Thursday, November 13, 2008

ACTING CLASS, Part 6 by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year and a half the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gregg continues his eight-part series on an acting class he took in Montclair, New Jersey. [Read Part I, II, III, IV and V]

The next installment of Bedtime Stories is Wednesday, December 3rd at the Shubin Theatre.


The class this week wasn't much of a class. We watched a reading of a play to give the playwright and prospective director feedback and criticism of the play.

I arrived a little bit early, where I saw The Overly Competitive Hindu and Interchangeable Housewife #1-- the one who performed something about DYFUS. We briefly made small talk. I asked The Overly Competitive Hindu how his piece went the week before, as I missed it due to my late arrival.

"It went well. I did the getting out of the shower bit," he said. "One take, also. I didn't have to have to do a second scene with any alterations. BAM." He then pumped his fist like Tiger Woods.

We went into the theater and took our seats to see the reading-- a play entitled "Lunchtime." It was about office politics-- a powerful woman on the go, her abused office staff, blue collar workers, etc. I now realize why most people don't go to see local productions of original plays-- because they tend to suck the life out of you.

The lead actress, for some reason, felt the need to enunciate her words like she was playing polo and the African-American actress needed to do her best "Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple" imitation, which served no real purpose because she had a bit part ("WHY? WHY? What's going on in the OFFICE?"). There were also Italian characters who played the "hapless Goomba" role to fruition. It always pains me to see on paper "townie guys" that were drawn up and written by a guy who has never smelled an urban neighboorhood, unless the words "gentrified" and "Hoboken" are included in the phrase -- the playwright was wearing saddle shoes, so I don't think he could even locate the South Bronx on a map.

Bob, who trumped up this reading like we were going see something really special, had a 4-line speaking role. I think this is a good first step so he can get over is fear of the stage, which is certainly detrimental to an aspiring actor. I would have really liked it better if he just told us "class is cancelled this week because I have a role, so we'll just tack on another class after we were supposed to end" but I'm comfortable with being ripped off of $150. He also, despite awkwardly pausing in between lines, managed to not suffer a coronary attack while performing in public.

Afterwards, we applauded while The Overly Competitive Hindu tried to start a standing ovation.

After the play, we were allowed a chance to interact with the cast and playwright in a question-and-answer format, asking for our "honest opinions."

Most of the people were friends of actors or also members of the theater, so of course Lunchtime was the greatest play ever written. I opened my big mouth and made a few pointers-- I thought the play shifted from farce to melodrama too quickly but I enjoyed the characters-- in which every person on the panel stared at me. Then, the director (acting as MC) asked if anyone else agreed with me.

Not one person raised their hands. Then, for the next ten minutes or so, everyone said that they disagreed with me about my points. "I definitely do NOT agree with the gentleman over there. Not one bit. This play is superb," said one old woman who wore dangling hoop earrings.

After the Q & A, class members (a small gathering tonight- no Cute Girl, Voice Box Girl or Interchangeable Housewives #2 and #3, keeping with the tradition) started to talk about their monologues. The Latino Bohunk will perform Sam Sheppard's "True West", which I do not believe has any nude scenes in it. I was hoping to talk to The Hemaphroditic German so she could say "I am unsure of the piece I want to do but I need a young and secret lover in it" so I could volunteer. She simply walked away from the conversation, looking down at her feet as she did.

I started to talk to Class Junkie then. In our conversation, it was revealed that one of the many classes he took was a previous offering at the theater in playwriting. He was hoping his play would be read at the theater. I asked him what it was about, expecting him to say either "my grandkids" or "my bout with prostate cancer" or perhaps even something like "Iran-Contra."

Instead, he uttered a slew of words that have never been uttered together in the English language.

"It's about a bisexual witch who consults people on real estate in a supermarket."

I could not believe that he said those words to me, so I asked him to repeat them. Others were nearby, and I could tell he was a little ashamed to say that sentence again. But he did anyway, and this time I literally fell over laughing.

I then felt bad and apologized to him. "I'm sorry...I just wasn't expecting to hear you say that."

The white-haired Class Junkie then said that it was okay. "I know I'm a lame white guy." I asked him if I could use his work as my monologue. He guffawed and said that it wasn't completely ready yet.

"I think I want it to be a musical."

NEXT WEEK: Gregg witnesses the greatest theatrical performance since the original version of "Sophocles", as two classmates perform a scene from a Kevin Smith film.

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