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I’m Ready For My Close-up, Mr. Guffman

April 14, 2011

The year before I met my husband (back when cell phones had antennas…can you imagine?!?), I embarked on Operation Sassification. It was precipitated by my devastating break-up with a guy I never liked in the first place (I used to have a thing for douche bags) and involved doing things that terrified me.

It lasted almost a year and culminated in a solo trip to Cancun’s Club Med (that’s another story…on another blog…one that my family can’t access), but it was an Introduction to Acting class that had the greatest impact on me.

Initially I was too embarrassed to tell people I was taking the class; it was very basic, with many exercises involving trust and improv. By the end of the course an interesting thing happened: I could deliberately, even joyfully – and without a hint of regret – make a complete ass of myself in public.

Two years later, I was having lunch with a client when she mentioned her excitement over an upcoming audition for a local production of the Rocky Horror Show. I mentioned my brief foray into acting and she encouraged me to try out for a supporting role (she made it clear that the role of sexy space babe Magenta was made for her).

The audition involved singing, which I’d never done publicly, so I bought a karaoke version of “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” from Grease and started rehearsing. I also made the Serb watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show, something I hadn’t done since my toast-throwing days in high school.

Seeing the movie without being drunk and pelted with food was a very different experience. I assured him that the stage version would have audience participation. Although he was supportive, I could tell that the Serb didn’t really get it.

On the day of the audition I had one goal: make it through the experience without barfing on someone. Seeing all of the cute, lithe blondes practicing their pitch in the hallway did not help. I entered the room and stood before the director, choreographer and piano player. I handed them my homemade headshot and meagre resume. They asked me a few questions and then told me to sing.

What I lacked in technique I made up for in chutzpah. I may have even thrown in some jazz hands. I left the audition proud of my effort – I hadn’t sucked and, more importantly, hadn’t puked on the director.  I was psyched at the thought of landing a role as an extra during the “Time Warp” scene.

Later that week the phone rang. It was the assistant director, Becky:
Becky: “We’d like to offer you the role of Magenta.”
Me: “Say what now?”
Becky: “Ummm…”
Me: “Don’t you mean the lady holding the banana during ‘Sweet Transvestite’?”
Becky: “Err…”
Me: “I’ll take it!”

Needless to say, my client was not impressed. I, however, was ecstatic – doing Rocky Horror Show was a huge thrill. The people involved were amazing and the production was way beyond anyone’s expectations. I was singing, dancing and strutting onstage half-naked: I was as far from my comfort zone as I could possibly be. Despite some very Christopher Guest-like moments, the play was a massive, sold-out success.

And what did the Serb think? Why, he became an unofficial Rocky Horror fanboy, of course. Not only did he attend every single performance (including two shows on Saturdays!), he still makes me sing along with the movie whenever it’s on TV. Frank-N-Furter may be gone, but he’s definitely not forgotten.

I'm the one on the left, thankyouverymuch.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2011 8:13 am

    Oh, this is awesome, Lori!

    Somehow, I’ve become good friends/poker buddies with the “powers that be” for community theater in central PA. My absolute favorite is sitting through the auditions – looking at the absolute terrified wonder of watching somebody audition for the first time. Only once did I have somebody who thought she was great turn out really horrible.

    The Cancun trip sounds like a hoot – some day, I’ll have to let you in on my secret identity blog 😉

  2. April 14, 2011 8:40 am

    I saw RHPS for the first time in my life last October. And loved it, sober. I got the biggest kick out of other dressing up as their favorite character. The theater didn’t allow for certain props, so they handed out “prop bags” for $5 with a bell, playing card, mini flashlights, and one other thing I can’t remember, but no toast.

    How exciting that must have been to be chosen as one of the main characters! Definitely an experience you’ll never forget. It’ll look good on a resume!

    • April 14, 2011 9:34 pm

      Your prop bag sucked! We used to have that stuff plus water guns, toast, rice, newspapers to shield ourselves and all sorts of other crap. I have no idea why the movie theatres ever let us in there!

