Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - An Actor's Life For Me

Here's an ugly little secret.   I always wanted to be an actor.   And on the stage as you see in this photo of me at the Hollywood Bowl, several years and fifty pounds more ago.  

This all came to light again for me recently as I have been dealing with some agents for a little thing we do.   You'll learn more about it soon.   But, for bizarre reasons, we found ourselves three weeks prior to the event and without a male lead.  Both actors we had previously cast in what is essentially a volunteer production booked work.   The joke became "if you're an actor and you associate with Len, you will immediately get an acting gig...elsewhere."

So, we immediately put out the word to the rest of our cast for a very specific type.

"33-36, male, JFK Jr. type."

I was inundated within a day.   I had more headshots in my house than Errol Flynn.  As I looked at practically every good looking 34-year-old in Hollywood, I thought about this world which I, from time to time, thought about pursuing.   How tough it can be.   How difficult it must feel to be rejected when 500 people show up for the same single role.   I know that actors must develop a strong constitution and not take things personally.

Suddenly, I was glad I wasn't one of them.   

We narrowed our choice to three actors.   To break the tie, we had them read lines for us.  And then I realized my next horror.

I was going to have to tell two of them that they weren't picked.

Yep, suddenly, those acting classes I took for a semester in New York didn't seem like such a good idea.  I had dreamed once of a bucket list item---participating in a community theater production of a musical comedy.  

Nah, no more.  Indeed, my single experience as an actor will have to do.   Way back in the fifth grade.   And even that was horrific.

My fifth grade French class was putting on a performance of "Le Petit Chapeau Rouge." That's "Little Red Riding Hood" for the non-Jerry Lewis fans in the reading audience. Because I had one of the top three grades in the class, I was a shoo-in for a role. 

So was this rather chunky girl who would become essentially "Le Petit Chapeau Rouge Tres Grosse." The third role went to another guy.

The teacher saw me in the lead. 

The wolf. 

And, in retrospect, I should have relished that. I now envision all the great things I could have done with the part. Perhaps a little Paul Lynde inflection. Maybe Snidley Whiplash. As long as it was spoken in French, I had carte blanche....another French expression.

Until I read the script.

At the end of the show, the woodsman arrives to save Le Petit Chapeau Rouge Tress Grosse by embedding an axe into the wolf's head. As Le Lobo falls dead, the entire cast sings a song over the animal's body and dances merrily around the carcass.


In my fifth grade egotistical mind, I was uncomfortably frosted by the ending. Sure it was true to the story. But, if I had developed such a likeable and funny rendition of the Wolf, couldn't he be simply caught? That way, even with paws tied, I could be around for the grand finale. I provided my notes to the teacher, who was unimpressed. Actually freakin' angry.

"Who do you think you are, young man?"

I pushed it. Pretty much providing her with a rewrite of the last scene. 

Unknown to me, this was her own script which she had used year in and year out for the past decade.

"You will not change a word, young man. Do you want to be the wolf or not?"

Stupidly, I said "no." I was asked to trade roles with the kid playing the woodsman, who turned out to be a delicious scream as the Wolf.

Yes, I was alive for the end as I bulldozed the chubby heroine around the stage in triumphant song. But, the teacher refused to speak to me the rest of the year. Luckily, it was May and we didn't have much longer to go.

At the end of the school term, I still wound up with an "A+" in French. Merci beaucoup.

That was my farewell performance on stage.   And, with what I know and see now, that's a good thing.   I salute actors all over the world.   I'm grateful for the ones that I am getting to work with.  Your world is a lot tougher than even I could imagine.

Yeah, I'll just write the words to put in their mouths.

Dinner last night:  Sausage cacciatore at Miceli's.

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