Sure, why not? It wasn’t a desk job. So I signed up for an intense workshop held every Saturday for six weeks. The woman who ran it was a hardcore thespian with a clown face. Too many years spent in dark theaters under dressing room lights, pulling at her eyes, lips and mouth to accommodate the shrew, the thief, the lover, the whore. She looked like all of the characters she had ever played. And they came out, flailing with exaggeration. Her smile, too wide. Laugh, too loud. I wondered how much of herself was really left.
She sat about eight of us naïve teenagers in a circle, silenced us with an intensity, then jabbed her bony finger at the boy next to me like he was Stanley to her Stella.
“What do you love to do, besides acting?”
He looked around and I threw him a yeah, she’s crazy smile.
“I like playing the piano, singing, cooking . . .” he shrugged.
“Yes, but if you could be anything in the world, what would it be, besides an actor?” she asked.
“I dunno. A chef?” he said.
“Good!” She threw her hands in the air as if he just proved Einstein’s theory of relativity. Then she went around the room: something with computers, dancer, marine biologist, etc. Good! Good! Good! She croaked, like we were all brilliant.
When she got to me, I had a feeling saying I’m 16. How the hell should I know? would turn her into Jack Nicholson in The Shining and I wasn’t willing to risk it.
Now, my Dad had gotten me interested in politics and arguing. Together we were determined to put a little blue into a raging red state by arguing like madmen, so I stammered, “Lawyer. Politician.” This is quite an odd response in a room full of artists, but I have a very pragmatic side to me, which has served to either get in the way of me pursuing my writerly dreams, or save me. I still don’t know which. But I caved four years ago, so it’s moot. I’m a goner. I’m trying to save someone else today…
Anyhoo, I didn’t answer acting, so she screamed a last and final, “Hurrah!” Then clapped wildly. Her red lips twisted. Her brown eyes widened like two bulls-eyes on a white piece of paper.
“I have saved you all!” she cackled. “None of you will be actors!”
Yes, huzzah, indeed. I gave up six Saturdays and paid good money to learn one very valuable lesson: pursue the one thing you can’t stay away from.
Ahhh…enjoy the angst.
(My friend sent me this great YouTube video, “So You Want to Write a Novel”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a crack-up.)