single night. This activity is actually the majority of my job. I’m paid to tell a couple people where the bathroom is and watch a show. To date, I have seen this Shakespearean tragedy 18 times. These have all been “previews” which is very specifically theater lingo that pretty much means the play hasn’t been reviewed yet and the company wants to make opening night a huge deal.
Finally after those 18 shows it’s opening night, no more previews, the “gala” performance. And you can be sure they’re making it as big a deal as possible. I’ve agreed to work “extra security”, thinking it’ll be an experience for sure. I show up at 4pm, dozens of tables have been set up outside the theatre, caterers are running around filling glasses with water and mixing drinks, people in pretty party clothes are not allowed in yet but you can see some milling about already. I’m given a 2XXL black SECURITY shirt and told to “make it work”. Which is harder than a Project Runway challenge considering my budget is ummm $0.00 and it has to be completed ummm NOW, I don’t even get a pair of scissors or a safety pin, oh and it must be tucked into khaki pants. For a red carpet event (no joke, I watched them set it up.) Needless to say, I will not be looking fabulous for this portion of the evening. Balls. I tuck my dress-of-a-shirt in and can at least be amused. The armpits fall down to my waist.
My security station is next to a bar. Not the bar, a bar, there are three others. Sky Vodka, wine, cocktails, bar tenders doing their thing. It’s all under my security. Hells yes. There’s a promo for a new cocktail, and the beverage obviously sponsoring the night. “Tava” is a new brand of sparkling no calorie fruit drink. I drank quite a fucking few as they were all over the theater and I can report it’s a pretty decent drink. And they make for good cocktails. “Tavatinis.” I overhear someone say, “Come here my little Tavatini” and almost die. Clearly all real New Yorkers quote/reference Sex and the City on a daily basis. Hells yes exclamation point.
Unfortunately, security guards are not supposed to almost die due to funny things patrons say, or really laugh ever. Well fuck that, it’s a party. I am going to smile at people. And I do. I don’t even attempt a mug, a security scowl. Well surprise, surprise, I am pretty much the worst, least intimidating security guard ever. And that’s not just me being pessimistic. Over the next 4 hours I am approached by 3 catererrs and 3 guests “You don’t look like a security guard, who’d you fuck?who do you know who got you the job?” “You’re to cheery to be security.” “Don’t they usually give this job to big threatening men?” “ooo, I’m really intimated. ha ha.” “Here, let me help you practice a mug.” “Is your shirt on backwards?” Thanks, thanks so much.
It is a spectacular people watching situation, in fact I am being paid to people watch. And the people I’m watching all paid at least $1,500 to get into this party. That makes it even more interesting, and the fashion is fascinating. I note a beautiful, flowy, floral, orange dress one woman is wearing. It’s fabulous. And 10 minutes later another woman walks in wearing the same dress. That sucks. And one of course looks way better in it than the other. There’s one woman on the arm of a man in a fucking fabulous jumpsuit. Floral, sheer light fabric. It is awesome. New New York goal for me: be able to rock a jumpsuit. It’s hard to do, but if you can it really boosts you up a level. Another New York goal: get into fabulous parties as a date. Best case senerio? I’m working on it.
For the moment, I’m flirting with caterers. They’re all really cute, in pressed white shirts and black pants, likely having more interesting endeavors that don’t pay the bills, and here the ratio is skewed in a way I rarely see in my business: way more men than women. My flirtations are rewarded with dessert trays inconspicuously made available to me before the return trip to the kitchen and as much Tava as I can chug down when no one’s looking. $1,500 buys you decadent desserts that your diet probably doesn’t allow. Score one for me (me: one, them: 1,500).
As this is a red carpet, gala event people watching reaches its peak when I see cameras flashing. These photographers have a pretty shitty job, snapping pictures of famous people, being kinda annoying, and the majority of the time are just completely ignored. It’s hard to describe, but it was weird to watch and I sort of felt bad for them. But yes, there are famous people milling about in front of me. Which is kinda cool, but also kinda scary. If there was an actual security situation I would not know what the fuck to do. I glance at Kim Raver at least 10 times before I finally place her as the actress who plays Nico on Lipstick Jungle. Steve Martin is there and I resist the urge, “I love your books! They’re all I want to read right now!” One of my favorite actresses ever is there. Cynthia Nixon, looking fabulous. That was cool. But interaction with famous people is weird. They’re just people. The I-know-who-you-are-but-you-don’t-know-who-I-am deal is awkward. And they look a lot littler in real life. Which is kinda cool when you can be like “You know what? I honestly never want to be that skinny.”
So yeah, there are famous people at this deal, but it’s totally not my place to interact with them. There’s not much joy praising someone who gets recognized on the street and hears it every day. It much more awesome for the semi to not really at all famous, who rarely get recognized and you can instantly tell are not jaded by fame. Like the people in the play I’m ushering. I ran into one of the guys who has a really small ensemble part on the subway and there I could tell my compliments to him really meant something.
And then the show after opening. We’re back to the usual ushering, no security, no $1,500 minimum, no fancy dresses, no red carpet. No celebrity people watching.
Hello, can you help me find where this is? he hands me the ticket.
