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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Post from the Very Worst Actress in the World

I've been considering self-hosting the blog, mostly so I can upload audio files and bore you with numerous recordings of myself playing the Irish Penny Whistle. I rock that whistle hard. In fact, I keep it on my desk so I can play myself a little Tchaikovsky when I'm trying to think. Have you ever heard Tchaikovsky played on a whistle that can only range 8 notes? It's really an amazing sound.

In debating the pros and cons of this (remember, I move very slowly. I only got a header a year ago, over two years into blogging. It could take me three more decades to get to self-hosting status), I told Josh that we could finally have our contest and ask all of you to be the judges of which one of us does the best British accent.

I think it's me.

I can (1) keep it going a lot longer without dropping it. As in, I can spend the whole evening pretending I'm part of the British royal family, a cousin who just happens to have moved to the Washington, D.C. suburbs and (2) keep it softer. I don't go for Liverpool or the brogue of the Fens. I go for a very light London accent--nothing flashy, nothing too far off the beaten path.

I was climbing into bed, excitedly telling him that we could finally put our long-running debate to rest when he dryly reminded me that my mother had told him that night at dinner that two children were cut from the hundred who auditioned for a performing arts camp when I was little. As in, 108 children audition and 106 children were accepted.

And I was one of the two.

Methinks I don't like those odds so much anymore.

I didn't know that I was one of only two children who didn't make the cut until my mother told that story at dinner a few weeks ago. I was under the impression that hundreds of children were cut. That sort of made me feel terrible about myself even though it's over twenty years later.

It really isn't news that I'm a terrible actress--I've had it told to me (once by a very famous actor who later denied saying it even though he said it in front of twenty people so I have witnesses, but since the actor is currently dead and cannot defend his assessment that I am the worst actress he has ever seen, I will let him rest in peace) and I'm confident in the assessment to say it to you: I am a terrible actress.

Which must have been the part to do me in when I auditioned for the performing arts camp because I'm not the worst singer. I'm not the best singer, but I can stay on-key (right? I sing on-key in the movies, I think). I'm certainly "good enough" to make a middle school performance camp. And even if I can't sing, I actually am pretty talented musically. I still play by ear--currently, only the Irish Penny Whistle--but before that, piano and guitar. But I never never never play piano unless you get me very drunk. And then I will play Mozart and promise people piano lessons and vomit in the toilet the next morning. But I am considering getting a keyboard and giving the twins piano lessons because...I can. So, what I'm trying to say that insofar as the performing arts, I can sing mostly on-key and I do actually have some talent with instrumental music. So I have to assume I wasn't eliminated for my musical abilities ( sang "Corner of the Sky" from Pippin as my audition piece. Too maudlin? Cliche?).

And I made an exclusive dance troupe when I was older that performed in many places including the Kennedy Center. I wasn't one of the principal dancers in the troupe and I was often shunted to small roles in infrequently performed dances, but still, I made that troupe.

So can you imagine how G-d awful I must be as an actress to be able to sing and be able to dance and still be one of only two children cut from a performing arts camp?

If I'm going to boast of having actual dance talent, I do need to balance out the sentiment and admit this story:

I was given a single chance in the dance troupe to perform one of the main numbers when another girl was going to miss a performance. I took over her role and practiced my part incessantly, usually wearing her pink and grey costume that went with the dance as I practiced in front of the mirror. I was in love with myself.

The performance was held at the Kennedy Center. They had set up a stage in the main lobby, the one where people mill about near Kennedy's head snacking on overpriced M&Ms during intermission. We were performing as part of a cultural celebration type thing...actually, I'm not really sure why we were there or what else was going on. My information was to show up at this particular stage, go on, dance my dance, and exit.

There was no orchestra pit between the stage and the audience as there is in the main theater. Which I thought was a good thing because I've had trouble with disorientation and orchestra pits in the past. I did piano guild for a few years when I was little and an assessment I went to at age six was held at a university campus. I played my pieces on the stage with the judges sitting in the audience. I was supposed to enter from the side stairs, play my pieces, bow, and exit from the side stairs. Instead I entered from the side stairs, played my pieces, stood up in confusion, peed in my underpants due to fear, started walking towards the orchestra pit while the adult judges jumped up waving their hands and shrieking "no," stood on the edge and started crying because I couldn't figure how to get off the stage, and then went home to change my dress.

