Sunday, December 18, 2005

Almost Famous

I no longer had to work nights, meaning I actually had free time. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I certainly didn’t have any girls to date.

My younger brother, Chris, is an actor in New York City. He looks like me. He sounds like me. We’re pretty much the same person. Except he gets laid. A lot.

I put two and two together. The only seeming difference between us is that he gets up on stage and I sit in an office all day long. I was breezing through the local paper and I saw an ad for the local theater in Montclair. They offer acting classes. I immediately called them up and write them a $150 check.

I’d figure the acting class would give me something to do, to see if I had some undiscovered stage presence and also maybe help me meet some girls. Instead, I stumbled across the strangest group of people I have ever met in my life. What I took was less of an acting class and more of a live action roleplay of a Lewis Carroll novel.


I had my first acting class last night and I still don’t know if this was the biggest mistake of my life or the best decision I’ve ever made.

The instructor’s name is Bob, who is more flamboyant than even Jm J. Bullock. He looks and talks like every audience member from Behind The Actor’s Studio. He introduced himself by talking in non-stop new age platitudes about “finding ourselves and each other” and “getting what we need out of this.”

We then had to go around the room and say a little something about ourselves. There are ten people in the class. Three people are about my age. One is this really cute girl who was sitting next to me. The other girl was mildly attractive but she sounded exactly life Fran Drescher, if Fran Drescher had throat cancer. The other girl who is in her 20’s looks like she’s 46 and has three kids.

These two actual older women were sitting across from me. They’re absolutely the most anonymous people one would ever meet. They look like someone who would live next door to your aunt. Housewife number one said that she was taking the class “because she didn’t want to go on with her life knowing if I could have made it or not.” The woman sitting next to her perked up when that was said. “I was thinking the same exact thing!”

Next to them was this German lady. She does not have any breasts, giving her this haunting trans-gender appearance.

Next to me was this Hindu guy in his 40’s. He’s taking the class because his son is an actor. “And if he’s a good actor, I know that I can be a better one than him.”

This grey-haired guy in his 60’s said he is a “class junkie” who constantly signs up for classes at community centers throughout North Jersey. I like the sound of that. I think I might want to take a ceramics class I head is being offered in Caldwell.

I got to know a lot about these people during our brief introduction. But here’s the thing -- none of us told each other our names.

Once introductions were over, we had to do this creepy Zen New Age bullshit. Bob told us to focus on a point across the room from us and breath. And then all of us, all at once, had to visually describe the wall. I was trying to eavesdrop on everyone else but it was too chaotic to hone in on anything. So I decided to see if I could make The Cute Girl laugh, since she was standing next to me. I started saying loud enough for her to hear that I saw an image of the Virgin Mary on the wall.

Bob then told us to picture ourselves in our bedroom, getting in a car, going to the store, purchasing an orange and then eating it. After doing this, he asked us how we felt about it. The Overly Competitive Hindu said he was really affected by this.

“I’m a real orange guy. I mean, I eat oranges allllllllllll the time,” he said with this post-orgasmic tone in his voice.

Next, we had to visualize ourselves in what Bob described as “a scary play. Your Personal Fear Zone.” Everyone had to describe it at once, but I was able to hone in on Voice Box Girl.

“I’m in a bedroom. There are a few books about Jay Leno lying around.” This caused me to laugh, wondering how Jay Leno causes panic attacks to 20-something girls. She heard me chuckle and gave me a dirty look.

We then went around the room to discuss Our Personal Fear Zones.

The Hemaphroditic German said her Personal Fear Zone consisted of a group of people laughing and playing in her driveway. Class Junkie said he couldn’t hone in on one particularly scary place, so instead he just thought about the time he had prostate cancer.

I went next. I didn’t want to say “my fear zone is being in this room with you people right now,” even though this was the truth. So I made up something about my grandfather’s house.

The Cure Girl said her Personal Fear Zone was her ex-boyfriend’s apartment. I think this is a sign that she wants to sleep with me.

Next, Bob led our class talking about our dream role.One of the Interchangeable Housewives said she loved Steel Magnolia’s. Her cohort screamed “that’s my favorite movie too!” The Hemaphroditic German said she wanted to “play a villainess, no matter what.”

The Overly Competetive Hindu said he wanted to play Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction would be a lot better with this guy debating about foot rubs.

I said I wanted to do a Vagina Monologue. No one got the joke, even though some of them had vaginas.

Bob said his dream role was to play the American James Bond.

I don’t know if I want to try and get a refund or immerse myself in this class. The Cute Girl is pretty damn cute and seems very vulnerable, fearing her ex-boyfriend and all. But at one point in class she talked about her love of musical comedies, and I don’t want to have to rent Newsies for our first date. And the whole relaxation/fixation stuff is really irritating. I could just masturbate to Telemundo soap operas if I wanted to clear my mind.