Of course! You’re in Section L which is right here, but as you’re seat 710, you’re actually on the far left, so you’re gonna want go up those stairs and keep to your left.
Thanks a lot. and he smiles at me!
You’re welcome, enjoy the show!
I have this exchange in various forms a dozen times a night. But this time it was with James Franco. Yep, Daniel DeSario of Freaks and Geeks, Spiderman’s Harry Osborn. He’s with a blonde, wearing a leather jacket and has the same melt worthy smile you’ve seen on screen. How to put this….squee! rather sums it up. Somehow I was fucking professional, didn’t make a fool of myself, and didn’t even get fired for jumping a patron. Hells YES. The concept of celebrity still weirds me out, but that was pretty fucking awesome.
It has been a good week.
(there was an after party post-show where cast and crew where invited too. Open bar, good food, dancing, theater people as well as big bucks patrons, no more security. I traded my 2XXL shirt for an awesome dress, mingled, danced, and got a little sloshed. Fashionably sloshed. Lots of fun.)
Yesterday was the first hot, humid, ah-this-is-ny-summer day. The air hovering between buildings and when you gulp in air you can taste the water droplets in it. Sans sun screen equals skin cancer doom. Where even if you put on SPF 45 you might get burned anyway (check for yours truly) and NYC becomes Dehydration City. The poor actors in the play, doing outdoor theatre on a 90 degree night costumed in wool suits, blowing on their hands during lines about the “bitter cold” while streams (some rivers) of sweat cascade down their faces.
Yesterday was also my first real world date. First date that didn’t involve any kind of “let’s hang out/ ‘hang out'”, “just come over to my place”, “I guess we could watch a movie/ ‘watch a movie'”, “I dunno, what do you want to do?”. A “I want to take you to” date. A “I’m going to pay for freakin everything even if it’s expensive and that makes you feel slightly awkward” (But not too awkward. I’m too poor to feel too awkward) date. First date with Central Park Guy.
He took me, yes direct quote “I want to take you” (and I’m not sure how I feel about that phrase), to the MOMA. Which must have been a lucky or intuitive guess on his part because I love museums, art, and modern art especially. Although “lucky” is a relative word, poor guy had no way of knowing I am a museum fiend. Get me in a museum and I won’t be satisfied unless I see everything. At least walk by everything. Now this is a tall, tall order in the MOMA which has six expansive floors that I haven’t seen in four years, since the summer after freshman year with Maggie. On that last visit we spent six (really, that’s not poetically inflated) hours in the museum, to the point where if we didn’t buy overpriced food at the museum cafe we were going to collapse.
Well this trip I was able to squash the fiend part of me (was that hiding part of my core self? oooh for shame!) with the consolation that umm..I fucking live here now (!!!) and theoretically can visit this museum everyday. We still managed to cover a lot of ground. Three floors; prints, photography, special exhibits, some painting; talk of art(duh), how minds work, travels, ethnicity (he’s Greecian, Middle Eastern, Russian Jew…uh I’m a WASP, for lack of an easier description) home towns, vegetarian escapades, feminism, Nick Drake, pain, challenging convention and changing the world (no I’m not kidding and he brought it up). No awkward silences, he’s interesting, intelligent, even has a sense of humor, annnd is fun to talk to.
I was enjoying myself and ended up spending the entire day with him. After 3 hours of MOMA he started to get bored and really I should have just ended everything right there, I mean I can’t see things going anywhere with a museum wuss and we were both hungry so we ventured out into the heat to search for lunch which lead to sushi at a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen (check! learned where Hell’s Kitchen is!). By the time we’re done eating I’m still not sick of him, and he’s clearly not sick of me because we end up walking in Central Park.
We end up lying on the grass of the Great Lawn, watching the clouds go by and talking about the value of alone time. Now if you know me, you know I need alone time on par with the need for water, air, food. Almost on par. And I love finding people who understand that. Talk to me about this or tell me I was good in a play and I am sold. Prone-to-making-bad-decisions sold. Better-than-tulips sold. So here we are: gorgeous day, hot weather but now augmented by a lovely breeze, beautiful lawn, conversations that make me melt, guy lying next to me who I think I might kinda sorta like, when uh oh, his hands touched mine, fuck he’s going for my hand! fuck we’re going to have to have The Talk.
Holding hands. What may easily be considered the most simple and innocent intimate gesture is the most emotionally fraught for me, carries the most bagage and embarassment. And feels so retro in a poodle skirt kind of way.
Hey I have to tell you something. This is kinda weird, and usually only happens when I’m hot..um… I’m prone to having really sweaty hands. I say, holding up my hand as evidence. Yep. We’re not at the sweats-actually-dripping-off point thankfully but as usual, you can physically see the moisture on my palm. This is met not with the usual gasp, “ew”, or some other exclamation but a simple What are you gonna do. As in whatever. As in “I don’t care”. And then a story about the parels of deodorant. Some marathon runner who covered his whole body in deodorant and ended up dying because of it. Sweat or death? My clammy existence is looking better already. No one has ever successfully made me feel better about my affliction. No one. Might kinda sorta like? Change that to definitely kinda sorta like. And the next thing I know I’m one of those people macking it on the grass in Central Park (cliche enough for you?), not thinking about the girls softball game yards away nor that PDA may make people like myself cringe. Not thinking about that. Just the prospect of a definite kinda sorta like.
