Let me tell you about my first “real” acting gig.
Now, I said “real,” because I did some acting when I was little. Namely, I played the Mama Bear (of Goldilocks and the Three Bears fame) in a bizarre fairytale medley my elementary school put on. This involved wearing a lot of brown and an apron and singing a country – yes, country – song about how going for a walk and having a chat is a great way to kill time when your porridge is too hot to eat.
(It was called “The Walkie Talkie.” Maybe when I’m rich and famous, the video will surface on YouTube like this video of Ryan Gosling. Only instead of confirming for people that I’ve always been talented, it will confirm that I’ve always been a nerd. And that I don’t look great in brown. And that country is not my genre.)
When I was 16, I auditioned for an emerging arts festival. I had no theatre experience, except for the fact that I had written plays. I had never acted in one, and I had certainly never auditioned for anything.
Needless to say, my audition was horrendous. I did a bit from The Importance of Being Earnest and I’m not even sure if I remembered all the words, because I do this thing when I’m on stage: I forget everything that happens as soon as I step off the stage. I think it’s nerves, but it happens even when I’m not nervous. Maybe it’s brain damage from when I got electrocuted as a small child.
My disastrous audition didn’t get me a part. But I had met one of the directors of one of the plays happening at the festival a few weeks earlier, and she said something like, “That’s bullshit!” and cast me in her play anyway. I felt very special.
(It was really kind of her, because while I definitely had potential as a writer, I was definitely a terrible actor.)
Let me tell you about my part.
I played the “Set Designer” in a very meta part of the play. Basically the play starts, and then the audience all of a sudden realizes it’s a play, and it was my job to jump on stage and get huffy about how the cast had fucked with my set. Then (the details are sketchy – I haven’t thought about this for a long time) there was some bit with me smoking a fake cigarette – which I thought I looked really cool doing – and then ultimately, I had an egg salad sandwich thrown at me, so I had to reappear with a bunch of egg salad in my hair.
Easier said than done.
We just couldn’t get the egg salad to stick to my hair. It kept sliding off, so by the time I got on stage, the joke would be killed by the fact that the audience couldn’t see any egg salad.
Finally, on our last performance, the stage manager (the real one) walked up to me backstage with a small Tupperware container FULL of egg salad and dumped it on my head. It was way more egg salad than what would be on a sandwich, but it stuck.
SIDENOTE: I had to wash the egg salad out of my hair in the public bathrooms after the show, next to middle-aged women who had no idea I had just done a play, because I was also working at the festival as a volunteer.
ALSO: I smelled like eggs for ages. The smell of eggs is one of my most hated smells.
That’s when I learned about how glamorous show biz is.