My dad had signed me up for a six week summer theatre course at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. while I was still in Paris, getting ready to come home to finish my last two years of university. The course was great and at the end of it, I was invited to participate in an open audition for the repertory company. I had been going to Arena Stage since I was 15 years old. My parents dragged me and my sister to every museum, play and art gallery in the free world. At the time it was annoying. Now I'm grateful because you never know when you're going to need to break out a soliloquy from Richard the Third or have to choose between buying a Picasso or a Modigliani.
The audition consisted of an a cappella song, a piece from Shakespeare and something from a modern play. I don't remember what I sang or the Shakespeare piece but remember I did a monologue from Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' so Sad.
The day of the audition I felt like a million dollars. Happy, upbeat and totally on top of my game. I was also on my way to Ocean City, Maryland with a bunch of my girlfriends because I forgot about the audition. Arena Stage is one of the biggest rep companies in the United States. Serious, stodgy, and all up in the I'm An Actor And You're A Housewife attitude. And I was on my way to the beach. When I finally remembered all I could think about was that my dad was going to kill me. My Dad who was all "You kids get off my lawn! Now!"
"Well you'd better call them and reschedule," my Dad said when I got home. I had not counted on that. For starters I thought he was going to scream at me but he didn't. I assumed that the reason I had conveniently forgotten about the audition was because I secretly didn't want to go. This was a big rep company. If I sucked and went down the drain, then my entire acting dream was likely to follow. To be rejected by them would have killed me. My dad didn't see it that way.
"How will you know if you're good or bad unless you show up?"
"What if I blow it?"
"Then you blow it and go on to the next thing."
Arena Stage rescheduled me and this time I showed up. A few weeks later my mother called me in the dorm.
"You made it into Arena Stage!! Call them, here's the number!! Congratulations!!"
I was devastated. I had come out of denial long enough to recognize that the real reason I had missed that first audition was not because I thought I couldn't cut it but because I was engaged to be married (to the guy who ended up marrying a rich chick and sitting around their house playing his guitar). I had planned on joining him in California, which was not on the East Coast. I wrote down the number and told my mom I would call but I didn't.
She called me ten days later and said Arena Stage had phoned again and why hadn't I responded? I reminded her of Peter and moving to California and she said I would always regret not taking the job. I reluctantly called the woman at Arena Stage.
"The first year you'll have small non-speaking parts like spear carrier or maid. Then the second year you graduate to a few lines in each play and then the third year you get bigger parts and so on and so on."
"When do I get bigger roles?"
"Well obviously you have to work your way up..."
"How long does that take?"
"Well, if all goes well, maybe five or six years."
I turned down the job and then five months later my fiancé dumped me. All in all, not such a great year. I never regretted the fact that I didn't take the job. I would have been stuck with my real last name for years and years and years instead of the name I now have. I knew I was not cut out to be a spear carrier because spear carriers had no lines. And I ended up being a standup comic. And standup comics do.
End of chat.