Monday, January 18, 2010

Cue, Not to Be Confused with Billiards

There is a moment of excited limbo when you, as an actor, are standing somewhere in the wings, waiting to go on, the delicious process of drainage at work, removing from you all the motives and responses of the you of birth and growth, allowing you to become filled with the you of character, aware of an agenda and expectations, When you are writing fiction, this particular sense is best seen as a cup of coffee with an exponent sign hovering above it because it is often impossible to gauge just how intense and exciting this feeling of being about-to-go-on is. There are occasional moments in real life when you feel such a moment, say in that brief second before you open the door to a classroom, or when you are about to join friends, or indeed when you are about to enter a shard of time that will be all yours, without interruption, to do what you will as the whim takes you. Perhaps Sally will be there, sleeping or watching some focus of stimulation, but perhaps you will be entirely alone, ready to walk-on into an adventure.


Your most vivid memory of such about-to moments goes well back into the 60s when, for a time, you were an extra, working at CBS TV Studios on Fairfax Avenue near Beverly, not yet at the stage of being given lines to deliver, more often than not being a part of a background. You forget the actual drama of the incident because the incident was its own drama. You were an extra in a Playhouse 90 production, a ninety-minute drama in which you had a number of appearances, all of which required you to move quickly from one set to another, often through narrow, poorly lit aisle-ways. The incident began when you made a wrong turn, from which everything about you was a disconnect. You were hopelessly lost. In the rehearsals, you'd judged the amount of time you needed to get from one set to another, thereupon to become a passenger in an elevator or a group of individuals leaving a courtroom, or an individual seated at a bar, staring longingly at the splendid actress, Kim Hunter. But you were lost and the inner clock was ticking. You made what you hoped was a turn that would get you out of terra incognita and into some familiarity, but instead, you came face to face with an icon. Standing there, moodily watching the progress of the story on a monitor was the great stone face of all time, the silent film icon, Buster Keaton. "Don't worry, kid," he told you. "We all get lost once in a while." You hesitated, wanting to convey your respect and admiration. "No time for that, kid," he said. "Keep looking for your way. The cue is everything."

You have been lost more than once, sometimes in search of the cue, wondering if you would ever learn it.

Standing in the limbo before entering your scene is daunting; if you think about what you are doing, it could easily be an invitation to stage fright and that awful sense of being out there before an audience with neither cue nor clue. Watching the recent film Up in the Air, you did not at first relate to the growing feeling of discomfort when George Clooney, in character, stood before a seminar and began inviting his audience to see a backpack. The feeling of discomfort reached its acme when he paused before another-but-similar audience, his own disconnect between cues tugging at him. The way his and your careers have gone, it is unlikely that you will ever meet him as and in the context of your meeting with Buster Keaton, but seeing the film was a lovely redux of what has become a way of life and of looking at events.

Keep looking for your way.

Smile when you find it.

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