We have had some defectors. Up to half the class did not show up, including The Cute Girl. This means I am now the only fabulous person in the class.

Voice Box Girl, The Hemaphroditic German, The Overly Competitive Hindu, Class Junkie and at least one Interchangeable Housewife showed up. This new woman was in class. She’s about 30 and looks like she owns every Tori Amos album. She also has horrible Sagging Boobs. In addition, this Mexican guy also showed p. He’s a really big man and he did not button the top seven buttons on his black, silk shirt. He has the sexual charisma that only a Latino Bohunk can have.

The Overly Competitive Hindu walked into class and tripped over an extension chord and fell on his face. He got up and said “I was working on that all week.” Someone watches Who’s Line Is It Anyway! He also added he was impersonating Buster Keaton or, “Johnny Depp pretending to be Buster Keaton.” No wonder the local Blockbuster didn’t have a copy of Benny and Joon.

We began by doing warm-up routines that I usually associate with pony-tailed white guys in their 50’s. We looked into walls and described what we saw, followed by laying on the ground and “relaxing” in a room with complete strangers. No thank you.

Bob then told us we had to “envision a glow capturing your body, limb by limb, allowing us to reach a state of ultimate relaxiation.” While Bob was busy hypnotizing me, I was thinking about how all of this sounded a little bit like Heaven’s Gate. And then I started thinking about how cool it would be I really WAS trapped in a glowing cage of some sort, like from something in a bad 70’s sci-fi flick. So then I started giggling again and everyone was staring me down.

Next, we stood in a circle. Bob told us the directions: two of us would stand in the middle of the circle and we would take alternating terms describing each other, slowly expanding the depth and breadth of our commentary. He gave an example, telling Voice Box Girl she was wearing glasses. Voice Box Girl then had to repeat what Bob said and then come up with a retort of her own. She told Bob he was very slender.

I went third, pairing me with The Overly Competitive Hindu. He told me I was wearing black sneakers. I repeated that and responded by telling him he had haunting eyes. He then responded my pants were baggy. I then told him he had wispy chest hair.

After a few minutes, he was replaced with an Interchangeable Housewife, clad in a day-glo fanny pack this week. She sprinted up to the middle of the circle. Immediately, she commented on something she noticed about my appearance.

“You have two verrry cute earlobes.”

I then said something generic about her hair.

“You have very well-proportioned eyes,” she said.

The Latino Bohunk went up in this drill and had to stop, since he was shaking so hard, dripping more sweat than Martin Lawrence did when he wore all those clothes and went running in 100 degree weather.

For next week, we have to think of something we do when we are alone so we can start to “block” it and perform it in future weeks. I’m tempted to show the class what I do when I’m actually alone, which is download graphic Internet porn. But I think I’ll go with something easy, like “read in bed.”

Class ended this week with Bob confiding something to us. Apparently, he’s the worst actor in the history of ever.

He asked the class if any of us came to the theater on Saturday to see his performance, but no one did. He then explained what happened. When he was on stage, he started to “incoherently babble” his lines and started breathing heavy, like he was having a heart attack. He then went off-stage and fell to the ground.

An Interchangeable Housewife asked him what happened.

“Oh, it was just a panic attack,” he said. “I get them whenever I perform.”


The Cute girl was back tonight. She looks kind of like Stephanie McMahon from the WWE, except if you took of the seedy glint of wrestling trash and replaced it with the wholesome innocence of a Jewish teenager. She also passed an important test in my eyes, the footwear test. I will not date a girl if she wears retarded shoes. The Cute Girl was wearing these red suede Adidas shell-tops. Apparently, she shops at the same place Run DMC do.

Tonight’s class was more of a traditional class setting, as tradition as it can be with these people. Bob handed us these shoddy photocopied diagrams of a stage with words like “stage left” and “downstage” written on them in Bob’s serial killer-esque handwriting.

Bob began by telling us how “stage left” actually means to the right and how “stage right is actually to the left. Bob said this usually confused people, but not him. “I’m lefthanded… AND dyslexic!”

Bob then talked to us about the stage theory of “cheating” to help better communicate with the audience via positioning and playing the angles. Bob brought The Overly Competitive Hindu with him up on stage, and positioned him at an acute angle.

“You never see men talking like this -- but, honey, that’s another story altogether. But just remember, the only place where cheating is good is in theater and in gambling!”

Bob then went on to discuss the art of pantomime. He name-dropped some theater actress who was in a production of “Our Town” which had no props. Bob then imitated her pantomimes -- “She had all her eggs here and her pots and pans here.”

“It is like a kitchen came to life right in front of my eyes,” said The Hemaphroditic German.

