“Next,” the stage manager called. I looked around to be sure it was my turn, and she repeated impatiently: “Next.” I took a deep breath, put on my combat face, stood up and walked to center stage, struggling each step of the way to control my nervous trembling. Only the work lights were on, so I could clearly see the people running the cattle call. There were five of them. Why did they need five? Could this be one of those democratic collectives, where everyone argued instead of working? The stage manager handed what I assumed was my resume and head shot to who I assumed was the director. He briefly scanned it, then passed it onto the others.
I waited until the last person was finished reading and comparing me to the picture, trying to appear cool and confident. The director had been looking me up and down, lingering a moment too long on my breasts, which I resented, even though I should have been used to the unwanted attention by now. “Sing,” he said. I looked at him in surprise. “I was told that I only had to prepare a monologue,” I said. He ignored my feeble protest and said: “Sing.” “What kind of song would you like?” “Anything.” I took a deep breath and sang the first two lines of ‘Greensleeves’. I thought I was pretty clever, since I was auditioning for a Shakespeare play and it might impress the inquisition panel. A lot of good it did. They stared at me blankly.
“Dance a beautiful dance,” he ordered. “I’m not a dancer. I’m an actress.” Once again he ignored my objection. “Dance a beautiful dance.” I briefly considered telling him to shove it, but I hadn’t done Shakespeare since college and I had learned that there were very few opportunities. So I did a beautiful dance. At least I thought so. It was some kind of cross between a waltz and a fox trot. It was the best I could do. There was no reaction from the inquisitors and I was beginning to get pissed off. If they wanted a prima ballerina they should have said so in the actor’s call in the trade papers. Part of me wanted to walk out without saying a word, but another part wanted to do the show. Besides, I didn’t want to give the assholes the satisfaction of watching me slink off, tail in the traditional place, another defeated actor.
By now I knew that something unexpected would be next on the menu, so I smiled pleasantly at the inquisitors. I got a quick rush of pleasure when some of them looked surprised. After all, it was obvious by now that they were trying to freak out the auditioners. They probably assumed by this time that the auditioners would be agitated and in the process of losing their stage persona. I had no idea why they devised this torture session. It was different from any audition process I had been through. Maybe they had already cast the show and were getting their rocks off by torturing some needy actors. Stranger things happened in theater. Whatever. I was here and I certainly wasn’t going to break down for their viewing pleasure.
The director gestured to the stage manager, who handed me a sheet of paper. It was in French. The director said: “Read.” I knew what he would say if I told him I couldn’t read French, so I read. Maybe Charles Baudelaire would have objected strenuously about my pronunciation, if he was there, but I was beginning to enjoy myself. “That’s enough,” the director said, staring at me expectantly. I guess he was waiting for me to ask how I did. I just stood there silently. He looked me up and down, again lingering too long on my breasts. “We’ll call you.” I just nodded and left. I knew they would call. I had seen that lecherous look before. Now it would be up to me to decide whether or not to do the show. Part of me was hungry for Shakespeare, but these were weird people. I wasn’t sure if I was up for any more bullshit in my life. Then I laughed. I didn’t have to worry about it until I got the call.
Pre-show sound track – recorded sounds of warm-up rally. At curtain, official’s preliminaries: linesman ready, players ready, play. Sound track of tennis match during the match. Mom and Dad are watching a match between their son and his opponent in a junior tournament.
Dad: Why didn’t he rush the net? God damn it! He oughta be putting those hangers away.
Mom: He was right to stay back. He’s got to build sound ground strokes.
Dad: There you go again. As if I didn’t know that! But if he hangs around the baseline all the time, he’ll get to be one of them specialists, and they never make it big.
Mom: Borg did.
Dad: That was long ago and he was an exception. He was relentless on the court. He reminds me of this movie I saw once. It was a foreign picture in another language and I couldn’t understand a word of it. It had English words at the bottom of the screen that didn’t make much sense. It was real boring….
