No small parts; only shafted actors
November 12, 2009 Leave a comment
The following column appeared in the print version of The Independent Florida Alligator on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009. You can also find it on The Alligator Web site.
Small roles still allow for humor, revenge
By ERIK VOSS, Avenue Writer
My first acting role was in a third grade Valentine’s Day-themed play called “Princess Lonely Heart.” It was one of those low-budget cafetorium shows for parents to waste their camcorders’ batteries on their child’s struggle to remember lines.
The show’s director was an old, cranky Australian woman named Mrs. Kelly. On the surface, her goal appeared to be fostering the theatrical arts in young people, but only I knew her true plan: to manipulate the casting process to reward the students who adored her most.
“Good morning, Mrs. Kelly!” we cheered in our conditioned Australian accents upon her arrival every Wednesday morning.
“Good morning,” she’d reply. “It’s nice to see you all.”
“And it’s nice to see you, Mrs. Kelly!” lied Tommy.
That stunt landed Tommy the part of Cupid.
I was denied all the big roles and instead cast as Cupid’s fourth messenger. It was an insignificant role with few lines, redeemed by the fact that I got to carry a bow and arrow, which Mrs. Kelly confiscated when I tried to assassinate Cupid.
Mrs. Kelly did not trust boys. To her, we were thugs who refused to memorize lines and shanked one another with pencils. The only way to protect the fairer sex was to confine boys to walk-ons and characters with lines like “Yes, sir” and “Hooray!”
Her suspicions were partly valid, however. Every time she snapped at the boys to speak louder or smile, we’d visualize her being mauled by kangaroos.
“Oy, mate!” she’d wail. “Help me!”
“I’d love to help, Mrs. Kelly,” I’d respond, “but someone took my bow and arrow.”
Still, as much as I hated the woman, I couldn’t help trying to win her affection. On the day of the show, I prayed a meteor strike or a group of loose kangaroos might take out Cupid and his first three messengers, allowing me to ascend into the spotlight and reveal my superior talent.
“Brilliant! You’re way better than Tommy!” Mrs. Kelly would shout from the back of the cafetorium. “Here’s your bow and arrow back.”
Such a miracle never happened. Instead, my mother’s old VHS tape shows Cupid’s only unarmed messenger mutter his one line:
In that one, poorly delivered word, I brought down the whole system. Cupid’s Fourth Messenger did not smile. What now, Mrs. Kelly?
With “hooray,” I had the last hurrah.