Bob then turned to the topic of improvisational theater, a touchy subject with your truly since my brother performs at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater. Bob began by going into a tirade railing against the tyranny that is improv.

“They act like they are just making things all up, but they really all have a lot of practice doing what they are doing. Believe you me.”

He showed happiness tearing down the oppressive walls of improv comedy, revealing the truth to us like he was The Masked Magician, speaking in hushed tones as to how the biz really works.

Bob then discussed with us about theater superstitions like “Break A Leg.” One superstition, we learned, is to wear an article of clothing from a previously successful show. This works, according to Bob.

“I was in a show in Morriston once. We had some wardrobe froma pervious show and I got to wear a jacket that was previously worn by…”

He paused for dramatic effect.

“JIM DALE. You know, JIM DALE? The Broadway Actor? He had just finished a great run. And then we had a pretty good show, also. But what really surprised me… Jim Dale is the same size as me! The jacket fit perfectly!”

Bob, also, speaks at times like a vaudevillian carnival huckster. “Doesh anyong hath any quethstonth about thith shtuff?”

Bob mentioned Debbie Reynolds, whom he saidn in a 1996 performance brought her own kitchen to the set so she would feel comfortable in the role. Sagging Breasts asked Bob what Ms. Reynolds did where her kitchen was at home.

He drew a blank, and then finally told her, “Well, I guess she has doubles of everything at home.

He was then asked about how hard it is to memorize a script. Bob said some people can memorize things rote, others have to do it in stages. Bob described himself as an “organic learner.”

For next week, we have to come up with a short scene of our own. We have two options: we can either do a two-minute scene by ourselves or we can have a three-minute phone conversation by ourselves.

Voice Box Girl, wearing a Heinekin Beer t-shirt tonight, had a hard time picking up this concept. “Wait, so WHAT are we doing this week? Okay, do we have to bring anything in? How can we act without bringing anything in? Nothing? Okay. So, let me get this straight now.”

Bob also mentioned that our scenes had to have some sort of conflict. “Just don’t do ‘something,’” he said. “But you have to do… SOME THING. Act exasperated or tired or unhappy.”

Voice Box Girl again did not pick up on this concept.

“The thing I want to do is that I want to be getting ready to go out on a date. What kind of conflict thing can I have with that really?”

I was writing all of this down. Voice Box Girl saw this and started staring at me. I got nervous, thinking I was caught. She had the dead, cold eyes of a murderer. Then she apologized and stared laughing about how she had an itch on her neck.

Sagging Boobs then brought the conversation to the final week, where we have to prepare a monologue. She said she does not want to perform a play, but would rather do a “dramatic reading of a song lyric.” If you could bet on this at Vegas, I would place $500 on her performing “Edge of Seventeen.”

As for next week, I still don’t know what I’m going to do. Part of me wants to do something really bizarre, like have a three-minute conversation in Mandarin Chinese.

At the end of class, we were stacking our chairs. The Cute Girl let The Overly Competitive Hindu go first. “How chivalrous,” he said, giving her a mocking curtsey. He then took the pen he borrowed from Class Junkie -- he gave everyone in class a pen if they wanted it -- and threw it side armed at the old man, where it hit him in the throat and then fell to the ground.

I walked into class during the middle of the first sketch being performed, as Class Junkie was in front of the class, doing something with a coffee filter. I could not figure what was going on, thinking I missed something. Class Junkie continued on this way for his entire sketch, on the other side of the classroom.

"That was really fantastic," said Bob. "Really, a great job. But can you do it again for us? This time, face us as you do it."

Class Junkie proceeded to do his sketch again, this time it was slightly more clear as to what he was actually doing -- preparing the morning coffee.

"I can tell from your facial expressions when you were doing this that you do this a lot," Bob said.

"Yep. Every morning. At 4:30 a.m.," Class Junkie said, existentially sighing.

But all is not bad in Class Junkie's life. Bob asked him how he felt performing in front of everything. "I'm really content with what I did," the white-haired gentleman said. "The last time I acted, I was Tiny Tim!"

Up next was Voice Box Girl. "He only had one prop. I
have a whole bunch? Is that okay, or am I going to get in trouble," sheasked. Bob assured her that
this was okay.

Voice Box Girl's sketch involved her putting on makeup, getting ready for a night out on the town-- no doubt to the local TGIFriday's. She began by combing her hair-- which made a loud noise as the brush ripped through her scalp. She continued to put on her makeup throughout the sketch. Afterwards, Bob told her to pantomime putting on her makeup this time, forsaking theprops.

"I don't know how good it will be," Voice Box Girl said. But again, Bob used his soothing carnival-barker voice to coach her through it. And guess what-- she did it!

"That was awesome," responded the Overly Competitive Hindu-- with a trace of jealousy in his voice.

