I had an audition today. I managed to show up in one piece, and I got through the scene without mumbling or accidentally setting off a fire alarm at 30 Rock. For this, I decided to reward myself with Five Guys (and a burger, too— HEYO). As I waited for my Cajun fries to reach a sub-blistering temperature, I started thinking. Too much, as is often the case. I thought about where I’m at as an actor, as a writer, as an “artist” living in New York. Perhaps my inability to refer to myself as an artist without setting apart the word in quotation marks says something about my state of mind on the matter.
“Why don’t you have an agent?” “Why aren’t you off-book yet?” “Why isn’t your screenplay finished?” etc.
Neck-deep in navel-gazey self-flagellation, and knuckle-deep in flesh-searing seasoning, a woman very politely asked to borrow the extra chair from my table. Naturally, I encouraged her to remove any lingering reminder that I was dining alone.
I learned she was a fellow Midwesterner, and I giddily showed off the bright orange, Minnesota-made backpack I just spent way too much money on. She pointed to a group of high schoolers in bright pink shirts and explained how they were visiting from Iowa (NYC first-timers, all) on a theatre field trip. They’d seen two musicals and were headed back to their coach bus (!) in an hour or so.
She asked what I did, and fighting the urge to point to my half-eaten meal and mutter “this,” I told them why I’m here. Why I left the Midwest and the Northeast and Southern Florida. I told them, with every possible effort made to downplay expectations, about the audition. About how I used to work at a show right next to the one they saw yesterday, and right across the street from the one nobody can get into. Just enough information to answer their questions, but the questions kept coming, and they were always polite. I may generally dislike humans, but I’m nothing if not coldly fair to them.
A few exchanges later, I noticed that the kids had ditched their table and had wandered over to take in my impromptu lecture on the state of the entertainment industry in New York. And despite my best efforts, they were interested. Genuinely curious, responsive, and attentive. They laughed at my jokes, and nothing pulls me out of my shell like an ice cream cone for my ego. So, now standing with the bright orange bag slung over my shoulder, I answered a few more questions still.
We smiled, and said our goodbyes. I wished them a safe journey home, and they wished me good news about the audition. I had honestly forgotten about it. I had forgotten about all of it, except for the things those wide-eyed Midwesterners had somehow found magical. Except for the things that I love.
It might not be enough to get me through the next low/no pay gig, or even the next audition. But goddamn it, it was enough to get me through today.