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Saturday, June 14, 2008

I speak like Cate Blanchett

I've been in the US a while now, and the incidence of accent foibles has decreased over time, but every now and then I still have a good one.

Yesterday I auditioned for a Shakespeare show at a theater where I've never worked. I was late, as usual, but they were running behind anyway, so there wasn't much chitchat before I began. I ran through the first side and stopped for comment. The director and his assistant both gave me a funny look.

"Um ... you ... You've obviously done a lot of vocal work. But you're using RP."

I stared at them blankly wondering if RP was some crazy American vocal technique.

"Received Pronunciation. Can you do it in your normal accent?"

My god. My god! They thought I was one of those annoying wanker Americans who pretend they're British when they do Shakespeare. I hate those actors; I couldn't believe they assumed I was one of them! I wanted to run out of the room screaming and take a shower.

"I'm Australian." I said it slowly in an effort to hide my creeping outrage.

Blank stare again, this time from both of them.

"This IS my normal accent."

"You're Australian?"

"Yes, but I don't sound like Steve Irwin. I sound more like Cate Blanchett." I couldn't believe I was having this conversation.

"Oh, uh, well, can you just sound less ... polished? Just be yourself."

So I faked having a lazy Australian accent for Shakespeare. I should have just done it in an American accent. Or, as Sean suggested when he heard the story, I should have gone balls to the wall and done the entire thing sounding exactly like Paul Hogan.

Note to self: always, always find a way to slip my Australian heritage into pre-audition chitchat, no matter how short or clumsy. "It's hot today, isn't it? Oh, but not so hot as it is back home in the outback with kangaroos and shrimp on the barbie. I said as much to my mate Judy Davis when I phoned home to the Land Down Under last weekend." Something like that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Now We Are Six

Here's something I've been meaning to do for a while. When I was a wee little kid, I kept a diary. By this, I mean my mother made me keep a diary. Every day, in addition to mathematics homework she would devise for me above my regular schoolwork, I had to write at least a page before I was allowed to play.

I'm kind of grateful for the diaries now, because reading words you wrote before you were a real person is a surreal and wonderful thing. Here are a couple of entries from when I was six.

I am still struggling a little with tense here:

Here is Jim and the Beanstalk, in case you too want to lose an argument with your child regarding the pronunciation of the word 'oculist.'

Also, I was already taking great pleasure in arguing with my parents at age six. How could they not have predicted the household havoc this was to cause a few short years later?

Cf. previous blog entry and Twitter status.

Yes, I must make an admission, which I have hitherto been too ashamed to make publicly. I did not have my own bed until I was six; prior to this age, I slept in the same bed as my mother, while my stepdad had his own bed in another room. The point of posting this entry, however, was to demonstrate that I grew up renovating. The "settled life" part is a bonus crack-up.

A play a day keeps the doctor away.

I love that I thought the prize was going to be a blue ribbon; when it turned out to be a book a week later, I went back to my diary and changed my entry because I couldn't stand to be wrong. (Also: I wanted a blue ribbon!?)

I know, I know, I before E. And 'favorate.' And obviously I was having some trouble capitalizing. Cut me some slack -- where are your childhood journals?

The thing that gets me here is that I was so shy and so determined to get over it. When I looked into teachers' eyes, I would shake like I was having a full-body muscle spasm. I didn't get past this problem for another six or seven years at least.

I don't know if I ever told this story before on this blog. If I did, and you read it, apologies. Here it is again.

My parents were always renovating, and I always wanted to help. When I was six, though, the only jobs I could be trusted with were small, symbolic tasks like sorting screws into boxes. One day, when I was bothering her in a particularly annoying way to give me something to do, my mother decided to try setting me an impossible task, in the hope I would get tired and quit.

"Go drag that roll of wall-to-wall carpet up that flight of stairs."

Alas, Mum forgot that I am my mother's daughter, and somewhere in the top five on the list of our shared character traits is the word 'stubborn.' Actually, it's more like 'STUBBORN,' written in ten-foot-tall letters in still-dripping mule blood. I completed the impossible task. And I ruptured myself in the process and required surgery for an inguinal hernia.

Yeah, ANTS! That is how a child learns about the Circle of Life -- by playing God with ants, not some goddamn cartoon with lions.

("their're"!? Palm -> forehead.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sleep is bad for you

I have been running on four to six hours sleep a night for weeks. Then, on Thursday, I decided to go wild and allow myself twelve whole hours of shut-eye. On Friday, I slept for an additional eight hours.

On Saturday, I got sick.

I should have known better. You know how your immune system somehow knows when you go on a relaxing vacation and lets all the floating viruses and bacteria take hold? "Oh, pressure's off, I see, right you are -- time to collect some new antibodies." I always seemed to be sick for the first two weeks of every holiday as a kid. I guess my immune system, misunderstanding my indulgence, thought I didn't have anything better to do with my time than fight off an infection or two.

This only confirms my theory that sleep is stupid.

On Saturday, I started feeling a sore throat and a fever. On Saturday night, I went to see LunchLady Doris (great stuff!), and then discovered I was dizzy. I napped before driving home and crashing into bed. In the middle of the night, I got up to go to the bathroom, but the dizziness got the better of me, and I fell down the stairs.

And broke my little toe.

I tried very hard to go without analgesics all weekend, hoping the fever would kill off the infection faster, but this morning I couldn't stand it any more and dragged myself to a doctor. My temperature was at 101.7degF (38.7degC). OK, give me drugs and weepy self-pity, I'm obviously not going to kill this thing on my own.

The gratifying news is that the taping job I did on my toe is all anyone ever does for broken little toes anyway, so the doc advised I just leave it at that and not bother with x-rays. I guess that means I don't really know for sure if the bone is broken. I mean, it hurts like hell, and there's a massive bruise, but it's not really displaced, and the swelling could be worse; at worst, it's fractured. I've never broken a bone before. Does this count? It could just be a bad sprain.

The bad news is that I'm going to be limping about for weeks. I have several promo gigs coming up, all of which require me to be on my feet for hours at a stretch, and I have an audition on Friday for the kind of character you don't really envision as a cripple.

The good news from weeks ago is that I will be performing in Another Man's Son at PlayPenn, a new play development conference at InterAct Theatre this July. My first non-Shakespeare in four and a half years. Can it speak on stage without pentameter or archaic pronouns? Time will tell.