"I never want to hear that word out of your mouth again. I never want you to tell me that you cannot mime ever again," said Bob.

Up next came one of the Interchangeable Housewives. I can't tell them apart, and curiously, I don't think I've ever seen them in the same place at once. So maybe they are the same person? But I don't think there are. I
could have sworn there were three Interchangeable Steel Magnolia Fans, but I've only counted two since the first week.

The Interchangeable Housewife's performance was surprisingly not anonymous and instead was really, really frightening. She had a one-sided phone conversation with a colleague by the name of
"Kim"-- apparently, she's a therapist of some sort. Her piece was a bizarre combination about someone
suffering from the dual affects of colon cancer and child molestation, with someone having to call DYFUS and a mental health professional. This was even more uncomfortable then our pre-class Yoga routines.

Bob took a break after her performance ("I've been drinking water ALL day. I gotta go GO GO!") which gave the class a chance to talk. about the last piece. Voice Box Girl asked what DYFUS was.

"It's the Department of Youth and Family Services," she explained. "That's
who gets called in case someone gets abused at home."

"Oh. So that's who you call if someone is abused at home?"

The Cute Girl (again wearing her swank red Kool Moe Dee sneakers) then informed us that she used to be a teacher. "It's really hard to get DYFUS involved with cases, I found. It's tough, especially with statute of
limitation laws."

Voice Box Girl was trying to follow. "What does that mean, Statue of Libertation?"

Sagging Breasts then chimed in with some commentary about special education. "My sister-in-law teaches special education. They were talking to all of the students about being abused and telling them about
how to say no and what to do if they were being abused at home. The next day, all the kids said that they were abused and were crying. It was really funny." I think our senses of humor differ in some ways.

After our break, The Hemaphroditic German set up for her piece. Apparently, babies play a large role in her life. A baby formula box stood prominently on a stool, with a crying baby face and center. She began by shaking out baby diapers and folding them, fidgeting with the formula box, then inexplicably went towards the back of the performing space where she needlessly ran in space. Then, she went back up towards the front of the stage and picked up a phone-- a high concept "two-in-one" of both pantomime and a phone conversation.

"Hello? Hello? I am not sure I understand," she said in her accented English to a made-up person. " I am very busy caring for my Godchild. Is that the word I am looking for? Godchild? Wait-- did you say I can get four free tickets to Hawaii? No, I don't want to go to Atlanta to pick them up. I do not want to pick up the tickets with my child. He is almost one. I do not understand, how can you give away tickets worth $3,000 dollars? Plus a free place to stay? There must be some strings. I WILL NOT MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU. Please leave me alone. I beg you. Please leave me off this phone."

Bob then asked The Hemaphroditic German if she gets confused on the phone with telemarketers. She does. "They talk so fast. It confuses me."

Bob, omnipotent far beyond acting, gave us some advice on how to handle telemarketing phone calls. "Here's a hint. Say to the telemarketer that you would like them to be placed on their no call list. If they call again, you say to them 'You're breaking the law' and then they usually hang up."

We had one more performance left, and I edged out The Latino Bohunk and The Overly Competitive Hindu to go last.

Earlier in the day, I had gotten props for my skit-- two bottles of ketchup purchased from Foodtown and a blue fanny pack borrowed from my mom.

I arranged a very elaborate set-up compared to everyone else, arranging chairs and a bench next to each other. I then placed my ketchup bottles (one generic brand, one Heinz) on the bench and grabbed
other props-- the baby formula, pieces of garbage laying around, other stuff laying around, simulating supermarket shelves.

I then pantomined walking down the aisles of a supermarket in a bad mood, angrily purchasing my food, throwing bushels of food into a cart.

"Very good," Bob said. "But I want you to try this again."

Then he said the words that would change my acting career forever.

"This time... pretend you have diabetes."

So I did. I prepared for this new dramatic role by repeating the word "diabetes" several times as I walked through the performance area. "I now have diabetes," became my mantra. I went through the aisles, analyzing make-believe cans of food for their sugar content. I did not put the ketchup bottles in the shopping cart. Bob asked why when I was done.

"High fructose corn syrup. You have to watch out for that when you're a diabetic like me."

Then, I started to clean up my performance area as Bob told the class about what I did differently-- how I reached for the shelves with a more direct focus. I'm certain everyone now thinks that I have some issues regarding a compulsion to clean.

After class, The Cute Girl and The Voice Box Girl started talking about where they were from-- Glen Ridge and Caldwell, respectively.

They exchanged numbers and decided to get together for lunch this week.

I sensed an opportunity. I approached Cute Girl and asked her if she went to Glen Ridge High School. She said that she did. I asked her if she knew "(mutual friends name here)". She did. I then said, meekly, "I know him also." And then I walked away and left, tail tucked between my legs.