Despite the lack of orchestra pit, I reminded myself several times not to pee in my dress at the Kennedy Center performance.

So, I'm in the wings at the makeshift Kennedy Center stage and the music swells and I trot out on stage, pausing to execute a gorgeous cherkessia in unison with the other girls. It is this wonderfully raucous dance, and I was getting great height with the jumps, the skirt of my dress billowing out like a sail as I flew through the air. And the other girls were floating by me, leaping and turning, our arms like the bare branches of a pomegranate tree.

We fell into a line and what should have happened was that my body dipped down, my arms held aloft behind me, birdlike, for a count of four. Instead, while all the other girls did that, I ran forward to the edge of the stage, jumping directly to the step that would follow--four running steps forward, kick, and four running steps back.

That, obviously, wasn't supposed to happen. I was supposed to be back with the other girls who were still counting their four seconds of bird arms instead of dancing alone to the front of the stage. My foot was also not supposed to connect with the little boy's face that was beaming at the edge of the stage.

I remember thinking to myself as I kicked, "where is everyone else?" my body twisting instinctively backwards to check where my co-dancers were on the stage. The boy screamed in pain and the audience gasped in shock because to everyone else in the room, it appeared that I gleefully left the line of dancers to break off on my own and kick a small child in the face. I ran backwards, still following the next part of the dance while the other girls ran forward, bird-arms over, to complete the real next step while simultaneously checking on the child who was sobbing on the floor.

That was my last performance with the troupe.

You know that saying, "those who can, do. Those who can't, teach"?

I shouldn't even be allowed to teach.

Though I still am considering self-hosting so we can give you two samples of our terrible British accents for our accent throwdown. And despite my mantle as the worst actress ever, a face-kicking dancer, and a mostly on-key singer, I am actually a very good drawer.

No, really, I am.


Circus Princess said...

Hahahahaha *spewing coffee all over my keyboard* I feel like I just witnessed your dance. I'd be first in line to judge your british accent (I do have some merits being swedish-american recently located to England, hah).

Thanks for a good laugh ;-)

Anonymous said...

I wish I could explain the smile that is on my face at the moment. I too, have been known as a lesser talent, though I absolutely love to perform.

Oh, and anytime you want lessons on the flute, you just let me know!

Seriously though, I'm sure the reason you and that other kid were cut from the performing arts camp was that you were both too advanced in your knowledge of the performing arts.

They were afraid you'd embarrass the other kids. : )

Salma said...

Cute...funny...I think I've been there. If only we could relive our childhood days...then again maybe not.

Kari said...

What a great story!! Thank you for sharing!! Everyone should start their morning with a laugh this hearty!!


Brenna said...

An actress you may not be, but a storyteller? THAT you definitely are! I felt like I was watching in horror from the audience as the little boy got a foot up his nose. Oh my gosh, that was too funny!!!

(By the way, I've passed your blog and first name and e-mail along to a friend who's writing a book. I posted about the book over on my blog today. She asked if I could think of anyone, other than Dooce--Heather Armstrong--might have particular knowledge into the ways that a blog can foster friendships. I thought of you and your amazing work in this community. Andrea is based in the DC area, too, so I'm hoping you two can connect! She's an amazing gal, she writes the "BaggageCheck" advice column for the Washington Post among other things. Her book is on the subject of friendship.)

areyoukiddingme said...

Why was that boy sitting so close to the stage? I'm with Circus Princess - I can totally picture the scene. Now I know why I never participated in any kind of recitals...

~Ifer said...

Hah! That truly is a great story. I was the other end of the spectrum, always trying to remain out of the spotlight, because I KNEW something like that would happen to me if I tried to be the star. (also I have no singing voice, no dancing feet, and limited musical capability)

Jendeis said...

