• Emlyn McFarland

A Tuesday

My husband works in DC, my parents live in Philly, and my agent is in New York. I live wherever there are jobs, gigs and auditions.

One night I was with my husband in Washington and I got a call; I’m wanted for a callback in NYC. This is a call back for a new cartoon I originally auditioned for months ago so after not hearing anything for a couple of weeks I had just tried to forget about it. The only way to survive this business and the constant heartbreak and disappointment of not being contacted, which usually means you didn’t get, it is to completely erase the audition from your brain as soon as possible. You have to think of auditions like dates I think, match.com dates actually. He saw you online in your cutest photo and read your perfectly written bio/resume and he thinks you might fit the part so you are asked you out. You liked him you had fun, you see potential there but you don’t know how he feels and you don’t want seem needy, so you back off. Sometimes if you really think there was a connection maybe a couple of weeks later you might send a note just to say thanks for the experience and you’d like to be considered for future opportunities but then you have to pretend it never happened and move on with your life, making yourself available for new opportunities. I one time made the mistake of daydreaming about how much money I would be making if I booked even half of the amount of auditions I have been on, dumb, it only made me feel sad and worthless and I’ll say it, a little bit angry. Doing that is the equivalent of going back through your Facebook and looking at all your exes and their new girlfriends, wives, happy adorable children and giant houses…you just shouldn’t do that. It’s cruel and unnecessary punishment and pretty much a waste of time. Right now I’m on a particularly difficult streak, the call back streak. This is like when that guy you really really really liked that you went on one date with actually calls for a second date. “ Oh my gosh! He likes me too, what should I wear, should I wear the same thing cause obviously that worked the first time but then again maybe I need to show something new”

I had written off this cartoon months ago when I hadn’t heard anything because I didn’t need it right? There would be other opportunities, I wasn’t meant to get this job because maybe something else that’s better is right around the corner and more bullshit I told myself.  Then the call comes, they’d like to see you again – oh crap…my hopes begin to rise. I am the queen of hope but at the other end of the spectrum of that queen of hope is the queen of worry. I worry constantly that I’m going to end up 70 years old and my only credit that still raises an eyebrow is my time on Pokémon because oh yes, it will still be running. Kids from the ages of 8-12   and strange men who live in basements and always have cheese curl dust under there finger nails will still know what that is. The Japanese are experts at making millions of children and basement dwelling men who need plastic toys and trading cards because of a show that consists of strange creatures battling one another in what to the average adult is pure chaos. To children and cheese curl dudes the show is a hypnotic masterpiece.

So I book my ticket on the bolt bus, my audition time is 2:30, I better get the 8:30 bus just to be safe, it’s about four and a half hours to New York City from Washington DC. That gives me four and a half hours to try to focus on something besides how much I want this part. My thoughts are almost verbatim that song from A Chorus Line, god I hope I get it…I really need this job…oh how I need this job.  It would really lift my spirits, I’d feel like I’m still and actor, I’d feel like I could get of the call back streak, at least for now, it would be encouraging.  What would I do about some of the jobs I hooked myself up with in DC to be close to my husband? I’d figure it out.  I don’t think the four and a half hour ride would seem so bad if I were actually going to a gig, where I got paid, where there would be a finished product, something I could proudly tell people I am working on.  There’s still over three hours left on this journey and I haven’t done a very good job at thinking about something else.

I am very uncomfortable on the bus, it’s crowded. How many frieken people have to get to New York City on a Tuesday at 8:30 am, what will they all be doing there? Sometimes I look at each person and try to guess but today I’m too concerned with the European dude who has decided the middle armrest is his. He sits there all Euro like with his headphones and his European blue suede shoes and his tight khaki colored jeans, his sweatshirt just a bit too tight saying Hollister USA  (nobody from the USA wears clothes that say USA unless you are a teamster or an old man guarding your yard after you’ve retired from some Local Plumbers Union) His light blue polo shirt peeks out from under the sweatshirt collar and he has created a large triangle between his two elbows both claiming each of the arm rests and his knees pointed straight ahead. This does not work for me. I wait, I wait and watch like a cat watching a bird for the right moment to reclaim my place on that arm rest, and there it is! He reaches to plug in his phone; I stick my elbow down fast and proud and continue to look forward at Modern Family playing on my laptop. He comes back up and plants his elbow right next to mine! I can’t believe the balls on this guy! You move your meat you lose the seat buddy, how dare you touch your elbow to mine; I clearly swooped in and claimed it when you were dumb enough to leave it open!! You bastard! Just then My plug comes out of the socket and he offers to plug it back in for me – ok maybe he’s not that bad, he redeemed himself…for now.  So back to trying not to think about the audition.

