Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ACTING CLASS, Part 8 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 two years the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

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

The final Bedtime Stories at the Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge St.) is TONIGHT at 8PM, $10.


I think Green Day said it best. My acting class was another turning point, the proverbial fork stuck in the road. I surely did have the time of my life, even though I now know less about acting than I did before I actually took this class.

I come before you a changed man. A better man. Only a few weeks ago, I was not an actor. I did not know how to "center" myself. I did not know how to observe a grown man's shoddily grown mustache. I knew nothing about who I was and where I stood.

As I rehash the past eight weeks, I think of a lot. I think of Bob's encouragement, his "can do" attitude that I will keep with me for eternity. I think of the Hemaphroditic German's empty smile as she talks about a baby she may or may not have stolen from a Greyhound bus station. I think of the shapeliness of The Latino Bohunk's dick, Bob’s consistent performance-related anxiety attacks, the lady who enjoyed my earlobes, my bizarre fetish for the shoes of The Cute Girl and the potential lyrics of a musical about a real-estate selling bisexual witch. I also think about how fucking nuts it is to think that everyone, no matter their station in life, wants to have at least a few minutes of fame. We’re all almost famous.

But mostly, I think of how I went home each Monday night thinking about getting my parents to change the locks on our doors, in case any of these drifters followed me home.

Tonight's class began with Sagging Boobs handing us fliers.

"I'm in a rock band, and we're having a show around the corner next week."

She described her band (their name is c9) as sounding like Natalie Merchant or Sheryl Crow. They also have a webpage that features song clips ("When They Take You To Heaven," "Firefly," "Little Mother of Mexico"). The band describes their songs as having "sultry intensity" which I found myself slightly disagreeing with when I listened to them when I got home-- I was thinking they were more along the lines of "boring chick rock."

No one wanted to perform first (Bob insisted that someone who missed class last week went first) so I offered to break the ice. As I was asking, he simply said "no" and forced the Hemaphroditic German to get up on stage.

"I did not practice this because my little boy was running around me today," she said. Bob told her that was okay and told her to read.

"He showed me. He showed me a lot. That barn door is cobalt blue. That is what painters say. Then he told me they were taking the chains," she said. "He taught me lots. And I ain't ever forget any of it. I now remember that the moonlight and the snow aren't white. They are every color at once. He taught me that. All of that."

I was not sure what any of that meant. It was maybe about a farmer? Who knows. Bob made her redo the scene several times, each time I just got more and more confused.

"I think that this piece is perfect for you," Bob said. "It's a very pretty piece. I think you, as a person, are like this piece. I think you are very delicate and simple-- wait, wait. I didn't mean it like that."

The Overly Competitive Hindu asked: "You meant she was simple in a good way, right?"

"Exactly, exactly," Bob said. "You have a childlike innocence. I think you are like fine china."

The entire time this was going on, the Hemaphroditic German just smiled at these descriptions of herself that I do not think she understood.

Up next came Interchangeable Housewive #2 (#1 and #3 were not there), who carried a minimalist Barbie Doll with her on stage.

"Okay, class. That's what sex is to you," she said, pausing. "I want you to know that sex is very, very personal. Except if it involves two people. Wait, I don't mean that. Sex is great, unless if it involves a guy."

She then continued her monologue, reading from a book called "Women '98."

"Men are here to crush all our dreams. The only thing he can do is handle a remote control, which is his electronic phallus."

Interchangeable Steel Magnolia Fan #2 occasionally flubbed her lines, blaming it on her nerves.

"Don't be nervous. We are all here holding you up. If you fall, we will catch you. We have strong, welcoming arms," Bob said. "Just circle the scene. Become a shark."

I went next. This time, I read an excerpt of something I just wrote about the time I worked at a supermarket. Everyone seemed to like it. Bob said that I had the potential to turn the story into "b-grade Spalding Gray."

Sagging Boobs came up to me after my performance. "Do you know what your scene could use more of? Puppets. You could turn this into a really great puppet show."

The Overly Competitive Hindu and The Latino Bohunk set up a scene involving a coffee table that The Overly Competitive Hindu brought from home. They performed a scene from True West, with the Overly Competitive Hindu typing as The Latino Bohunk's character recited what he wanted in a future movie.

They went through the scene about seven times. During each break, as Bob explained the alterations he wanted made, The Overly Competitive Hindu would continue to pantomime typing.

After their last scene, the two performers felt like they had nailed it. The Overly Competitive Hindu slapped The Latino Bohunk five.

"Great. Absolutely great," raved Bob, looking at The Latino Bohunk. "I think that would be a great piece for you. That character is so you. He's a real loose cannon type."

This marked the last scene in the class. Bob bid us adieu and told us he hoped to see us on the stage some day.

"You know what, I realized something," The Overly Competitive Hindu said. "This class has been real anonymous. I don't know any of your names."

He then looked at each and every single one of us.

"I'm Al."

And everyone walked away.


A few months later, I was at the Barnes and Noble off Route 46 in Totowa, scanning the shelves and, as always, looking at girls.

I was flipping through a fantasy football guide when I was leaving the store and bumped into someone. I looked up.

It was Al. The Overly Competitive Hindu. And he was with his son.

We made brief small talk. I asked him if he was taking the second part of the acting class -- I wanted to, but I was afraid the second part could not live up to the magic of the first.

He said he signed up for it, but they dropped the class due to poor attendance. However, he found an acting school in New York City where he was now taking classes.

“You won’t believe this. They have a whole class in mime alone!”

I then said goodbye to him. But then I turned to his son.

“By the way… your dad is one hell of an actor.”

1 comment:

The Blank said...

You're not a bad actor either Gregg. You were pretty good in Brendan's reading last night.