I thank G-D for you. You just made my year. :)

The problem with being a good mimic is being able to stop. It's almost as if my voice goes on an extended "when in Rome..." trip.

after iris said...

Well I'm a bona fide British person, so I'm gonna need to hear those accents. Host, I say!

irrationalexuberance said...

That was a great way to start the day -- thanks for sharing.

jenicini said...

Laying in bed, cracking up. My dog is staring at me I'm laughing so hard. I definitely think you got the storytelling talent!

N said...

I've got not just one, but two irish penny whistles. We should put together a concert. It would be the talk of the town.

JJ said...

I wanna hear you play the whistle and I definitely want to judge who has the better accent :0)

Calliope said...

love it!!
the weird thing is that there are a few of you internet friends that I feel like if we met at band camp or theatre camp as kids we would have really hit it off. So you sort of just popped a bubble in my brain thinking that you were really a theatre nerd in disguise.

(also- if you want any hand holding for self hosting let me know.)

nh said...

I'm sore from laughing now - and seeing as I am recovering from an operation that is no fun!

HOWEVER - I would judge your British accents; I have lots of experience at them... leaving here and all. Although I speak with a mostly Yorkshire accent, I've lived in other areas, so I've not got a proper Yorkshire accent.

JuliaS said...


Thanks for the laugh! That poor little boy . . . . :0)

I think you are blessed with many talents - and I totally love you for it!

Becoming Whole said...

I was having a very sleepy, kind of cranky, had to get up for a doctor's appt (just a regular checkup, nothing dramatic), kind of day, but this TOTALLY turned it around. And I'm at work, so I can't even tell people why I suddenly perked up. Alas.

This is so awesome.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm glad I'm at home this morning and not at work so I don't have to try to explain why I'm laughing out loud. You're an awesome story-teller.

I often wish I self-hosted my blog. You get a lot more control over everything. Though I admit the possibility of having a contest to judge accents never entered into the equation for me. I may have to re-evaluate.

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

Maybe they didn't cut you from the camp for your bad acting. Maybe they could tell that you're the kind of troublemaker who kicks little boys in the face.

Kelsey said...

Oh my goodness! I needed that. Thank you!

The Steadfast Warrior said...

OMG Mel! Too funny!

If the full on in-camera thing doesn't work for you, you could always try podcasts... seriously, then we could hear the dueling accents and you don't have to worry about anything else. :)

sonja said...

Aww only 2 didn't get picked out of the whole 108? Well, I thought your voice was great on the video you linked to. In fact I then spent the next 30 minutes watching a bunch of videos and bawling my eyes out ... but I was happy, too. =)

If you self-host your blog I'd love to hear your British accent!

Thanks for this post.

Caitlin said...

Sitting here laughing my ass of at the thought of that! I wish I were in the front row watching! I'm sure your performance will be remembered more than the other girl's bird arms, Mel.

Shelli said...

This was such a well needed laugh for me today (and I'm not laughing AT you, I'm laughing WITH you).

Ok, I am laughing at you.

You lived out my childhood fantasy (and I'm jealous) so whether you were the best dancer in the world, or the worst at least you had the opportunity, right?

I want to hear the English accents. I always wanted to speak like The Queen, but my damn Philly accent keeps getting in the way.

Tara said...

Whatever you may lack in acting or dancing you certainly make up for in storytelling. This was hilarious.

Beth said...

That was hilarious!

They turned down 2, really? That just seems wrong. If you are going to keep 106, you might as well keep 108....

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you didn't get chosen, but obviously you've found your calling elsewhere! lol

Off topic, but, am I missing where the blogger bingo categories are being posted every day? I thought it was going to be starting yesterday, but maybe I'm looking in the wrong place?

T Lee said...

HAhahahahahahaha... awesome. If it helps though, I once fell into the orchestra pit... in college... *hides face*

Anonymous said...

Too funny. Thanks, I needed that! :)

As for British accents, we're Brits too, so we'll happily join in on the judging.

Wishing 4 One said...

LOLLLLLLLLLLLL oh Lolli you have the best real-life stories around!

