Tag Archives: college

The Paid Acting Gig

Jana: In college, I was an Actor. Here’s what I mean by that: In college, I minored in theater, I auditioned for all the plays, and I was occasionally cast as topless leads. And like all of my acting colleagues, my dream was to get a paid acting gig. Today, I share the story of my first ever (I mean also last, but you know) Paid Acting Gig. A thrill!

The summer of 2006 was spent in Burlington VT; my first time living in an apartment instead of moving home for the summer. And although I spent June locked in my room with a crushing depression that only abated when I finally found steady employment (The Gap stepped in and gave me a job, so. Support them if you can.), by July I was the happiest of 20-year-olds, working days, drinking nights, and generally doing stupid things in a large group of fellow actors.

When August rolled around, we all started to hear tell that there was a thing happening – this gig, this acting opportunity – that was paid. Our ears perked up. What was it, exactly?

Listen. It was the Date Rape Play.

Yes, you heard me. It was a thing called the Date Rape Play (literally, it didn’t even have a gentle subtitle), and it was performed each year for the incoming freshmen as part of orientation, so that they would be clear about knowing they might be raped at some point/what rape was. Here is the plot of the play:

Girl and guy are BEST FRIENDS. But, guy has a douchy brother, who is in a FRAT (bad). Frat boy brother invites girl and guy to party! They go, and they get pretty drunk (BAD). Afterwards, they go back to boy’s room, and make out. Guy is like, let’s have sex, girl is like, no, guy does it anyway (the lights fade as they’re making out, but it’s clear what has Happened).

NEXT MORNING, Girl is deeply confused and upset. She talks to her Lesbian Best Friend about it, who encourages her to tell the R.A. Girl does, and Boy is expelled from school.

That’s mostly it!

The woman who ran the date rape operation generally hired enough theatrically-inclined people to comprise like four casts, and each actor was paid $200. I called to inquire, and after a brief phone interview, I was cast in the play. And – big news – I was cast as the Rapee. (I told this story to someone once, and when I got to this part he was like, you mean the victim? And I was like, oh yeah, I guess that’s more appropriate to say.) So yeah, I was cast as the victim. Or, in my mind, THE STAR. It was fairly exciting, as these things go.

Rehearsals were hilarious. My cast included one of my friends as the lesbian, another friend as the frat boy brother, and a third friend as the person playing two parts (the lesbian’s girlfriend and the health center representative, who I believe was named Willow). Who, you ask, was playing the rapist? Well, let me tell you. Picture this:

He was in his 30s, and when I asked what he did he told me that he “DJ’s downtown sometimes.” He was short with a curly ‘fro sort of haircut and glasses, and he wore a necklace. Also, he was in his 30s and had agreed to be in this play with a bunch of 20-year olds. ALSO HE HAD TO PRETEND RAPE ME.

Regardless, my friends and I laughed our way through the month of rehearsals (my onstage rapist totally tried to be part of the group but we weren’t that welcoming), memorizing just insanely bad dialogue that included lines like  “You got the look girl, work it!” . And then, finally, the day came. The freshman had arrived, and they were piled into the theater, waiting nervously to make fun of whatever was about to be presented to them. We knew we wouldn’t let them down.

And we didn’t, and here’s why: my onstage rapist actually, and I am not kidding, PLAYED THE RAPE SCENE FOR LAUGHS. The dialogue is something like “come on, I love you!” and he was sort of like, bouncing up and down and just saying it like it was a joke. The audience loved it. Meanwhile, I was acting out my own rape so, you know. I didn’t love it as much.

That’s mostly all! Somehow we got through it, and afterwards we had a party that everyone just referred to as the date rape party (not even on purpose, it wasn’t like a THEME, it was just a statement of fact. It was the party after the date rape play).

Taken at the date rape party. Obviously, my starring role had gone to my head.

We collected our $200 and started junior year refreshed.

Catherine: I think we’re about to get judged, and hard, because I too was in the date rape play, different cast. Same deal. Everyone in the cast was friends, the rehearsals were a total joke, and we learned that rape could (and should) be funny if it was meant to entertain. I played WINNIE – not Willow – BUT WINNIE. The character was based off the person at our school who actually had that job, and hadn’t had the foresight to get a name change before beginning her life of ridicule stemming from her truly ridiculous name. Someway, SOMEHOW, this first paid acting gig did not deter me from pursuing acting (SHUT UP). Perhaps it is responsible for the fact that I only do comedy, though.

