• Emlyn McFarland

“Deaf Woman’s Little Boy”

This afternoon I had an audition for a certain salad dressing that shall remain nameless as I don’t want to get in trouble or sued for breaking a non disclosure agreement. The company wanted to to anthropomorphize the dressing into a cute bubbly woman salad dressing with curly hair. The kind of salad dressing woman that we can all relate to. They want us the consumer to think “Hey, if I was going to be friends with a salad dressing I would be friends with her!”  They had drawings hung up outside the room next to the scripts. Ms. Salad Dressing was curvy enough that no one would feel threatened by her unattainable figure but not too curvy that women would think she would make us fat. She had curly quirky fun red hair with fun funky earrings that made me  feel like I would be the centered one in our relationship. My wacky fun loving friend Ms. Salad Dressing would be coming to me for advice in this relationship, she’d make me feel like I really have it together. Ms. Salad Dressing would be the friend I called when I just wanted to let loose with some salad and a Margarita. Ok, so I get it, I know who this Ms. Salad Dressing is and now my job was to figure out her voice, how should she sound? I sat there with the script reviewing voices in my head, the best friend but not too young, maybe a little raspy, a little wry, super friendly, upbeat, could she have an accent? Southern or Midwestern maybe even New York? I feel like she needs a bit of a comical edge but not too cartoony, maybe I’ll ease back on the rasp and add in a little nasal quality. I look around at the rest of the ladies waiting to audition, it’s pretty much the same group of women I run into at this type of an audition, a new face here or there. We’re all about the same age give or take five years.  In voiceover it doesn’t matter so much how old you really are, it’s how old you sound.  I’m figuring my chances are about as good as they ever are and I just try to relax and “have fun with it” as they say.  There’s never really any way to to tell how things will turn out so if you can not stress about it that’s the best way to go.  I’ve had auditions where I thought I did a stupendous job and never heard even a peep back and I’ve had auditions that I thought I bombed and then wind up booking the job.  Someone once told me that if you can’t actually picture a situation happening that’s probably because it won’t. I don’t even remember who it was that said that but still I’ll never forget it was said. It’s kind of a haunting thought and it puts a lot of pressure on my mental “picturing” skills.  Suddenly the door opens and the auditionee who has just finished comes out smiling and still talking to the casting director … it was Didi Conn…Frenchy from the movie Grease! I’m she’s done much more than just Grease but that’s how I first was introduced to her as a little girl.  At this point in my mind I didn’t stand a chance, she was perfect for this job not only is she Didi Conn but she’s got that amazing voice, the voice I think I was actually imaging in my head as I was picturing drinking margaritas with Ms. Salad Dressing. I was next and all I can say is at least the pressure fell away, I was pretty sure that they had just cast the voice and were only seeing the rest of us as a courtesy. So I went to take my turn and just “had fun with it.”  As much as I would normally like to dwell on this situation for as long as possible I just didn’t have time today I had to be in Washington DC at 7pm to teach an improv workshop.  So off I went leaving my thoughts of Frenchy behind me as I hightailed it to the Port Authority bus terminal to grab that Greyhound. (Ok maybe I hummed Beauty School Drop Out to myself a little)

The bus ride to DC.