Mom: Then why tell me about it?
Dad: ‘Cause just as I was getting ready to walk out, this army started to march towards these other guys, who were waiting for them. They had these big old-fashioned guns with bayonets, and they were crossing a field to get at the other guys. These other guys were shooting the shit out of them, but they just kept coming. They didn’t look around, they didn’t look scared, and they didn’t curse or yell or anything. They just kept getting closer. And when they got close enough for the other guys tosee their faces, the other guys started running away, ‘cause they knew these guys were animals and they were just gonna keep coming until they stuck their bayonets in them real deep. They were Swedes. Real brutes.
Mom: So what?
Dad: Borg’s a Swede.
Mom: What does that have to do with anything?
Dad: I don’t want my kid being an animal on the court.
Mom: You’re the one who’s always telling him that he’s got to be a killer out there, or he won’t get anywhere.
Dad: Sure he’s got to be a killer. But not an animal.
Mom: What’s the difference?
Dad: There’s a big difference. A killer wants to win at all cost and does everything he can to beat his opponent. An animal won’t stop until he grinds the other guy into the dust.
Mom: They sound exactly the same to me.
Dad: No. They don’t.
Mom: Yes. They do.
Dad: Aw. You don’t understand.
Mom: Then explain, mister tennis expert.
Dad: There you go again.
Dad: You know.
Mom: No. I don’t.
Dad: Being sarcastic when I’m trying to have a serious conversation with you.
Mom: If you didn’t yell all the time when I disagree with you I wouldn’t be sarcastic.
Dad: Ha. You admit it.
Dad: You insult me, instead of being reasonable.
Mom: I can’t be reasonable with you. Every time I try, you either yell at me or call me names.
Dad: That’s not true.
Mom: Yes. It is.
Dad: No. It’s not, you dope.
Mom: See what I mean.
Mom: Name calling, instead of discussing.
Dad: Aw. You twist everything around. I was just trying to make a point.
Mom: By insulting me?
Dad: I was talking about junior’s net game, when you started this argument.
Mom: You mean I dared to ask a question?
Dad: It’s how you ask it. You’ve always got an attitude.
Mom: I wonder who I got it from.
Dad: Well, you didn’t get it from me. (He ignores her disbelieving stare.) Can we get back to junior’s game?
Mom: Yes. Can I ask a question?
Mom: Why do you think you know enough about tennis to coach junior? You
Dad: I watch it on tv all the time and I’m reading a strategy book.
Mom: If you’re serious about his becoming a tournament player, shouldn’t we get him lessons from a tennis pro?
Dad: I know enough to start him off. If it turns out he has talent and the will to win we’ll get him some lessons.
Mom: Are you qualified to judge those things?
Dad: Why not? I’m as smart as the next guy.
Mom: Shouldn’t a professional assess his potential?
Dad: I can do it.
Mom: Well I guess there’s no sense going further with that.
Dad: What does that mean?
Mom: Your mind is made up.
Dad: What’s wrong with that?
Mom: Nothing. If you know what you’re doing.
Dad: Well I do.
Mom: Did you ever ask junior what he wants?
Dad: What would he know? He’s only a kid.
Mom: It’s his life you’re deciding.
Dad: You’re blowing this out of proportion.
Mom: Am I?
Dad: Yes. It’s only a game.
Mom: But you behave like it’s life or death.
Dad: It is, if you want to be a champion. You gotta steam roller anything that gets in your way. Crush it. Pound it into the ground….
Mom: Like an animal?
Dad: Whatever it takes…. Aw. You know what I mean.
Mom: Yes. Now let’s sit down with junior tonight and find out what he wants to do.
Dad: Aw…. Alright.
Mom: And don’t try to influence him.
Dad: I wouldn’t do that!
Mom: (She ignores his indignant protest.) Then it’s settled.
Dad: Yes, dear.