To the best of my knowledge, they still do this show every year. To the knowledge of my knowledge, I still say “You got the look girl, WORK IT!” every year, at least once.

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Trekking Through Hell

Jana: School started this week. And this morning, for the first time in a long time, I cut myself shaving.

This experience, and all of the experiences that come with this time of year – cooler weather, moving, change-related anxiety – reminded me of a time, in the year 2004, when I made a weird, bad choice that made me sad and uncomfortable. In that way, it wasn’t unusual, but it still warrants a blog post.

To start this story, I have to tell you that I only got into one college. Despite being a nearly straight-A student in high school, having totally decent SAT scores, and writing an essay containing a whimsical story about my deep-seated feminism, I was wait-listed by my two top choice schools. This threw me into, first, a long session of sobbing, and next, an overly-ambitious period of attempted positivity. I remember just crying and crying, while choking out the words “I’ll just go to UVM, it’ll be fine, UVM will be fine, I’ll be fine…”

Anyway, I did go to UVM. And in an attempt to embrace the experience that was being forced upon me, I decided to take the bull by the horns and sign up for the pre-orientation week-long wilderness trip option, called TREK. Clearly, I did not think this through. In my mind, it was the only way: I had to do this, to make the most of college, to make friends and LOVE COLLEGE AND IT’S FINE I DIDN’T GET INTO SKIDMORE. The rational thoughts, like, hey Jana, you don’t LIKE camping or the outdoors or building trails – those weren’t ones that I had. Not even for a second. I just bought a wilderness backpack and arrived in the UVM gym, ready to go.

This is the picture on the TREK website. Like. Did I think I belonged in this group?

I’ll also note here that I was still dating my high school boyfriend, and we had decided to stay together even though he was still in high school and I was traveling away to Vermont. So I arrived at the UVM gym, wearing wilderness pants and a wilderness backpack and a baseball hat, desperately sad to be without my boyfriend.

The week was like this: I was sad. My group’s job was to BUILD A TRAIL, and to accomplish this we had to hike really far up a mountain, set up camp, and then spend every day doing hard manual labor like moving giant rocks and carrying large pieces of wood. I was the worst at this. Because OF COURSE I WOULD BE THE WORST AT THIS. I didn’t actually speak most of the time, but inwardly, I felt intensely sorry for myself.

I also want to mention a specific element that made the week especially painful. Ok, Listen. I FORGOT TO BRING CHAPSTICK. For those of you who know me, you’ll understand that I keep chapstick on me at all, ALL, times, and apply it approximately every fifteen minutes. When I don’t have it for a day, my lips become weird and gross, with little skin flakes on them that then fall onto my shirts – you know? You know. So, picture those lips multiplied by one whole week. The thing was, I probably could have asked to borrow some chapstick on the first day, but by the time the situation had gotten bad enough that I really considered doing it (I like, eyed people while mentally rehearsing the question), my lips were so disgusting that I knew no one would ever share with me. Or love me. It was awful.

Some days, in the afternoons, we were given “free time” and allowed to go on recreational group hikes instead of working on the trail. During those times, I always, always claimed to feel sick so that I could lie in my tent alone and cry about missing my boyfriend. Those were the most enjoyable moments of the week. I cherished them.

So yeah, it was hell. When the week mercifully ended, we all piled into the van to drive back to campus, and stopped for lunch at a fast food place. In the bathroom of the restaurant, I think that I actually laughed when I saw my face and how disgusting it was. Like a monster had taken over my mouth. New friends? Anyone?

As an addendum, know that when we finally made it back to campus and I got to take a shower, I was overly-enthusiastic about shaving my legs and cut myself so deeply that I had to run to my RA’s room to A) introduce myself while crying and B) beg her for band-aids (she gave me three, which was not enough). As a result of this wound, all of my jeans from that first month of college have a little blood stain on the spot where they touched the cut. It’s a fitting memorial.

Here’s an email I sent to my dad shortly afterwards:

I’m sure mom told you about my gigantic shaving wound. It is crazy, i dont even want to think about how i did that it makes me cringe. I dont think i will shave for a while – at least its almost fall. Oh well. it is healing so no worries, and i put neosporin on it today so it shouldnt get infected or anything.

Happy Back To School!

Catherine: I too have a debilitating chapstick addiction, so being without it for a week is obviously the thing that terrifies me most about this prospect. Not like I wanna quote Leann Rimes, but “HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU.” That whole song, lyric for lyric, encapsulates precisely how I feel about chapstick.

