A few months ago, I wrote about a strange email I received while I was at a conference in Los Angeles. "Yes, Lucy," it said, "We are having auditions for a talent agent." Since neither Adam nor I signed Lucy up, we concluded she did it.
Only this afternoon, over a plate of chicken chow mein, did the truth come out. ALICE, who has excellent computer skills, is the one who found out about the audition. She and Lucy studied it together and decided to sign Lucy up. This is because Alice, who is the thriftier of the two, thought it would be too expensive. Apparently Lucy had seen something she thought was a phone number on the website. "No," Alice said. "That's the price!"
(For the record: We did not pay an agent to represent the kids. Legitimate agents don't charge to represent talent. Alice probably spotted a price for a year-long acting seminar. Those are expensive, although not phone-number expensive.)
The upshot, of course, is that both kids signed with that particular agent. For the last few weeks, we've been in Burbank awaiting auditions. They've been taking acting classes and doing their best to convince me that doing schoolwork in a poolside cabana is a good idea. (We tried it, but on one of the colder Los Angeles mornings. The hot chocolate helped and let us come up with a name for the classroom--the Cocoa Cabana.)
Given Alice's primary role in the shenanigans, it seems only fair that she was the first of the kids to get an audition. And then another one, the next day. The first was for a one-day part on a long-term TV series. The second, a bigger opportunity, was for a series regular on a show created by someone you'd recognize starring people who are legitimately famous. It was both exciting and intimidating.
Of course we wanted to do our best work to prepare. When you only have twenty-four hours' notice before an audition, and auditions two days in a row, though, this means the pressure is on.
Alice's agent sent the "sides"--Hollywood jargon for pages of a script. I printed them out, along with the entire script of the pilot episode of the show. It was a long print job, and the elderly woman with hair that looked like brown cotton candy, or maybe a tea-stained Q-tip, didn't appreciate having to wait. She was a virtuoso of sighs, let me tell you. Either that, or she was practicing for a role as a leaking air mattress.
That task behind us, Alice and I sat down at the dining room table, shoved aside the math books and scratch paper, and started reading through the script. The first scene was touching: a mother and daughter at the beach, talking about their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. It was not unlike many a conversation the girls and I have had this year.
The second scene. Well. In that one, Alice's character had to talk one of her mother's friends out of a cigarette. And then smoke it with proficiency.
"Do I really have to SMOKE?" she said.
"Uh," I said.
Of all the scenes I'd imagined Alice doing, one like this never even knocked on the back door of my mind. Rather than focus on this, I thought I'd take a look at the whole script and walk her through it. Maybe there was some context in which this made sense.
I picked up the pages and noticed immediately the script was set near Seattle. Hurrah! Something familiar! So I started giving Alice the rundown. A prudent parent might have read the whole thing first. Forget about that, though. We didn't have time!
"This takes place in a suburb of Seattle," I began. "Like where your aunt Susu lives." The script went on to describe it as a place where people go after their souls have died, more or less. "So maybe not so much like where Susu lives. Heh heh. But the houses will look similar."
Then it described the characters. Or, rather, their sexual ambitions. Which were many. These, I skipped over so that I could start reading the lines to her. We soon were in the midst of a scene where one of the characters is holding a surprise party for his unsuspecting wife, who comes home, rummages in the fridge, and struts into the room wearing a peanut butter bikini.
The script then describes the sounds of the dog removing the bikini off-screen, just as the woman's lover also enters the room wearing something equally nutty.
At this point, I started flipping through the script to see where Alice's scenes were. I couldn't find them. Anywhere. My immediate conclusion: They must be hanging out with her lost innocence.
A few minutes later, after I'd recovered from the vapors, I sent her agent a note. I made no mention of peanut butter, but did allow that we seemed to have the wrong script. No worries, he replied. Her lines were all she needed. So then I asked about the smoking in the second scene. IS THAT EVEN LEGAL? I asked. He didn't respond. Wise man.
Adam and I talked about it and we had one of our extremely rare disagreements. He didn't think it was a huge deal. I did. Fortunately, we were communicating via text message and had to keep the arguments as brief brief as, say, a peanut butter bikini. If one must argue with a spouse, text messages--especially if you don't have an unlimited plan--are definitely the way to go.
After getting advice from an actress friend, I decided to leave this one up to Alice. If she wanted to audition even though that part made her uncomfortable, we'd give it our best shot and figure out all the details later. Sort of the way we're doing with this entire year.
My heart wanted to fling itself out of my chest when Alice walked off, headshot and resume in hand, for her auditions. But she did it, with courage and humor. And Lucy, who has been waiting for an audition of her own, cheered her sister on with love and grace.
There are no textbooks that tell you how to do these things: perform under pressure, be gracious in the company of disappointment, persist in the face of impossible odds. To practice these lessons in the pursuit of a dream has been a gift. Even if Alice swears she'll never eat peanut butter again.