I’m sitting on a park bench reading Shopgirl. The story differs from your typical chick lit novella in that it is written by a man, Steve Martin to be exact. It is written in a refreshing 2nd person style. I’m enjoying it. Engrossed in my reading, semi-sickly relating to the protagonist and wondering what the comments on my own life would be were they reported in this way, suddenly I’m approached.
“Can I talk to you about something?”
Having just been questioned by a father and daughter as to where one can find boats, (my answer: nooo idea, but I felt sillily cool that I must look like someone who would know) I look up expecting a tourist- “Where’s the MET?” A bum- “Gimmie a quarter.” Or a creeper- “Buy a Roladex from the side of my trench coat.”
None of the above.
He’s a guy in his 20s, cute, slim but not scrawny, scruffy brown hair, with a small pimple near his nose which for some reason I am able to find strangely endearing.
“If you’re trying to sell me something, I’m not going to buy it.” I say.
Retorted with an appropriate chuckle, “No I’m not going to sell you anything, I’m not even going to try to force a Bible on you. Can I just talk to you for a couple minutes?”
Well, he promised no selling, no Bibles…I can run away to work if/when necessary. “You can try.”
He sits down next to me on the bench, introduces himself, then, “You know those guys who get a dog out of the hope the animal will help them pick up girls?”
“What do you think about that?”
This turns into a 10 minute conversation that stays pretty close to the subject, bouncing around from I’m a proven non-dog person to You can’t assume the theoretical guy got the theoretical dog for this reason to What is honesty.
So what? So where is this going? “So are you on a deadline for an article or something?” Are you writing a blog? Cause that’s where I know this story’s going for me. “No,” he replies, “I’m just sick of “the game” and people trying to get together by fooling each other. I just want to talk to people and be real and I was hoping I could get your phone number.“
This motive had crossed my mind, but just barely as I am notoriously oblivious in such matters. Well, I know what at least 2 of you are thinking: yes I felt like this was straight out of Sex and the City (in theaters in less than 24 hours!) too.
My inner Miranda burbled up, “So how many times have you tried this tactic” -it carried on way too long to be a line- “before?” When his reply was an innocent, “What?” I decided not to repeat myself. Let’s not be mean for once. He’s cute, seemingly smart, perhaps a little awkward, and with signs that hint to me he may prove obnoxious. But I really don’t know. Let’s try benefit of the doubt. Why not? People who have just left the large majority of their friends in other states may want to cast pickiness to the winds. Momentarily? At least give it a try?
I gave him my number. Yep. I got picked up on a Central Park bench my first full day in Manhattan. I’m off to a great start.
I have yet to move, nothing else in my life is set up, I’m sure as hell not ready to enter the real world. Inspite of that, everything is perfectly in order for me to begin grown-up life as a New York cliche.
I just graduated from a north east liberal arts college with a BA in a perfectly useless field. I am broke as a joke. I have no where to live. I have a job that would be considered decidedly shitty to most other people and barely pays minimum wage. I find myself singing Avenue Q simply because it sickly mirrors my life.
I have 4 days left before I take residence on a friend’s parents’ couch in Westchester county and start artsy job. Ushering at a big huge theater in the city. Which I am psyched for. Even though the training I endured for it was mildly painful (perhaps because I sat for 8 hours on the Chinatown bus for 3 hours of paid training which almost covered the monetary cost of my ticket…but if time is money- ouch). The training itself was straight out of a movie. Complete with the perfectly cast orientation leader who was gay gay gay and queeny and had a tone like you wouldn’t believe. He loved being up infront of us acting in the one man show “Don’t Touch the Patrons and Tuck in Your Staff Shirt”! Limited one night Off-Broadway showcase! Theatre people are weird. I am one of them. Guilty. But I was sitting there watching us with outside perspective. We are ridiculous, annoying, clicky as hell, dramatic, loud, exclusive. And we love it. No wonder actors get a bad rap.
Four days. Four days to realize I have too too much shit. Waaaay too much shit for the shoebox living that is New York. Four days to decide what I can live with out, what I can hope to not miss. Four days left of living in this depressing post industrial town. And my luxurious gigantic apartment. Yes, I can appreciate it as both those things after a few page clicks on craigslist. Four days of shitty restaurants, depressing people watching, horrible public transportation, no creative stimulation. Four days of safety in this bubble that I can’t even call my own any more. Four days and then who knows how long of not being in a play, not having a strong unit of friends right there for me to root for me during auditions or come hold my hand if I relapse into Tonsilar Phlemona.
Exciting. Scary. duh.
I’m still trying to figure out why I cried for 3 hours after graduating. Crying through all hugs, all good byes, at absolutely every worst possible moment-to-be-crying. Whether it was sadness about all the things I know and will miss or fear of all the things I don’t know. Yes, likely a mixure of both but I can deal with the known. How ever sad it may be. And hard to let go. The unknown…that’s harder.