Can I also direct everyone to the TREK photo for a moment – look at the man in baseball cap, second from the right. Is this really THE BEST picture they could find? Homeboy looks MIS.ER.ABLE. and photoshopped in all at the same time.

And one more thing – for the past like, ten times I’ve shaved my legs, I have cut myself shaving. Including cuts on BOTH FEET from dropping my razor on them. I’m getting worse with age, guys.

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Maybe I (Definitely) Shouldn’t Go To Nightclubs

Catherine: Here I will detail the first of MANY reasons why I should really just stop going to nightclubs.

We open on an 18 year old Catherine, freshman year of college. I had a relentless ability to rage long and hard every single night of the week and still manage to wake up the next day and 1) live and 2) accept any and all drinks, any time of day (luke warm vodka at 3pm? Sounds fun!). One night, I ventured out to downtown Burlington, VT (no doubt taking the off-campus bus and saving myself the approximately 1.2 mile walk) with some fellow dormmates (that was a thing, guys). We headed to the (only?) 18+ nightclub, and I was brandished with big fat X-marks on both of my hands. I am ASSUMING that I was already drunk, but to be fair, that part of the story escapes me. What’s important is this: It was a time in my life where I wore, and loved, Gap jeans I had owned since 8th grade, despite their having holes in both knees and the butt. And the fact that they could no longer zip up all the way. That, I determined, was no problem at all. Instead, I safety-pinned them open and wore them with black underwear. It was a look, it was intentional, and yes, I am glad there are no pictures.

At said nightclub, it was all top 40s which was my JAM. So I was alloverthatshit. I don’t wanna get ahead of myself, but I’m a pretty sick dancer (in terms of grinding, dancing awkwardly provocatively, hair flipping, etc.) My talents were not wasted on the fine men who chose to go to an 18+ nightclub despite being mainly over 21. One such man began dancing with me, citing my “sick moves!” This went on a while, culminating in the ever-sexy “I will dance LITERALLY ON YOU with my feet off the floor as you dip me and I think I look really good most likely.” It was hot.

Upon leaving, it came to my attention that my dance date was missing a tooth. A front one. Prominently in the very center of his mouth. I literally had no idea. The ridicule I endured was appropriate because like, seriously, people. How did I not see that. My friend wrote this poem of the incident:

Hmmmmm…Cathy.
Oh Cathy oh Cathy.
Toothless Willy will never be the same because I bet he never danced with
a chick that didn’t think he was lame.You said he was sick danca’
and that’s all there is to it
because for real, he looked like pranca’
… and you know he wanted to do it.I called his friend Pedro,
maybe that wasn’t right.
But it all seemed just fine
at the end of the night!

I should mention that his friend was called Pedro solely because he was Mexican, and Napoleon Dynamite was really huge at the time.

Jana: Poor Pedro – I’m sure he got that all the TIME that year. And, I can see why toothless man liked you: it was because your outfit was so classy.

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What I Did For Love (of weird theater, and in the pursuit of completely unattainable dreams)

Jana: Aright guys, huddle up. I’ve been watching a lot of “Friday Night Lights” lately, but what I really want to talk about today is the series of weird plays that I was in during my college years. Please enjoy.

THE GAS HEART

The Gas Heart is a “Dada” play. “Dada-ism”, which I don’t really actually know anything about, is a form of art in which nothing means anything. The play “The Gas Heart” is just six characters (character names: Mouth, Ear, Eye, Nose, Neck, and Eyebrow) talking complete nonsense. Really. They talk, but they don’t actually SAY anything, at all. This is huge amounts of fun for the audience! I played Eyebrow, and the director conceived of my character as a mental patient, in a straight jacket. My lines were uttered while pacing and shaking back and forth.

“Eyebrow”

It was the first part I got in college, and my proud parents drove to Vermont all the way from Boston to see the show. They weren’t, in the end, that glad that they had come. Luckily, they’d had lots of experience sitting through really terrible productions I’d been a part of, so it wasn’t a NEW bad experience, just ANOTHER one.

THE MEASURES TAKEN

The Measures Taken was the one act play I was cast in the following year. This, too, was mostly people saying things that didn’t mean anything. Except that this one had an underlying theme, which I believe had to do with the right of the common worker. I THINK this was the point of one montage in which one of the (white) cast members wore a coolie hat and acted out a conflict in a factory of some sort; however, I can’t be sure.

Mostly what I understood about the play was that I was dressed in all black, usually crawling around the stage, and always speaking in unison. There were four “leaders” who also carried long sticks, which must have symbolized their power.

