Last week I auditioned for a theater company that was holding a casting for two productions. They’re unpaid, non-union, and therefore low stakes, but nevertheless I was nervous. The production for which I was hoping to be cast is called “Oy!”, a series of short comedies each inspired by a different yiddish word. It’s an excellent premise; Yiddish being such a theatrical language to begin with, something like short comedies probably serve to define its words more precisely than a dictionary.
I arrived at the theater and walked up a stairway that leads to a small, dingy, unstaffed bar. I thought I was early but upon reviewing the signup sheet I realized that there were already well over forty of us waiting to audition.
The room was hot with hope, and with so many people crammed in there it was remarkably silent apart from the sound of rustling resumes and shifting in seats. A woman perched on a barstool furiously mouthed her monologue to an invisible bartender. While so bizarre a spectacle is not uncommon in a room filled with actors I was nevertheless transfixed.
When I realized I had been staring I averted my eyes to the poster that hung behind the leather couch on which a row of gorgeous girls in miniskirts were currently forming a hermetic seal of thigh sweat. The poster featured a tall, tan, oiled-up woman wearing a marching band uniform. Well, the cheap Halloween costume of a marching band uniform. Posed as if she were twirling a baton (she wasn’t), she was outfitted in a feathered hat and marching boots but the rest of her ensemble was just glittered nipple pasties and bootie shorts. Across the image it read “Live Fearlessly!”
I found it both bizarre and hilarious that an image one would find decorating a college-town Hooters is somehow intended to advertise this theater company. In an attempt to break the tension I joked, “I wonder if she speaks yiddish.” One person laughed, the rest just glanced at me and then resumed reading over their monologues, presumably annoyed by the sound of a voice not calling their name into the audition room. But my remark was enough to inspire some of the young women on the couch to talk to one another. They bonded over their shared hometown, Chicago. Three of them! What do ya know? Two of them had only just arrived in New York City that day. To come to this audition. How sweet.
About two hours later I was finally called to read in front of a panel of some rather miserable casting directors. How they were able to convey so much disdain in the two minutes I was in the room and with so few words exchanged is beyond me, but I suppose it’s impressive. Afterward I felt tired, humiliated, and was certain I wouldn’t be hearing from them. Or so I thought.
They ended up casting me in the other production, a festival of shorts by all female playwrights and with an all female cast. It wasn’t my first choice but it’s a concept with which I can certainly get on board. I had the honor of being cast as the lead role in a short play called TeaTime. The name of my character is Linzi, the playwright’s name is Lizzi. Oh, yes. You know where this is going.
The story reads like someone who never got over middle school chose to write a play to simulate her vengeance fantasy but didn’t bother learning how to write a believable script. Although to her credit, Lizzi did make a small effort to distance herself from her avatar – I mean, protagonist, with the choice to make her absolutely despicable.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to play someone likeable. I don’t need to play someone smart. In fact, I quite enjoy playing characters with whom it isn’t so easy to sympathize. But when the play itself has no actual purpose and is so poorly written it’s just… ugh.
My character begins by addressing the audience as though they’re viewers of her YouTube channel, the scene that transpires afterward is meant to be a flashback of the story… that apparently my character is recanting to the audience on her YouTube channel – no it makes no sense and yes it’s a mess.
Consistent with her vision of the character she affectionately describes as “try-hard, gossip queen, basic,” she wove language into the script used by idiots of the Gen Z variety. My character makes reference to her favorite TV shows, Degrassi and Euphoria, and uses words like “Sweaty” (sweetie), “betch” (bitch), and “Yeet” (I… I have no idea).
Despite all of this I am, as they say, grateful for the opportunity. Or in the very least, flattered. I get to pass as a woman born after 1998 and for that I am very, VERY grateful.
We begin rehearsals next week at which point I hope to have at least scheduled a few more auditions. One small production that meets once a week and only performs twice isn’t enough to build momentum. It’s important to cast a wide net, and although it goes deeply against my lifelong practice of doing the bare minimum while still hoping that it will gain some traction, I’m giving it a try. I’ll let you know how it goes…