Not to drag you to my pity party, but I've been feeling like quite the loser of late. I've always thought that to call yourself an actor you need to be doing, oh let's say at least two of the following; actually rehearsing/performing a show, going to auditions, sending out pictures and resumes, networking, taking a class, exercising, warming up vocally, going to plays, reading plays, hell, reading a monologue, just to name a few. I've been doing exactly none of these. For weeks now. Okay I have seen two plays in the last two weeks, but yeah, I'm as unimpressed by that as you. There's no solution other than, well, getting off my ass and doing something, and I know that. I'm not doing it, but I know it. So then an incident occurred on Tuesday. In some ways it made me feel like even more of a loser, but in others it felt strangely encouraging.
Most of you know I model for art classes, studios, and artists as my bread labor. On Tuesday I was going to a new place for the first time. An artist named Tara had gotten my name from the Columbia listings, and asked me to model for her single student. She mentioned he was a theatre director, but hey, who isn't, this is New York, so I didn't think anything of it. Of course Tara knows nothing about me other than the fact that I model.
So I arrive, meet Tara, then her student. Both of them are quite pleasant, we work for a while, the student mentions a role he played in a very prominent film by a prominant New York director. Immediately my insecurities rise to the surface; I have a pretty good guess who he is now, but unlike most of the English speaking world, I haven't seen this movie, I'm really pretty much film-illiterate, and I get embarrassed about that. Later he asks me what kind of theatre I do, and after I answer I ask him if he mainly does film or theatre. "Both, really," he replies, which doesn't help my investigation at all. Later he hears that I lived in Seattle and mentions he helped found the Seattle Rep. Okay, now I'm 99% sure he's who I think he is, but dammit I don't know enough about the Seattle Rep to be sure even still. Why don't I know the history of the Seattle Rep? Why haven't I seen his movie? Why haven't I seen more movies? And while we on the topic, why haven't I read more plays? I still have reams of classics to catch up on, I've barely read any O'Neill, Williams, Miller, or Stoppard, I don't even know all the Irish plays I should, and oh yeah, why don't I have at least one good Irish dialect, I look as Irish as Paddy's Pig, people are always calling me in to read for Irish plays and I routinely suck, I really need to take a dialect class, and maybe a stage combat class for those Shakespeare auditions, oh yeah, I still haven't read all of SHAKESPEARE, what the hell is THAT about, sure, it's not like every one of his plays is brilliant, but I should at least have read them, oh, and people keep asking if I do voice-overs, I really ought to look into that, get a tape together, what's the matter with me...
So this is all brewing in my brain as I model for him (and we all remember I'm naked, right?) for the three hour session. It's all very pleasant, he's charming and appreciative, she's charming and appreciative, I'm doing good work, having a fine time. It isn't until I leave the studio that I get Tara alone so I can finally say "That was Andre Gregory, wasn't it."
"Yes, I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I didn't mean to obfuscate the information."
Fuckity fuck fuck fuckerson.
"He must think I'm a moron," I reply, thinking to myself, "theatre or film?" Jesus Christ on a bicycle!
"Don't worry, I'll tell him I didn't tell you."
Okay, maybe I don't need to feel too ridiculous. Maybe he appreciated me not fawning on him, or getting stiff and weird. We really did have a lot of fun stuff to talk about, shamanism, drawing, trying new things, it was a nice afternoon. He had originally tried to bail out of the class that day because he was feeling insecure about drawing a person, he told Tara he had a sore throat and she had wisely called him on it, so he was more nervous about this encounter than I was, at least at first. He said it had been a real pleasure to meet me, it's all good. So why do I still feel moronic? My Dinner with Andre had a profound effect on me when I saw it, though since that was about twenty years ago, I couldn't tell you many of the specific reasons. I was in college, had just decided to make theatre a central part of my life, then I saw this movie where theatre was treated like a serious and spiritual pursuit, just like I needed. He also directed the beautiful Uncle Vanya on 42nd St, which among its many pleasures is also where I first fell in love with Julianne Moore. Other than that however, I don't have a clue what else he's done, which of course now goes on the list of reasons why I suck at my career. Oh, if you're wondering, the movie he did was The Last Temptation of Christ, with Scorsese. He played John the Baptist. But you knew that, didn't you. Of course you did.
I'm scheduled to go back to model for them again in a week, so I've got a little time to do some homework, not to make things weird, mind you, but just so I'm not talking to one of the giants of independent film and experimental theatre like he's some shmoe.
I've been somewhat reassured by the fact that of the handful of people I've told about this incident, only one of them had heard of him before. I think it was an age thing, since the only other guy who didn't need me to explain who he is, was also over thirty. Once I said My Dinner with Andre though, everyone got it.
So yes, I've been feeling pretty lame, but the animist in me is also thinking "it's an omen! I'm on the right track! The universe, in the person of Andre Gregory, is telling me to stay true to my calling! Huzzah!" No, I don't really know what that means either, but hey, encouragement is encouragement. I'll take what I can get. I suppose it's always nice when someone who previously was just a symbol in one's personal mythology suddenly becomes a breathing, living, friendly, normal person.
Now I'm off to google him.
Later: if you want to know more about Andre Gregory read the interview at this link. http://www.tcg.org/am_theatre/at_articles/AT_volume_22/March05/at_web0305_gregory.html I just read this and not only did it remind me of a few of the reasons I've valued this man, it reminded me of things I've needing to remember for at least three (if not ten) years. This may not be the kind of theatre you want to create (and lord knows there's no money in it) but I'm feeling incredibly inspired and rejuvenated right now. I will refrain from kissing Andre Gregory when I see him next. Especially when I'm naked. That might be awkward.