I have some news for you, which I found out last night. People say “The worse they can do is say No.” They’re wrong. There is worse and it pissed me off.
I went to a theater in Newport Beach last night to audition for Social Security, a farce I’d seen produced at Long Beach Playhouse once upon a time. My friend, Annie, had been in it and it had been performed with subtlety and class. I really enjoyed the show and was eager to audition.
There are, essentially, two parts for a male my age. David is a suave, New York art dealer. Martin is his nebbish brother in law. My ego told me to audition for David, and I did. I filled out the audition form: Part you’re auditioning for – David. Would you accept any other role – NO. I was extra intense when filling in the NO box. See, I’m too tall to be nebbishy. You’ve got to think about who you’d be acting against. I’d have to work off of someone taller than me and someone with a smoother style than me – I’m not saying I’m smooth but, as an actor, it’s important that I feel that in order to play the underling. As I said, it’s mostly ego. It’s also, I think, because I don’t see myself as a nebbish. I don’t want to spend ten weeks of my life doing that. So, there you are.
I began reading opposite this guy with a goatee and a great sense of timing. He had a great New York accent – mine came across more like a Boston Jew – and I knew this was the guy. It was obvious. I figured, “Okay, they should just let me go home.” They didn’t, though. The director started having me read as Martin. Now, I knew she had to have seen my audition sheet so I figured: a) she needs guys to read for Martin so I’ll help her out, and b) she may just be testing me to see how easy I am to work with. So, I read as best I could. But then, this other guy, a short, balding guy who sounded just like Richard Dreyfus, read for Martin and I figured that was it. “Okay, they should just let me go home.”
But they didn’t. And the evening grew later and later.
About a half hour before we finished, this actor came in that I knew from other shows. He’s a big, fat, balding guy who can’t pull off an accent and couldn’t act his way out of a used condom. This guy they had reading for the part of David. He read horribly and didn’t even try to pull off an accent. I was shocked! I thought, “You have perfect people for David and Martin already!” But I didn’t say anything. The director might have been being polite, give everyone their chance, etc. etc. etc.
Then, just after 9pm, the stage manager came out. She said, “I’m going to read a list of names. If I read your name, please stay. If I don’t, you can leave. This doesn’t mean you haven’t been cast, though. You might still be receiving a call.” She started reading off names. She read mine!
Great, I thought! And when the guy with the goatee left, I wondered, “Am I David?” Then, the guy who sounded like Richard Dreyfus left… and I wondered, “Am I… wait a minute…” Something was very wrong. And I realized the only two males were myself… and the big, fat, balding guy who can’t act. Now, call me egotistical… I’ll wait… but I did the math. Surely, I figured, they must have cast me as David because the thinner guy would be the more suave, yes? And surely, they couldn’t have cast me as Martin because I was taller than this asshole, right? But here’s the part of the equation I’ve left out: The asshole knew people. He was friends with the director and the woman who runs the theater, who was there at the audition. So, when we were called in to see the director, I was leery.
See, I would rather be in no show than a shit show. That’s just me. I would have much rather the director cast the two actors who were obviously better suited for either role. Because the asshole would suck in either role and I knew the guy with the goatee would have been far better than me.
I waited for the verdict. I knew the outcome if I was Martin. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I was David.
The director kept making jokes about how suspicious I looked. I wanted her to get to the point.
I didn’t have to wait long. The part of the suave New York art dealer was given to the fat, balding asshole who didn’t even attempt an accent. And I was to play his nebbish brother in law… me… who was taller, thinner, and had more hair than the guy who was supposed to be the suave one.
The director kept joking around but I walked right up to her. I felt bad, too, because my friend Tony was sitting next to her. He’d been laughing every time I delivered a funny line. I could imagine him when I was outside the room saying, “That Ken La Salle guy reads really well.” I regretted fouling up his support. But I put the script down in front of the director, gritted my teeth, and said, “I want you to know I appreciate your faith in me. Thank you very much. But I can’t take this role.”
She was shocked. “What?”
“I’m sorry. I really am. I appreciate the faith you have in me but I can’t take this role.”
She scoffed. Really. She scoffed. She said, “Have an open mind!”
I gritted my teeth further. I told her about the guy who sounded like Richard Dreyfus and how he was much better suited for the role, especially if they were going to cast the fat asshole. (Granted, I gave his name. I didn’t say “Richard Dreyfus”.) I thanked her again and I apologized again for not being able to take the part. I knew this would probably mean she’d never cast me again and that I’d probably be blacklisted at the theater, so I was as gracious as possible. “I’m sure you’ll have a great show. I’m sorry I can’t be a part of it. I’m going to go now.”
“What?” she shouted.
In the quietest voice I could muster, I replied, “I’m going to go.” And I left the room without another word.
Richard Dreyfus was outside. “What happened? Didn’t you get cast?”
“Let’s just say I’m not in the play. I hope you get a call though.”
They worse they can do is not just to say NO. They can say YES and put you in a pile of shit. This happened to me at D-Link. I’ve been there before. But I really pissed me off last night. After all, theaters produce the same rotten shows over and over and over – you’d think that, at the very least, they’d want to do it well.