On my way to the parking lot, I managed to get in a walking group with Class Junkie and The Overly Competitive Hindu who did not have a chance to perform due to time constraints. I asked him what he would
be performing next week.

"I'm not sure yet," he said. "I'm thinking about doing something where I get out of a shower."


I walk into class in the middle of an argument between Sagging Boobs and Class Junkie. Sagging Boobs had just finished her performance when I walked in, and Class Junkie-- who seems to be a very nice, affable grandfatherly type who just-so-happens to have an interest in taking various classes around Essex County for self-improvement issues-- were embroiled in an argument.

"I just think that your piece was better the first time. I liked what you did then," Class Junkie said, polite as can be.

"Well, I obviously did it that way for a reason," Sagging Boobs responded. "I only did the alteration of the scene that Bob talked about. I did it that way for a reason. I learned about doing that when I
had acting classes in college."

The tension slowly went away as one of the Interchangeable Steel Magnolia Housewives prepared their set. Two of the Interchangeable Housewives were there this week-- this aforementioned version and the lady who said that I had very cute earlobes. The one who talked about child molestation and colon cancer last week was not there-- again, furthering my belief that these three have never been in the same room together.

During a brief break, we listened in on a reading that was being done from the main stage for an upcoming musical. A lady was singing, and a discussion ensued between Bob and Sagging Boobs (who regularly attends shows at the theater) as to who was performing.

"Oh yeah, I remember her. She has a real distinctive voice," Bob said, as catty as an 8th grade girl. "A really... shrill...distinctive... voice."

The Interchangeable Housewife’s performance involved her reading Cosmo and then answering the phone. The call came from a friend of hers.

"I just studied for my GMAT's this weekend. It really sucked," she said. Then the pitch in her voice changed. "Oh, you really met him? Did you post your picture or did he? What page was it? Match dot com?"

Unfortunately, more was not heard about the perils of Internet dating from her unique perspective.

Bob ensured her that she had a "great sense of privacy" during her performance-- a compliment he has offered to pretty much every single one of us after our performance. The Overly Competitive Hindu gave a haughty golf clap after her scene was done.

The Latino Bohunk then went next. He set up an elaborate set, like mine. He brought his own phone from home, brought in towels to drape over chairs, tablecloths and a vase. In addition, he also wore a tacky orange bubble jacket, as if he was working on an Interstate.

His performance began with him walking in through a door, a little on the tired side. He meandered around, going through mail, checking his answering machine for messages. He then then took off his shoes and socks, and then unfastened his belt, dropping his black trousers to the floor, folding them,
then placing them around the chair. He then had a one-sided telephone conversation with a fictional Visa operator as his black silk shirt casually draped over his black boxer-briefs that barely concealed his considerable shamebulge, allowing his caramel thighs to glisten under the flourescent lighting. After his performance, he received a well-deserved rousing ovation from the class.

Interchangeable Steel Magnolias Fan #2 had to go after that performance of a lifetime. The Overly Competitive Hindu helped her set up and saw that clothing was a major part of her performance. "Do
you want my pants? We can go in the back room real quick," he said, trying to come off as being "zany"
and more coming across like a slimy Megan's Law violator.

She meekly folded laundry (Chicago Bulls "DYNASTY" T-Shirt, NY Giants Zubaz style tiger pants, towels) and separated the whites from the blacks.

"I don't know what it is with this class, but you all are reading my mind." Bob said. "I say 'white' and 'black' whenever I do my laundry also."

We then discussed the next two weeks of class. Next week, class begins at 7. Bob wants us to see him read at a rehearsal. "This is the embryotic, very beginning stages of how a play gets made. It's so very exciting. It's a great play. Real, real interesting," Bob said. He clearly needs to be taken down a notch.

We then discussed the week after that -- we will begin going over our monologues. "If you are feeling randy and want to memorize it, go ahead and memorize it. But don't feel like you need to memorize it. I'm used to that sort of thing," Bob said.

No Cute Girl this week. She is obviously is playing head games with me. I wonder how she would respond to threatening e-mails. No one plays games with me.

At the end of class, The Hemaphroditic German said she wanted to do something that perhaps involved two people. Bob told her to ask around next week to see if she could get someone to perform with her. I am thinking about volunteering, just to get a glimpse into her dark, childless world. I would also like to see the look on my parents face if I were to bring this she-male into my house to go over a scene from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

But I think I may do a monologue of my own, probably something with a movie. I have four key words about this: Planet Of The Apes.


Today's acting class update will be brief. The class tonight wasn't much of a class-- we watched a reading of a play to give the playwright and prospective director feedback and criticism of the play.

I arrived a little bit early, where I saw The Overly Competitive Hindu and Interchangeable Housewife #1-- the one who performed something about DYFUS. We briefly made small talk. I asked The Overly Competitive Hindu how his piece went the week before, as I missed it due to my late arrival.

