Twelfth Night is a flash fiction piece inspired by the work of Raymond Carver. It is concerned with a man’s struggle to find work, and the unexpected place his search takes him.
I went on the audition as a favor to my friend, Cole. I’m not an actor and neither is he, but I used to work full-time on his construction crew. His wife, Maria, is an actor, and as Cole related to me over the phone, Maria had told him that they “were really very desperate” for more actors, just for small parts. I had been struggling so hard to get consistent work, I figured Cole might help me if I tried out for this community production. He told me it was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
I practiced the lines they had sent me. I felt nervous, sick, the whole day of the audition. I drove to the church in the rain, about forty minutes. It was a medium-sized theater. Bright, clean, wood floor, royal-blue stage curtain. The director, Simon, and two other older people–one a man, one a woman–sat at a table. Simon had a grayish-white beard and was paunchy, friendly and relaxed. The older man and woman, late sixties, early seventies, were a little fragile in how thin they were. They both had white hair, too; the older woman, glasses. They all smiled as we said hellos and shook hands. I filled out a sheet with my basic information and walked up onto the stage.
I read for three small parts in total. At first, I felt it was going fairly well–and then better –but I had to do an accent next, which I fumbled: I was having so much trouble with the lines that I forgot to keep up the accent; the last character I improved, I thought, but it was all overwhelming. It appeared they were not impressed when it was over. I walked down off the stage and they thanked me for coming out and I thanked them for the opportunity and was courteous and well-mannered.
When I left, it was still raining, driving home, and I felt unbearably strange: I didn’t want to act and I never wanted to be in the production, but I felt like a failure now that it seemed as though I would not be offered a part. At home, I sat in the kitchen and felt worse. I was tired. Maybe if I did some leg work, found other actors to recommend, that would help. That might count for something.
I never heard from the theater. I got a gig, full-time, selling alarm services door-to-door. I hated it, but I had to stomach it. I went and saw the play. I was a little worried I might run into Simon or the older man and woman (it would be embarrassing), but I didn’t. I saw Cole watching Maria up on stage and wondered if there was any point in talking to them when it was over. But really, I focused all my energy in understanding what was going on upon that stage: Who was playing who and what the characters wanted, and if it worked out for any of them.
Thanks to John for sharing his work with us!