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Who am I?

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Well that was quite a week. It had everything – fear, courage, strength, pride, and healthy dollops of anxiety and social awkwardness. Last Thursday I had my audition for Noises Off- oh that’s right, I didn’t update you all but yes, I did it, and to quote god, ‘and it was good’. Maybe not creating-the-earth-and-skies-and-taking-Sundays-off good, but definitely made the director laugh and not-in-a-humiliating-way-good. But I was really nervous. It’s been a long time since I’ve auditioned for a theater and sitting in the orange plastic chairs waiting to be called into the room felt reminiscent of the waiting room of the infamous Butcher of Lenham (aka dentist). He wasn’t the actual village butcher, we just called him that because of his meaty fingers and ability to extract extreme pain along with your decayed teeth. I once falsely confessed to nicking a Twix from the newsagents just to get him to stop shining that bright light in my face and dangling the arm of the metal drill menacingly in my eyeline.

But once I was called in for my audition, it was fine. Fun, even. They laughed (the only validation I ever need), said nice things, and I left. And as I walked back to the car I felt that rare glimmer of pride in having felt the fear and done it anyway. Susan Jeffers strikes again, and this time I didn’t have to end a relationship, so it was a result all around.

That evening, still basking in my own glory, I went to the company meeting for the 14/48 festival. This is an intense, unpredictable, largely fun and slightly stressful theatre event where over two nights 14 brand new plays are written by playwrights, then rehearsed during the day by actors with an assigned director, and performed that night for an audience. I’ve never participated before but I rashly signed myself up to be an Actor on Friday partly with the idea that it’d give me something to take my mind off the potentially disastrous audition.

At 7pm on Thursday night the theatre was packed with playwrights, actors, designers, directors and the 14/48 team. I sat with a few people I knew and hoped we’d be out in an hour. The first sign of trouble was the announcement that we’d go round the room (are there any worse words to hear?) and introduce ourselves, our pronoun, our role, and whether we were a virgin or veteran, participation wise.
No no no, why is this necessary? We’re all wearing name tags with this very same information, so why must we say it out loud? Fortunately, I managed to remember my name and pronouns without having to check my name tag, and didn’t accidentally say vagina rather than virgin as my brain kept suggesting. I hoped we were done with the worst of it.
Next we would play a game of Rock Paper Scissors. With a twist.
Oh what fresh hell awaits.
I’ve never had a good relationship with Rock Paper Scissors. I’ve never really understood what beats what and no-one’s ever clearly explained why a sheet of paper beats a rock. The whole endeavor requires too much thought and explanation and would be far better replaced with the ‘you’re out’ Ip Dip Doo game of my childhood. As in:
 ‘ip dip doo, cat’s got the flu
monkey’s got the chickenpox
so out goes you’

I understand this game. I enjoy this game. I do not have to think, whoop or make any other exhuberant and unnecessary sound when playing it. When counted out, you simply remove your foot from the foot cluster and step away in a quietly sensible fashion.
Instead, we all had to come to the stage, find a partner (the second worst words to hear) and play one round of RPS. The winner of that round would move on to play against another winner, and the losers would become part of their cheering squad. And on and on this interminable awfulness would go until there were just two challengers left and a huge screaming mob for each of them.

Any questions? I was already feeling sick and wondering if I could fake pass out, when someone asked “are we doing shoot?” What? Shoot is another option in Texas? Let’s not go there. Turns out it’s just another way of saying GO, as in 3-2-1 GO, rather than an unsporting and definitive fourth RPS_S option that would bring the game to a swift close.

Clearly I needed to be out on the very first try so I wouldn’t have to be cheered on by the losing section. And I was. Turns out the person who beat me, a playwright friend, went on to win the whole thing. Metaphorically, because they didn’t get a prize which felt like a bit of a swizz. But it did succeed in getting us to whoop a lot, which I think was the point.
After this we were allowed to sit down again and I hoped there would be no further unwelcome surprises.
Oh fuckity fuckington, now it’s a social media challenge.
Find someone you don’t currently know (oh god, is this ‘a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet’ thing?), then get on social media with them and do a live post about the festival. Oh golly, yes I totally would but I think that’s a new voicemail on my phone, let me just pop out to the lobby and check it.
Yes, wow, glad I didn’t miss that fourth reminder for Margaret about her upcoming doctor’s appointment, but also glad I listened to it enough times for the social media challenge to come to an end.
Please please please say we’re done.
Nope. We’re now breaking into small groups (the third worst…well, you know). But thankfully my actor group is still big enough for me to hide on the periphery. Just a couple of ‘on three’ cheers and a few more whoops and we’re out of there.

I left there wondering if I could manifest some small but significant impediment to my turning up the next morning. But at 9am I was at the theater and I had one of my best days of the year so far. I was randomly matched with a great comedy script, a lovely director, acting partner gems, and a brilliantly creative team of designers and production staff. I made some new friends, I made some people laugh and I impressed the hell out of myself. I may have even high-fived.
Seriously, who the hell am I?

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