"It went well. I did the getting out of the shower bit," he said. "One take, also. I didn't have to have to do a second scene with any alterations. BAM." He then pumped his fist like Tiger Woods.

We went into the theater and took our seats to see the reading-- a play entitled "Lunchtime." It was about office politics-- a powerful woman on the go, her abused office staff, blue collar workers, etc. I now realize why most people don't go to see local productions of original plays-- because they tend to suck the life out of you.

Lunchtime, in all honesty, wasn't as bad as I had hoped. It was a really boring and pretty generic. The lead actress felt the need to enunciate her words like she was playing polo and the African-American actress needed to do her best "Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple" imitation, which served no real purpose because she had a bit part ("WHY? WHY? What's going on in the OFFICE?). There were also Italian characters who
played the "hapless Goomba" role to fruition. It always pains me to see on paper "townie guys" that were drawn up and written by a guy who has never smelled an urban neighboorhood, unless the words "gentrified" and "Hoboken" are included in the phrase -- the playwright was wearing saddle shoes, so I don't think he could be could even locate the South Bronx on a map.

Bob, who trumped up this reading like we were going see something really special, had a 4-line speaking role. I think this is a good first step so he can get over is fear of the stage, which is certainly detrimental to an aspiring actor. I would have really liked it better if he just told us "class is cancelled this week because I have a role, so we'll just tack on another class after we were supposed to end" but I'm comfortable with being ripped off of $150.

Afterwards, we applauded while The Overly Competitive Hindu tried to start a standing ovation.

After the play, we were allowed a chance to interact with the cast and playwright in a question-and-answer format, asking for our "honest opinions."

Most of the people were friends of actors or also members of the theater, so of course Lunchtime was the greatest play ever written. I opened my big mouth and made a few pointers-- I thought the play shifted from farce to melodrama too quickly but I enjoyed the characters-- in which every person on the panel stared at me. Then, the director (acting as MC) asked if anyone else agreed with me.

Not one person raised their hands. Then, for the next ten minutes or so, everyone said that they disagreed with me about my points. "I definitely do NOT agree with the gentleman over there. Not one bit. This play is

After the q&a, class members (a small gathering tonight- no Cute Girl, Voice Box Girl or Interchangeable Housewives #2 and #3, keeping with the tradition) started to talk about their monologues. The Latino Bohunk is going to be doing Sam Sheppard's True West, which I do not believe has any nude scenes in it. I was hoping to talk to The Hemaphroditic German so she could say "I am unsure of the piece I want to do but I need a young and secret lover in it" so I could volunteer. She simply walked away from the conversation, looking down at her feet as she did.

I started to talk to Class Junkie then. In our conversation, it was revealed that one of the many classes he took was a previous offering at the theater in playwriting. He was hoping his play would be read at the theater. I asked him what it was about, expecting him to say either "my grandkids" or "my bout with prostate cancer" or perhaps even something like "Iran-Contra."

Instead, he uttered a slew of words that have never been uttered together in the English language.

"It's about a bisexual witch who consults people on real estate in a supermarket."

I could not believe that he said those words to me, so I asked him to repeat them. Others were nearby, and I could tell he was a little ashamed to say that sentence again. But he did anyway, and this time I literally fell over laughing.

I then felt bad and apologized to him. "I'm sorry... I just wasn't expecting to hear you say that."

The white-haired Class Junkie then said that it was okay. "I know I'm a lame white guy." I asked him if I could use his work as my monologue. He guffawed and said that it wasn't completely ready yet.

"I think I want it to be a musical."


I timed my departure to arrive in class 15 minutes after it started, to avoid doing any stretching routines. When I got to class, I noticed that there were only four people in the room... it seems that most of the people have dropped out, unfortunately. The remaining few were Class Junkie, Voice Box Girl, The Overly Competitive Hindu and Sagging Boobs. And Bob, of course.

This meant that I had to stretch/self-actualize, so I basically stood off to the side and waited while everyone else meditated. Bob came back to the room and saw me standing there and asked why I wasn't stretching, so I told him, "I'm already centered."

During the stretching period, the Overly Competitive Hindu started leaping around like a madman, doing "extreme" style calisthenics, placing his hands against the wall and pushing with all his might to
better stretch out his calves. "I'm pumped for tonight. I drank two mochachino's before I came here."

Voice Box Girl started laughing hysterically when she was stretching. "I don't know why, but I always laugh when I do this."

This prompted Sagging Boobs to dispel some sage advice. "You have to get over that if you want to make it big."

We were performing our monologues tonight, which I wasn't aware of. Luckily for me, I stole a copy of Ibsen plays from my brother so I could half-ass something if need be. Voice Box Girl went first, doing a monologue from a book entitled "Pocket Monologues For Women: Convenient Scene-Study Pieces For Today's Demanding Acress."