Normally on a bus ride any longer than and hour I would pop a Dramamine and sleep the whole way there but this time I thought I’d try to be productive.  I decided to prepare for the workshop I would be teaching, do some writing, respond to emails,  (maybe watch some Modern Family episodes that I have downloaded on my iTunes) etc. I was excited because the bus wasn’t full and I got two seats to myself, that’s the holy grail of bus riding as far as I’m concerned. “This won’t be so bad” I foolishly told myself. When we were boarding the bus a woman and her son were brought to the front of the line and helped onto the bus, she was deaf and traveling with her little boy who was about 4 years old.  I was impressed and wondered what that must be like, the little boy could hear but she couldn’t. I saw her signing to him and he signed back while talking too, it was kind of amazing, I didn’t know what they were saying but I loved watching the two of them communicate as they got themselves situated on the bus. I had no idea that what seemed like a sweet and sort of inspirational pair that made me smile would soon make me want to rip out my own eye lashes one by one. The minute the bus hit the road the little boy starting singing, “awww, that’s cute” I thought at first, “he’s singing a little song to himself, he’s so free and uninhibited, kids are adorable…he just keeps on singing…he’s just singing away…singing singing singing … still singing…this is a long song…I’m not sure this is a song any more…now he’s just making noises … ok so the song is over … but he’s still making long loud noises … he’s kind of shrieking … well his mom won’t let him just carry on like this for the whole trip … his mom will stop him soon…”  It was then I realized his mom couldn’t hear him – she was blissfully enjoying the quiet bus ride to Washington, her little boy beside her comfortably sitting in his seat, MAKING SO MUCH REDICUOUS NOISE!  At this point he is just wailing like a banshee “weeeeeeeee awww ooooooooh weee waaaaaah weeee whaaaaam woooaaaah weeee…” and on and on and on.  I didn’t have the nerve to tell the deaf mother her son was making too much noise. I kind of hoped someone else would, I looked around “anyone? anyone? I know we all hear this, we all have the same look on our face, is this how our four and a half hour journey is going to go? We’re going to listen to this the whole time? Surely someone must have the balls to ask the deaf woman to tell her kid to shut up!” No one was stepping up, I looked around again and met a lot of stranger to stranger looks of acknowledgement, the one where it’s like “I don’t know you but yes I am aware that this is a ridiculous situation and we are in it together” no one budged though. I couldn’t do it, I just listened to the sound of the little boy, they were almost becoming whale like sounds at this point. I sat quietly, sighed and accepted that this was just how this bus ride was going to go.

About thirty minutes later, the little boy was still jamming away (he had even added some percussion at this point), the whole bus started filling with the thick smell of cigarette smoke. I realize that at one point in time people could smoke everywhere, on planes on trains on busses, in movie theaters, I mean even while I was in college you could smoke in restaurants and after college when I first moved to New York you could still smoke like crazy in bars. Now that we are in a world that has barred cigarette smoking in public places the smell of cigarettes seems far more pungent and aggressive than I remember it being before . The bus started to fill more and more with the strong musky smokiness, people began looking around. The stranger to stranger looks started flying, “what’s going on, is someone smoking on the bus?” we were having eye conversations like crazy. Finally someone signaled to the bus bathroom, we all looked and nodded, we stared at the bathroom door waiting to see who would walk out so we could shame them with our eyes. While waiting a couple more glances were passed and an eye conversation began

Me: “should we tell the bus driver?”

Guy across from me with laptop and headphones: “well if we do he’ll pull the bus over”

Lady with Snapple : “That’ll take forever”

Guy dressed in full African apparel: “ I just want to get home, ya know?”

Me: “Yeah, good point”

We agreed, we would not tell the bus driver but we would all stare at the bathroom door and when whoever is in there breaking the law comes out they will face the persecution of our eyes. The door unlocked and out he came, we all stared scolding him, not even blinking. He avoided eye contact with us, trying to ignore what we wanted him to know, but he got it, he knew. As I stared him down with a slight head shake of disgust and disbelief I started to kind of feel bad for him. The man looked sort of grey and sad and sunken in. He looked like a slave to the nicotine and I sort of felt like that was a punishment in and of itself, I eased up on my glare, I felt bad but he had still disrespected his fellow bus riders so I couldn’t allow him a total pardon.


I turned back and quietly sat in my seat, the musical stylings of “Deaf Woman’s Little Boy” were still going strong, I sighed and accepted this is the kind of ride I’m having today.  I should call Ms. Salad Dressing and see if she wants to grab a margarita.


#funny #actor #Greyhound #comedian #agents #television #improv #essay #actress #castingdirectors #NewYork #acting #DC #comedy #showbusiness #Philly #castingdirector #voiceover #JuliaLouisDreyfus #comedienne

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