I danced for many years as a child too. Once I went to a competition in Las Vegas and forgot the routine, thinks tears, sweat and pee simultaneously. We still came in 3rd place though, no help from me of course.

JamieD said...

HA! This is such a great post - thanks for the laugh!

British accent or no, I'm dying to ear Tchaikovsky on an eight note penny whistle.

luna said...

Oh you are hilarious. So many ways to mortify a small child. at least it all makes for good stories now.

Kitty said...

That story was pure awesome. Thank you for that!

Betty M said...

Another Brit wanting to hear your efforts!

Coffeegrl said...

I saw a penny whistle in a store a few weeks ago and thought of you! :)

Flying Monkeys said...

Thank you for reminding me that pilates was hard yesterday by forcing me to laugh out loud! It hurt. Why was the boy close enough for you to kick in the first place?
Thanks for sharing!

kate said...

HAH. You kicked a boy till he cried! (That's a Sundays song, no?)

I am so sorry. That is *exactly* why I don't get on stage, ever. I am a pretty gosh darn good violist (and singer, guitar player, pianist, other instrument player, etc.), but I cannot do any of this by myself on stage in front of people. Put me in the orchestra, or even a chamber group and I'm fine. But solo or in some other way where I can clearly be identified distinctly, and I crumble and do stupid stuff.

Like the time I was working with my college's summer music camp, and I joined the rest of the staff for a skit on Staff Performance night, and I was asked to improvise as though I were mimicking this one camper who was (frankly) a bit of a shit. So, among other choice things, I said loudly, and clearly, in front of all the assembled campers, and teachers (most of whom were professors of mine during the semester), and a few parents (who were there because they were quite conservative and homeschooled their children and wouldn't allow them to stay in the residential camp part, which is why they were there...), "WHAT THE FUCK???"

Yes. I said FUCK loudly, clearly, on stage, in front of a couple hundred 10 to 17 year old children and some of their conservative parents and my (baptist minister) orchestra director, and my viola instructor and my chamber music professor, and various other music teachers from around the area. Yeah.

Of course, I followed that with an excellent performance of La Folia with our chamber group, including several solos played by me, and never missed a single note. So apparently it comes and goes.

Anyhow, I just thought I'd share with you my "I kicked a boy in the head" moment...

Jennifer Wempe said...

I always miss the whole point of a conversation/post when someone quotes, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

It is a rude statement even when it isn't intended to be one, so...

1 - "Those who CARE, Teach."
2 - "I don't know what you make, but I MAKE A DIFFERENCE!"
3 - "Thank goodness those "who can" had teachers who could teach them to do what they're doing now. Otherwise, they would be someone "who can't."

That being said, I am a great teacher and I am great at math, but I can't teach math. Everyone has their limitations!

Kristin said...

You know, I really, really love the way you tell stories.

And, I'll be here to judge your British accents if you share them.

BTW, there is a way to post audio files on blogger if you pair it with a picture. Set up a free account on OneTrueMedia, load a picture (or multiple pictures, and load the audio file. It will post to your blog in a similar fashion to youTube videos.

Sunny said...

Acting is overrated. You are genuine. :)

I think it's horrible that they only cut two kids! It kinda makes me want to cry. (As does everything else these days.)

Paz said...

6 years old and peeing on stage and being afraid. I want to hug that younger Mel, that pretty, sensitive little darling.

Damn this post is funny. I want the accent contest! Please give it to us, we'll be kind if you whack a bloke in the mug again...figuratively speaking.

Lavender Luz said...

Oh. I should have read this one first (the kicking in the face part; it may be genetic?)

The best line all week: "I was in love with myself."

And before I even met you, I listened to your singing videos over and over again.


Joanne said...

Good stuff as usual, Mel! BTW, we use LiquidWeb for hosting and they are AWESOME in terms of support - going above and beyond whenever I ask something that I think they shouldn't have to help me with.

(also thanks for your advice on working with bloggers - we have some very strong relationships building - those who are using our program, enjoying it and then talking about it. Working great!)