Wisely, that year my father stayed home. My mother, though, trekked three and a half hours to sit there and again be perplexed and, undoubtedly, pissed off.

THE BOOB PLAYS AHH NOW WE’RE REALLY GETTING INTO IT

Ok Guys. So, yes: in college I was in not one, but TWO, plays in which I was topless or half-topless for a number of minutes at a time. This is a weird thing about me. It’s a thing that I now look back on and think: What? That was weird Jana. That was really weird. But it happened, and one day I’ll tell my grandchildren about it and they will either think I’m badass or be totally grossed out (definitely the latter, of course).

It all started with a play called “La Ronde”. “La Ronde” is entirely about sex, and when it was first produced in Germany way back in a different time it was incredibly scandalous. It starts with one couple who has sex, and then the next scene is the dude from that couple and a new lady, and the scene after that is that same lady and a new dude, all the way until we’re back with the first lady again. The circle. You understand.

I was cast as lady #1: luckily, Lady #1 did not have a name other than “Prostitute”. Now, you should know that this was the first big lead I’d had in college, and actually the first lead I’d had since my shining moment as “Peter” in “Peter Pan” way back in the 8th grade. So, naturally, I was excited and proud! I saw the cast list, FREAKED OUT, and called my mom right away. Prostitute! I’ll be playing the Prostitute! What? Oh yeah, she does have to get naked, is dad home so I can share the news?

So, there it was. In the final scene, for no actual reason that I am now, in hindsight, able to discern, my character let go of the blanket she was clutching, spent one to two minutes topless in front of full audiences, and then found her nightgown hanging on the bedpost and pulled it over her head. On opening night I was very nervous, and when at last the moment came to dress myself the nightgown seemed to be just a pile of fabric, and it took me what seemed like YEARS to find the opening that I could pull over my poor, naked head. As a result, I ended up topless for three to four minutes while I searched for it. This was really uncomfortable for, I’m sure, everyone.

The rest of the run went smoothly. My parents came, many other people came, we got decent reviews, and most people I went to college with have seen my boobs.

Here I am backstage, in my Prostitute costume. That red thing around my neck is a “Ho band”, which ladies of the night used to wear so that dudes knew what kind of ladies they were.

But Jana, you may be thinking, didn’t you say you were in TWO plays in which you showed your boobs to strangers? Well, reader, I did. The kicker here is that in the second play I only showed ONE boob. Which at that point, I was like, one? Oh sure. Right or left? Whichever. Who wants to get lunch after this?

But seriously, I was cast as the first female actress on the English stage in the 1600s, and in one scene she gets her portrait painted, and the painter says that nobody’ll believe she’s really a lady unless she shows a tit (actual dialogue). So then she opens up the corset that the costume department designed specifically for this moment, and literally takes out one tit so that she can be forever remembered that way. And of course, when I’ve been saying “she”, I’ve been meaning me, me right here, this is what I did.

My parents are great people. They did not make too many jokes when I again called with the news that: I got the lead! What? Yeah she does but just one this time!. They came and supported me. There was talk, of course, amongst the theater department, that I was being typecast as the girl willing to show one or both of her boobs onstage. We laughed! Just college, kids doin whatever they have to do for their art because later they will definitely work in that field. You know how it goes.

Here I am in my specially designed for one-boob-display costume. Although I would never have admitted it, I think the photographer captured the strain I must have been feeling from all of this toplessness.

So there you have it. And when I say “There you have it,” I don’t mean that I have now given you the complete story of the weird plays that I have been in – oh no. I simply mean, that’s all that I will tell you for today, because I have to go watch another episode of Friday Night Lights.

Catherine: First off, I want to commend the Jana for watching FNL – it is the best show ever, and the fact that Tim Riggins isn’t “real” or “into me” will always depress me.

Oh, RTT… the memories. The happiness, the massive destruction, the forgetting lines on stage. Memories, people. Here I am, looking wonderful backstage, in Jana’s first boobydebut. I would like to add that Jana and I tried, really tried to lose weight for this damn show so we wouldn’t frighten people with our bodies. It didn’t work, but even if it had, with faces like this (see below) I don’t think it would have mattered much/at all.

Additionally, I would like to add that I assistant directed on Jana’s second booby show, and that that moment of the show was just SO FUNNY and if I could speak with the playwright I would be all like, … why did you put that moment in there? It is so weird. And so is like, a lot of what is happening (ie – one character descends from the SKY in a chariot, completely naked, covered by a shield thing?)

This, from a backstage series of photos. Clearly, I was unstable.
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