Week 49- Heather Ouellette-Cygan

Posted: March 6, 2012 in Heather Ouellette-Cygan, Week 49

 Merely Players: Part One


“‘The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.’ Protest too much? What does that mean? Oh, God, what am I doing here? I haven’t read Shakespeare, let alone been on stage in twenty years.” Audrey looked around the busy theatre to make sure no one had overheard her talking to herself and was relieved to discover no one was sitting within three rows of her. She glanced down at the pages she held in her lap. The blurry words of  photocopied script excerpts danced there, challenging her. Her left hand found her purse on the seat next to her and groped inside for her reading glasses, gently rubbed the cool leather exterior of her glasses case then exited the purse empty.

Her glasses always got in the way if she tried to read and talk at the same time. She imagined that this effect would be magnified from the stage. She’d opt for squinting.

The faint hum of the others sitting in the dimly lit theatre was deafening. Every so often, however,  a rhymed couplet catapulted out of  the cacophony and landed gently in her ears.

She recognized some of the faces around her from plays she had seen at the theatre before. They seemed to know what they were doing. They were experienced,  professional and poised, three things she had lost years ago when it came to acting. She brushed imaginary crumbs from her script.

Perhaps she should have listened to her family, who had not encouraged her to come.

“What are we going to do with you out every night?” Bill had demanded from the kitchen table after she had told him of her plan to try out.

“I’m sure you’ll figure out something to keep you occupied for a few hours.” She turned away from him and back to breaking dry spaghetti and dropping it into a pot of boiling water.

“No, I mean, what will we eat?”

“You make dinner for yourselves all the time,” she had answered.

“True, but I’ll still be lonely. And who is going to drive Jill to her cheerleading practices? Or pick her up?”

“Honestly, Bill. Are you serious? For two months you can’t drive her the three miles up to the school?” She glanced at the water bubbling out of the pot and turned down the flame underneath it. “I need this.” Audrey could not remember the last time she had done anything creative.  Now her husband’s feigned helplessness threatened her resolve.

“Look,” she had continued, “even if I do get a part, and there is no guarantee of that, it will most likely be a small one. I don’t think I’ll be gone more than an evening or two a week at most.”

“In the beginning,” Bill stood from the table, tipped his face and gave her the puppy dog eyes. “But we know what happens as the rehearsals near opening night. Promise, you will keep a balance.”
She had, with her fingers tightly crossed behind her back, an old trick she had used to get out of actually lying since she was a little girl, but now, in the reality of the tiny community theatre with the words of the Bard dancing in her lap, the idea of being comfy at home in her yoga pants with a large pizza and Home and Garden on the television, seemed very appealing. Her fingers rubbed the red velvet of the seat under her bottom against the grain. It was therapeutic in an odd way. She lifted her hand from the seat to her throat. Instead of pizza, she tasted a nervous combination of bile and garlic working its way up from lunch. Why had she eaten a Caesar salad when she knew bad breath would just make her more nervous?

“Okay, I hope you’re all finishing up with those audition sheets. We are going to get started in just a few moments,” a male voice infused with a commanding British accent announced. She looked down at the papers in her lap and flipped back to the front page and the only two women characters listed under “Names of Actors”.  “Gertrude, Queen of Denmark” was near the bottom of the page. “Why are all the women listed last?” she wondered. Even the gravediggers were listed earlier.

The British voice continued, “Make sure that you accurately fill in all boxes on your audition forms. We need accurate information for our casting process.”

Audrey shuffled through her papers and found the pink slip that she had started to fill out before becoming distracted by the iambic pentameter. “Name” She had that. Audrey Caulkin. “Telephone number.” Check. “Address.” Check. “Age.” Here she’d gotten stuck. With this box she had begun contemplating just how honest she should be. Even though Gertrude is Hamlet’s mother, younger women are often cast in the role. She had gotten caught up and stopped writing. Now, she rubbed the grip of her Uniball pen. She always used her own. Not everyone washed their hands before using a community pen, and even at a live theatre audition there were bound to be people who had just sneezed into their hands before writing. She never got a flu shot. She attributed this to her frequent hand washing and avoidance of touching things other people had touched.

“Okay, if I am going to do this thing, I had better finish this form.” She wrote 41 next to age. After all, theatre is the only business in which those hiring can discriminate based on characteristics such as gender, age and race.

Audrey again stalled at the next line. “Prior Acting Experience.” There were spaces here next to Plays? Year? and Venue? She then continued with her own pen to confess that the last time she was on the stage was her sophomore year in college when she played Agatha in Guys and Dolls. Then she had met Bill and he became the way that she wanted to spend her time. She decided to be honest. She chuckled quietly as she wrote “Gertrude” next to “part(s) for which you are auditioning.” She was realistic to know that her days of playing Ophelia were long past.


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