Her piece involved her smoking a cigarette, talking to an imaginary person about the end of her marriage, where she was the victim of domestic abuse. "And get this... The girl he ran off with, my friend knows her from World Gym. And she has bruises on her arm... I don't think she got those from doing push-ups."

After her scene, Bob (who was wearing a baseball jersey that said the word WICKED on the front of it) lauded her with compliments. "You know this cold. I know you know these lines. These lines have become
YOUR lines." Then he told her to redo the scene, this time with another person in the class (The Overly Competitive Hindu volunteered) and they had to pretend they were in a crowded diner.

"That... THAT was a scene. That is what we call a scene," Bob said afterwards. "I felt great doing that," said Voice Box Girl. "But I want to apologize for the bad language."

The Overly Competitive Hindu went next, setting up chairs to resemble a car, using Voice Box Girl as his female compatriot.

"Alyssa... I love you." He then began quoting the monologue from Chasing Amy, with a stunning lack of
passion in his voice. "And as much as I appreciate it... I don't need a picture of birds bought at a diner to remember you."

Bob then went "interpretive" and made them redo their piece. This time, they scrapped the car and had to do it with the Overly Competitive Hindu literally chasing Voice Box Girl, saying his lines.

"Go after her!" was Bob's command, explaining how this was a “chase“ scene, thus this Indian man in his 40‘s should literally run after this girl 20 years younger than her while quoting Kevin Smith dialogue.

After their scene, Voice Box Girl asked The Overly Competitive Hindu where his scene was from. She drew blanks when he told her it was Chasing Amy. "You know... Kevin Smith. Clerks. Mallrats. Dogma." She had not scene any of them.

Sagging Boobs went next. She was reading from a book called "Womyn 2 Womyn: Monologues for the Modern Female." She needed a volunteer, and Class Junkie went up ("I don't want to hog the stage," said the Overly Competitive Hindu.) She recited a monologue about a woman seeing a psychiatrist, coming to terms with her cruel, ego-driven mother.

She was having problems at one scene and Bob encouraged her. "Don't run away from this. Run TO this. This is some deep shit here." Then he gave her advice to unlock her inner demons. "Just envision the person you hate the most in this world, the person whose relationship damaged you the most. Pretend you are talking about this person."

Sagging Boobs was enthusiastic about this, apparently knowing pain. "Oh, I so have a person like this. Ooooh, this is... wow." She redid her piece and this time was able to cry and weep while doing it. Bob raved about her. "We can really go somewhere with this. Next time, we'll try and paint this tapestry with more muted colors."

Class Junkie went next. "Time to break out Old Yeller," he said, holding up an ancient paperback copy of Hamlet. He then did a monologue of an older, bumbling gut giving advice to a younger warrior for Hamlet. (Like most Shakespeare I studied in school, I politely pretended to listen while I thought about my March Madness brackets. It beats me what the scene was, but I think that was the gist of it.) Bob then made Class Junkie redo the scene, but with a more serious tone.

"I don't do serious," Class Junkie said, apparently hoping that he will one day become known as the Cerebral Don Rickles.

"Just try it this way," Bob said. "Pretend that you are a high-profiled, high-powered manager at a securities and exchange firm in Manhattan. And you have taken a young up and coming charge. He is your project for the year, and it is your career highlight to impart your wisdom onto him."

I then began my scene (Something I randomly found in Hedda Gabbler.) and Bob
interrupted me. "We're running out of time, and I have an important thing to go over with you guys." Bob then told us that there will be more acting classes offered, but not for another month-and-a-half or so. He was asking us if we would be interested.

Everyone said yes.

After class, I was walking out with Class Junkie. I told him that I really wanted to read his play. "Ibsen is yours," he said. "The bisexual witch is mine."


I think Green Day said it best. My acting class was another turning point, the proverbial fork stuck in the road. I surely did have the time of my life, even though I now know less about acting than I did before I actually took this class.

I come before you a changed man. A better man. Only a few weeks ago, I was not an actor. I did not know how to "center" myself. I did not know how to observe a grown man's shoddily grown mustache. I knew nothing about who I was and where I stood.

As I rehash the past eight weeks, I think of a lot. I think of Bob's encouragement, his "can do" attitude that I will keep with me for eternity. I think of the Hemaphroditic German's empty smile as she talks about a baby she may or may not have stolen from a Greyhound bus station. I think of the shapeliness of The Latino Bohunk's dick, Bob’s consistent performance-related anxiety attacks, the lady who enjoyed my earlobes, my bizarre fetish for the shoes of The Cute Girl, the potential lyrics of a musical about a real-estate selling bisexual witch. I also think about how fucking nuts it is to think that everyone, no matter their station in life, wants to have at least a few minutes of fame. We’re all almost famous and none of us want to die without trying.

