I went to a workshop yesterday for beginning actors. I wasn’t nervous at all as I walked in. I talked to a few people in the foyer, put on my nametag, and then took a chair by myself. Gabbing and not gabbing … both were okay.
For the first hour-and-a-half, our leader did a lot of teaching, and then it was time for coffee. I started talking to a woman whose nametag said “Gladys”, but other people laughed when I called her that. Shirley liked having fun with nametags. And so do I. I asked her if we could switch. She was all for it. For the rest of the day, I had my moments of confusion, as I heard my fellow participants referring to “Bruce”. Not the me I know. I was enjoying being Gladys, that’s for sure.
Our improv group of three decided to be uptight bank robbers brandishing guns at a teller. Little did we know that she was an undercover cop. Such fun. And I got to dress up in a fancy black suit jacket and a floppy hat. I felt quite nasty for close to an hour, as we watched other groups perform and then did our thing.
Next on the menu, we sat in a big circle on the stage. One person suggested a topic and would give us a sentence about it, starting with the letter A. The next improv-er got to continue, beginning with a word that started with B. And so on. On one go-round I got Z, and was very pleased to come up with “Zowie!” After a complete circuit of the alphabet, we debriefed. I mentioned that I didn’t like it when someone was struggling to create a sentence beginning with a certain letter, and others would chime in with suggestions. Duly noted by the group. When we began again, with the topic slowly morphing into a discussion about pets, it was my turn with the letter K. And I couldn’t think of a darn thing. Naturally nobody helped me, and the silence deepened. The tension rolled through me for at least thirty seconds, until I blurted out, “Killing pets is really not a good idea.”
So I got to sit with my fear. And I realized that drawing a blank was all right. I didn’t die on the spot. Oh, drama, what a teacher you are!
Later in the day, our groups of three each put on the same ten-page play, holding our scripts as we told the story. Partway through, I got really confused about where I was supposed to be standing, and how I was supposed to kiss a woman without blocking her from the audience, and in general about all the stage directions written in the script in italics. Out of the corner of my head, I heard silence hanging in the air, and finally found the highlighted line that I was supposed to say seconds earlier. Humbled again. Totally out of character, I smacked myself in the head. At least I got a laugh doing that.
I survived this faux pas as well, and learned one more time to laugh at my imperfections. Later, I would have a third opportunity to eat humble pie. Quite delicious, actually. The workshop was over and I had gone to a restaurant in St. Thomas. I sat at the bar and watched big screen sports. Had a good conversation with the bartender. After a generous helping of nachos, and a sinful brownie, ice cream and whipped cream combo, I checked my shirt to see if I had blobbed stuff there. Nope, I was fine. But there was a piece of paper stuck to my chest. It said “Gladys”. My friend behind the bar said he hadn’t spoken up about it since it was none of his business. I told him the switcheroo story. I think he understood. If not, it was another rich life experience within the world of dramatic arts.