We finally arrive in New York, its kind of melancholy. The familiar hustle and bustle and the feeling like people are really doing stuff here, stuff that matters. I wish a little bit that my life was still centered here and only here. I see all the crazy people on the street as I walk to the audition, and remember how much entertainment there is in New York City while just getting from one place to the other.  A pair of crack heads on a bench talking about nothing very seriously while trying to light an old discarded cigarette and share it.  A very interesting looking guy with bug eyes, a large and not at all ironic trucker hat and a very long stride walks past me with a little lunch cooler bag that has a tag on it that says MY BAG, again not at all ironic. I’m pretty sure he felt that bag was at risk of being mistaken for someone else’s and he was going to be sure that did not happen.  I hop on the good old subway, the guys with the gold gift bag they pass around for money are singing “My Girl” one of my favorite subway car acts. The lady next to me is something; giant and thick round glasses with flakes of dandruff on them, her hair very grey at the roots and kind of black and stringy everywhere else.  She has an interesting hairstyle; the part in her hair kind of makes a plus sign or a lower case t. One part brings the bangs forward and those are split in two and the back gets pulled into a ponytail held tight by a sort of dirty aqua blue scrunchie. I notice she has no wedding ring and I get a little sad, not that being married is the be all end all but whenever I see strangers with wedding rings I feel comfort in the fact that I know they have at least one friend and they aren’t too lonely. She is playing a game on her phone, I look a little closer, huh, what do you know, that’s the game I play on my phone.  The game I used to play that is, I have since removed it…I couldn’t bear to be reminded of her every time I were to play that game. She seemed sort of sad, or at least she sent out a sad vibe. What the hell do I know she could have more friends than me and be a real party animal especially at the clubs … but probably not.  I picture her most happy with a tuna sandwich in front of her television, which also might make me happy come to think of it.

I get to the audition, it’s in one of the typical cool NYC recording studios, I love being around all this, and I don’t want it to go away. I’m handed my sides and the person in front of me goes in. I can hear her in there she sounds great, they are all laughing and having a good time in there. I try to focus on the script and practice saying it a few times. I can feel my throat is kind of itchy, I drink some water, damn allergies, well once I booked a Hanes commercial when I was sick at the audition so maybe this is good, maybe people like the sound of my sick irritated voice. It’s my turn. I go into the sound booth , my microphone is adjusted, I put my headphones on and I get some direction from the casting lady and give it a go. “That’s great, that’s really great,” she says, just give us a minute. The sound to my headphones is shut off, I can see them all in there talking about me, the casting director, the producers, they are saying stuff about what they liked or didn’t like about what I just did but I can’t hear them…it’s kind of nauseating worrying about what they might be saying. “ She’s not right at all” or “She’s ok but not as good as the last girl” or “I don’t like her face” I don’t know what they are really saying but all these thoughts are racing through my head. The sound in my headphones comes back up, “Ok that was great we really liked the energy and the laugh was adorable, so keep that but then maybe if you could make it less sweet on the back end and then since you are naturally raspy that is great but maybe too much like a boy and we want a tom boy so that is great but maybe pitch it up a little, does that make sense?” “Yup” I say “No problem” I actually think I did kind of understand what she said and so I give it another pass. I think I do a bit better this time and I feel like I applied their notes and that is something I know they look for. “Great, great she says, just hang on another minute” The sound goes off again and they begin chatting, what are they saying now? “She took our notes well”, “I’m just not sure that’s the sound we want” My mind keeps spinning, what the heck are they saying?!? I wish so badly that I could hear. My sound comes back on “Could you sing a little something in that character’s voice?” “Sure!” I say. What I want to say is “what were you guys just saying? I will sing the song, I will sing any song you want, I will do any voice you want I just need you to tell me what you were saying” but I just start singing… “Row Row Row Your Boat gently down the stream merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream” my voice totally cracks on the merrilies I started too high, I make a little joke into the mic “crackle crackle” I say and then awkwardly chuckle.  I’m an idiot. She asks me if I want to try it again one more time and just take it down a little, I say sure and off I go again, it’s better this time for sure but I still think I could have done better “That’s adorable” says the casting director “great job, you’re all done” I say thanks and make the awkward exit out of the booth to the waiting room, get my stuff and head back to the bus stop. Why did I pick such a dummo song?  I should have sung Broadway Baby or Let Me Entertain You from gypsy. I should have sung something funny or memorable, well I’ve got four and a half hours to think about it all the way back to DC. I have to teach a class tomorrow night at the Washington Improv Theater so no overnight in New York or Philly for me today just straight back to Washington.

So my day was four and a half hours on a bus hoping that I get this part, about 20 minutes tops for the audition and then four and a half hours back on the bus thinking about all the things I should have done or could have done better and still hoping I get the part, oh and my total amount earned $0.00. But hey, at least two million experience dollars right!?

I’ll give myself until Friday, if I haven’t heard anything about it by then I will force myself to Eternal Sunshine my brain and let none of it exist.

Oh, and if I get a call tomorrow, from DC, from Philly, from New York, I’ll do it all again. Because I hate it and love it and love to hate it. The hope keeps me going, or the dillusion – it’s all the same.

It’s like gambling, or drugs or dating or any number of addictive things but it’s ok in this instance because in this instance, in this field, the addiction is called a passion and it’s mostly socially acceptable to have a passion for something. Bottom line I’ve had a taste and now I’ll never be able to stop chasing the dragon.

#actor #Greyhound #essay #NewYork #DC #comedy #showbusiness #Philly

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