a bit of late night fun and whimsy. or is it?
Ya’d think with all the time I’ve spent fishing m’self out of dives and keeping producer’s hands off my ass, I’d have a pretty good bullshit detector by now… but I’m here to tell ya, there’s always them what can fool ya.
So yeah, I got this gig. Little backwoods theater, and it sounded like a good deal at first, easy work, ya know? Three rehearsals a week, they buy lunch, and they weren’t all stuck up about the SAG card like some of the shops. My agent got me all psyched up talking about this ‘great independent theater’; something of an artist commune, he said. Kind of a bohemian place, he said. Gonna kick him square in the balls when I get back to town. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So ok, I pawned my last ring and the laptop to get a ticket by bus to get there. I take the bus for like, 14 freaking hours to this place no one’s ever heard of, ‘Great Woods’. I get off the damn thing and it’s podunk. I’m talking one street, no light, blink-and-you’d-miss-it nowhereville.
The guy at the bus depot is way too happy to see me. You know the type, ‘Can I help you to you room?’ Ugh. Like I want this guy knowing where I’m sleeping. I get directions and walk the blocks, because there’s just no way to overcome the look of blankness he gave me when I asked him to call a cab. Anyway. I check in and hit the showers, then ask directions to the theater. That’s when I find out it isn’t even in ‘town’, it’s like, seven miles outside town. I think the desk clerk felt sorry for me, but I didn’t realize why at the time. She offered to drive me out there, and said they usually put actors up for their stint. That took the edge off and I got a refund for the hotel room, which was a bit of a surprise.
She drives me out there, but she don’t drive me to the door. Says she had some kind of run-in with the owners and ain’t allowed on their property. So I get to walk the half-mile driveway carting my luggage. I get there and the place is deserted. I mean I walked the whole damn place. Checked the rooms. Looked for a phone. Looked for signs of life. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. So I write a note and leave it at what looks to be the front desk and haul upstairs to pick out a room. Long day, and no shortage of screwups along it, I figure I’ll nap and come down later for food.
I get to the first room and unpack, shake out of my clothes and do a backwards leap into bed. Bout broke my fucking spine. I kid you not, that damn bed was made of granite or something. I tried to figure out a position I could get to sleep in, but I’m telling ya, it wasn’t happening. So. I get up, get dressed, pack all my shit up and head on down the hall to the next room. This time, I figure I’ll wait until I test the damn bed to unpack. No freefall jumping, either. I checked it out real slow like, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from falling into the damn thing.
If you had to compare the two, the first was like a slab of stone and this one was like a god-damned marshmallow. Took me near seven minutes to fight my way out of the damn thing and I swear it was trying to swallow me whole the entire time. I finally got pissed and decided I’d head downstairs and eat first. Maybe then I could manage to sleep on the damn marshmallow until the producer and the troupe show up.
I get to the kitchen and you won’t believe it, but I swear there wasn’t a damn thing to be had. I figure they must have gone into town for supplies or something, because I’m telling ya, there wasn’t even a cracker in the cupboard. I was just about to give up when I caught sight of the dinner room and noticed there was a meal set out. Well, if you want to call it a meal. Vegans of some sort; organic vegans from the look of it. There were three bowls of what looked like really bad oatmeal. I mean, stinky oatmeal, ya know? I sat down at the biggest bowl and chowed down anyway and bout burned my damn mouth off. The damn thing was full of these little peppers, what do they call them? The Spanish ones. Not the Japalenos, but the other ones, you know, the real evil ones? Those.
So I tried the next bowl. But it had been sitting longer and when I could finally get through the cement of it to spoon up a bite and try it, it was so cold and lumpy that I just couldn’t do more than roll it around in my mouth before either spitting it out or puking right there. Figured that likely wouldn’t make the best first impression, so I spit it out a convenient window and turned to the last dish. Amazingly, the last dish wasn’t bad at all. Just right. I fell on it like a starving wolf and by the time I was done, I was tired enough that even the marshmallow waiting upstairs wasn’t such a bad idea.
Now mind you, it’s been ’bout five hours or so and these folks still aren’t back. I’m starting to think I’ve been set up, but since it’s a seven mile walk with luggage back to town, I figure I’ll sleep now and decide what to do in the morning. I haul myself back upstairs and as I’m heading to the marshmallow room, I notice a closed door back at the end of the hall.
Checked it out, and found a room that was actually liveable. Twin bed, but it was normal. Phone and computer too, but the phone needed a charge and the computer wouldn’t boot up. So I set the phone up to charge and moved my shit into the room, unpacked, and FINALLY got to some serious sleeping… Just in time for the troupe to make it home. Figures. I slept through them coming in, but I don’t think the dead could have slept through what happened next.
I jolted awake to the sound of something in serious pain. I swear, it was like a cross between a howling bear and an angry crow all at once. I hear “Somebody’s been eating MY PORRIDGE!” and then this whiney shriek just after, “Somebody’s been eating MY PORRIDGE, TOO!” and then this kid’s voice like someone stole Christmas yells, “Somebody’s been eating MY PORRIDGE AND IT’S ALL GONE!”
The walls start shaking and the floor is vibrating so hard that it ’bout bounces me out of the bed and I realize they’re coming upstairs. I hear a door slam open against a walls and then it’s like they’re singing a song or something, same verse, but different than the first, “Someone’s been SLEEPING IN MY BED!” and “Someone’s been sleeping in MY BED, TOO!” and just then, the door to the room flies open and there stands this kid, all big-eyed and open mouthed, shrieking at the top of his lungs, “SOMEONE’S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED AND SHE’S STILL THERE!”
Mom, you won’t believe this, but I swear, they’re like some circus side-show. Three of them, and they’re all loopier than blind fireflies in a rainstorm. The husband is a real bear, but he’s nothing compared to his wife. The kid… well, I suppose he’s about what you’d expect, sweet but nothing behind the eyes, if you know what I mean.
Scared the shit of out me, standing in the door like they did, all eyeballing me and looking something between scared and angry. I jumped up and stood on the bed and hollered, “Holy hell! I’m just here for the gig! I’m an actress! Who the hell are you?” Everyone was silent for a moment and then, we all just fell out laughing. Introductions were made and apologies, too. Turns out they weren’t expecting me until tomorrow. Did I mention I’m gonna kick my agent in the nuts when I get back?
The gig was for some weird, surreal piece. The husband (director and writer) said it came to him in a dream. Something about a young woman who meets up with three bears in an old cottage in the woods. Supposedly, it’s some deep and meaningful look at how the soul reconnects to the instinctual psyche and the body; using the vehicles of the unconscious power complex and examining it’s potential transformation and integration.
Um, yeah, those are the director/writer’s words. Trust me, I spent two weeks roaming the woods, another day shooting the sequences in their house, ate “porridge” every damn day and night, and by the time we were done, was more than happy to pack my bags and get the hell out of there. I still don’t know what the fuck porridge is, but that it’s something I never want to have to eat again in my life.
Next time I talk about wanting to get away from it all and explore the improv film process, please, slap me.
I should be home by the end of the week. Looking forward to one of your home-cooked meals.