But mostly, I think of how I went home each Monday night thinking about getting my parents to change the locks on our doors, in case any of these drifters followed me home.

Tonight's class began with Sagging Boobs handing us fliers.

"I'm in a rock band, and we're having a show around the corner next week."

She described her band (their name is c9) as sounding like Natalie Merchant or Sheryl Crow. They also have a webpage that features song clips ("When They Take You To Heaven," "Firefly," "Little Mother of Mexico"). The band describes their songs as having "sultry intensity" which I found myself
slightly disagreeing with when I listened to them when I got home-- I was thinking they were more along the lines of "boring chick rock."

Bob also handed us a flier. More acting classes are scheduled to begin in the middle of April. At the end of this one, we will have a performance where we can invite people AND also go to a post-performance reception. I'm very tempted but I also could use the $100...

No one wanted to perform first (Bob insisted that someone who missed class
last week went first) so I offered to break the ice. As I was asking, he
simply said "no" and forced the Hemaphroditic German to get up on stage.

"I did not practice this because my little boy was running around me today,"
she said. Bob told her that was okay and told her to

"He showed me. He showed me a lot. That barn door is cobalt blue. That is what painters say. Then he told me they were taking the chains," she said. "He taught me lots. And I ain't ever forget any of it. I now remember that the moonlight and the snow aren't white. They are every color at once. He taught me that. All of that."

I was not sure what any of that meant. It was maybe about a farmer? Who knows. Bob made her redo the scene several times, each time I just got more and more confused.

"I think that this piece is perfect for you," Bob said. "It's a very pretty piece. I think you, as a person, are like this piece. I think you are very delicate and simple-- wait, wait. I didn't mean it like that."

The Overly Competitive Hindu asked: "You meant she was simple in a good way, right?"

"Exactly, exactly," Bob said. "You have a childlike innocence. I think you are like fine china."

The entire time this was going on, the Hemaphroditic German just smiled at these descriptions of herself that I do not think she understood.

Up next came Interchangeable Housewive #2 (#1 and #3 were not there), who carried a bizarre, minimalist Barbie Doll with her on stage.

"Okay, class. That's what sex is to you," she said, pausing. "I want you to know that sex is very, very personal. Except if it involves two people. Wait, I don't mean that. Sex is great, unless if it involves a guy."

She then continued her monologue, reading from a book called "Women '98."

"Men are here to crush all our dreams. The only thing he can do is handle a
remote control, which is his electronic phallus."

Interchangeable Steel Magnolia Fan #2 occasionally flubbed her lines, blaming it on her nerves.

"Don't be nervous. We are all here holding you up. If you fall, we will catch you. We have strong, welcoming arms," Bob said. "Just circle the scene. Become a shark."

I went next. This time, I read an excerpt of something I just wrote about the time I worked at a supermarket. Everyone seemed to like it. Bob said that I had the potential to turn the story into "b-grade Spalding Gray."

Sagging Boobs came up to me after my performance. "Do you know what your scene could use more of? Puppets. You could turn this into a really great puppet show."

The Overly Competitive Hindu and The Latino Bohunk set up a scene involving a coffee table that The Overly Competitive Hindu brought from home. They performed a scene from True West, with the Overly
Competitive Hindu typing as The Latino Bohunk's character recited what he wanted in a future movie.

They went through the scene about seven times. During each break, as Bob explained the alterations he wanted made, The Overly Competitive Hindu would continue to pantomime typing.

After their last scene, the two performers felt like they had nailed it. The Overly Competitive Hindu slapped The Latino Bohunk five.

"Great. Absolutely great," raved Bob, looking at The Latino Bohunk. "I think that would be a great piece for you. That character is so you. He's a real loose cannon type."

This marked the last scene in the class. Bob bid us adieu and told us he hoped to see us on the stage some day.

"You know what, I realized something," The Overly Competitive Hindu said. "This class has been real anonymous. I don't know any of your names."

He then looked at each and every single one of us.

"I'm Al."



A few months later, I was at the Barnes and Noble off Route 46 in Totowa, scanning the shelves and, as always, looking at girls.

I was flipping through a fantasy football guide when I was leaving the store and bumped into someone. I looked up.

It was Al. The Overly Competitive Hindu. And he was with his son.

We made brief small talk. I asked him if he was taking the second part of the acting class -- I wanted to, but I was afraid the second part could not live up to the magic of the first.

He said he signed up for it, but they dropped the class due to poor attendance. However, he found an acting school in New York City where he was now taking classes.

“You won’t believe this. They have a whole class in mime alone!”

I then said goodbye to him. But then I turned to his son.

“By the way… your dad is one hell of an actor.”
see web stats