  3. Marianne permalink
    April 14, 2011 9:40 am

    I am so very jealous. I took an acting class and was so embarrassed, I had to leave. I would love it if I could take a class and get rid of a few inhibitions and be able to hold a banana in front of everyone.

    • April 14, 2011 9:36 pm

      You should do it! The key to getting over your inhibitions is to be with other people as nervous as you 😀

  4. April 14, 2011 9:53 am

    You are truly a woman of many talents. LOVE it.

    My favorite part is when you segue from how you learned to make a “complete ass of myself in public,” to “Two years later…”

    Perfect. Just perfect.

  5. Leslie permalink
    April 14, 2011 1:52 pm

    1) Hilarious! & how awesome 🙂

    2) What happened to the friend that was wanting the part?

    • April 14, 2011 9:38 pm

      Well…she wasn’t so much a friend as an acquaintance through work. She was a better friend of the director and he let her down easy 😀

  6. April 14, 2011 6:27 pm

    I love how Rocky Horror was your first show – because that takes TRUE balls. Maybe a little self-confidence too.

    But getting on stage is a blast, isn’t it? A terrifying, nauseating, awesome blast.

    • April 14, 2011 9:39 pm

      I think if I knew what I was getting into I wouldn’t have done it – I had people YELLING stuff at me throughout the show, trying to make me break character! Have you written about your acting? If so, link please. If not, it’s time.

  7. April 14, 2011 6:56 pm

    OH, I love your bravery! It is so great to push yourself to do new things – I truly believe you become a more interesting person. I used to be deathly afraid of roller coasters. Actually, still am. I broke up with a long term relationship, found myself at an amusement park, and listened to my brother who made me go on the biggest, scariest, loop de loop ever created. I went hoarse and almost passed out. But I felt alive and brave and very cool! Didn’t do it again, but at least I tried…great post!

    • April 14, 2011 9:41 pm

      That is awesome – doing stuff like that after breakups feels great, doesn’t it?!? That is very brave – I am not a fan of the coasters (especially since having kids – those rides seem so much more dangerous now).

  8. April 15, 2011 9:25 am

    SHUT UP!!! How did I not know this about you????? I love it – and love the visual of you doing jazz hands!

  9. Colie permalink
    April 15, 2011 1:20 pm

    Whoa. You are waaaay cooler than me! After bad breakups I just drown my sorrows in booze and buy musical instruments I never learn to play!!!
    PS: we really need to go for drinks!!!!!!

  10. April 15, 2011 1:56 pm

    Oh, how I wish there was videotape of this, because we would hold our own Rocky Horror showing.

    You truly ARE a star!

  11. April 15, 2011 3:53 pm

    Love it! I was thinking about auditioning for community theater but I’m a big chicken.

  12. April 17, 2011 9:33 am

    That was an uplifting post this morning before I head off to my “real” job lol. I wish that I had the nerve to take an acting class. Looks like you had loads of fun:)

  13. Joey Sayer permalink
    April 18, 2011 11:14 am

    Hey, Lori – what a fantastic blast from the past! How I miss you. And that hair.

    What you didn’t mention was that the show was enough of a success that it was revived two months later for a second two-week run. To date, despite the tiny theatres, it remains one of Front Row Centre Players’ most successful shows to date.

    And the delightful Lori was a huge part of that success.

    Two weeks ago I had the privilege to announce Front Row Centre Players’ new season during my pre-show announcement at my last show – and “The Rocky Horror Show” will be revived after eleven (!) years this fall. The ghost of your Magenta will be haunting the Pumphouse.

    So – when do you step on stage again? I’d cast you in a heartbeat. There’s always a place for you, and not simply as third-girl-from-the-left-holding-the-pickle.

    Oh, and @Suniverse: a video of (both) productions does indeed exist. And I can be bribed.

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