First, it should be known that I’m retaking the Acting Shakespeare course I took as a junior in college because A) enrollment was really low, B) my boss, the head of the program, is taking it too, so there’s only so much I could get done solo anyway, and C) PHYLICIA RASHAD is in the class too.
That being said, I have realized that my Acting Shakespeare teacher has the exact life that exists in my dreams.
He’s in a committed, long-term relationship with a man. I don’t think they’ve officially gotten married yet (it didjust become legal, and they’ve been together for a loooooong time so really.. who needs it?) but he wears a ring.
He’s got the agent I dream of and salivate over. His career is steady, steady, steady, and although he’s in numerous star-studded projects, he’s not “famous.” Yet he is always working, and is never, ever, in a flop.
He and his partner live in a house (a HOUSE) outside NYC. The house is on a lake. They have a yard, a neighborhood, a dog. They commute into the city for work, but they have a “normal” life.
That’s what I dream of.
On another note. Last night, I took my friend R from high school to this reading thing that was organized by a company I’m trying to get “in” with. I was actually interested in the play too, but mostly I wanted to appear engaged with the work.
(Oh also yesterday I auditioned for a horror movie that a friend from SUMMER CAMP is producing– he’s actually the first boy I ever really kissed, onstage or off. I was a late bloomer at 15– and it involved me having to fully act out a torture/murder scene. Who am I where am I what am I doing?)
SO. Got all cute, went down to Gramercy where the reading was being held at the Players Club, which is a totally trippy place if you’ve never been. I walk in the door and promptly trip over my own feet as I walk in. The guy I’ve been in contact with from the company shakes my hand and introduces himself… which is odd because we’ve been communicating via email like we’re buddies. I reciprocate and wait for him to catch on, which finally he does, with a bashful– “oh! really? Is your hair different?” (my hair’s not different).
R and I head upstairs with this guy, S, and enter the room, where there’s a long table with actors with scripts at the center (it’s not called a table read for nothin’.) At the last second, as R and I are chatting in the corner, S kneels down in front of me.
“Hey, B. Do you want a last minute gig?”
“Do you want to read tonight?”
“Okay, here’s your script, there’s the director, here are the parts you’re playing.”
As I sat down to read aloud a play I’d never read, ever, in front of and with people I’d never met, I turned to R grinning. “And that’s how it’s done, bitches.”
After the reading, which I was quite proud of myself for, as the language was slightly heightened and I played both a 7 year old black girl and a pregnant white whore who sells her babies for profit (typecast!), R and I headed outside the Players Club to meet our other old friend, N.
So. A little backstory. In high school, I wasn’t necessarily a “cool kid.” I’ve never been a “cool kid.” The popular kids at the performing arts boarding high school I attended were the members of the Environmental Club. They wore birkenstocks, slyly subverted the uniform, smoked in the woods, and microwaved rice concoctions in the cafeteria for meals. I wore pink flats and Old Navy t-shirts over my uniform polo,worked my required community service at library, scanned Shakespeare like it was my job, and ate the shrimp poppers and seven layer bars in the cafeteria because it just didn’t matter to me. They all lived together, while I lived with violists and a violinist I wasn’t best friends with. They listened to new bands, and I listened to musical theatre. I was friends with them, but I wasn’t one of them.
However, I didn’t need them. I had the most amazing group of friends in high school.
There was S, gay boy #1, who was a cool kid but liked me because I was funny and sassy and really, really smart.
- Me, S before MORP (our prom) junior year
There was W, gay boy #2, who was even smarter than me, introduced me to the pleasures of Project Runway, and took me to Disneyworld for our senior year spring break. He always called me a star.
Me, W. Halloween, junior yr. (p.s. that dress belonged to a girl we knew and W's costume was my younger sister's.)
Then there was the “extended suite.” I lived with musicians and R lived with other folks, but four of my friends, N, T, A, and X, all lived together in a suite (all the upperclassmen girl dorms were two double rooms connected by a bathroom– I still can’t take long showers). Them, plus R and I, were the “extended suite.”
R was an actor, like me, a tall, lovely “black Brazilian Jew” who to this day is the boldest, most strong willed person I know.
N is an actor as well, the daughter of a well-known composer and always self-conscious about that. But her heart is so genuine and her love is so pure that it’s hard to believe that she has any sense of privilege at all.
Me, N. Senior trip.
T was a free spirit, a first year senior actor who floated into our group, although she could have easily been “cooler.” She liked our goofiness, and we loved her for being different.
A was a writer, and a good one. She and R would joke that they were brothers. She was from Colorado.
N, Me, A. Typical night at boarding school... temporary Ninja Turtle Tattoos.
X was a dancer, also a first year senior. She was lovely and funny, crass and clever, generous and an easy fit into the group.
The "extended suite." R, X, N, Me, T. Going to A's reading.
We were lucky to have each other, and I have still never experienced friendship like that. One of these days I’ll tell you what they did for my 18th birthday. It’s unreal.
SO really the trio of power was N, R, and me. We had a fourth, C, but that disaster is another story for another time. But being with N and R again, just the three of us, for the first time since freshman year Thanksgiving at N’s estate (I know), was unbelievable. We drank cheap, cheap pitchers of Bud Light. We ate mozzarella sticks and caesar salad and buffalo wings. We took tequila shots. We talked about high school, about our friends, about the end of school, about work and play and new loves and old loves and sadness and joy. This was the beginning of where we all started to realize that, as N said, “In a lot of ways, we really knew a lot when we were in high school. We had a lot of it right.”After drinking and stuff, R had to go home to her boyfriend and prep for class the next day (she is always the last one done– she took a post grad year after we graduated and now won’t graduate till December). N had a party with some friends from college (she went to a prestigious MT program), and it was uptown so I joined her. We stayed for a free shot, chatted, I met people, she said hi, and then, like the true friends we were, we headed to my place. There’s something special about the friendship we have… something that goes deeper than even the tightest relationships in college. We knew exactly what we wanted in high school and we sacrificed normalcy for it. We were protected from a lot of the pain and stress of the real world and of college, yet we were unique beings in a completely one-of-a-kind scenario. Even almost five years later, we are closer than the best friends I have from college.At my place, we drank some lovely champagne my mom bought me for graduation. We played with my cat, Franny, and we talked very frankly about depression, my ED, our fears, our family, our needs, our wants, our everythings. At around midnight she decided she had to head home. Being with those girls was unbelievable. It really reminded me how deep those bonds run.
Tomorrow’s a big day. Will tell you more about it later.
“They hooted and laughed all the way back to the car, teasing Milkman, egging him on to tell more about how scared he was. And he told them. Laughing too, hard, loud, and long. Really laughing, and he found himself exhilarated by simply walking the earth. Walking it like he belonged on it; like his legs were stalks, tree trunks, a part of his body that extended down down down into the rock and soil, and were comfortable there–on the earth and on the place where he walked. And he did not limp.”
― Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon