Monday, 29 August 2016

No sick days for the wicked. Or for adjudicators.

“When are you supposed to leave for Witbank?”

The doctor asked at quarter to nine on a Monday morning while sticking a digital thermometer in my ear.

 “An hour ago”

Mauritz had forced me to see my doctor before making the 160km, almost 2 hour drive to Witbank where I would spend the week adjudicating a speech and drama eisteddfod. I had tried not to let him see how sick I was feeling as I got ready to leave, but he knows me too well.

“You have a temperature of 40degrees. You are not driving anywhere”

“I don’t really have a choice. Literally 100s of kids and parents will be put out if I don’t go.”

“I’m worried that you could get delusional from your temperature. You can’t be driving. The people you are working for will just have to understand.”

I stopped arguing with the doctor, fetched my medication and got into the car to drive to Witbank. When you’re an actor there are no sick days. There’s no rescheduling the 100+ kids I had to see that day. And no one who was able to drive me to Witbank. And I had to go. I called my mom:

“Please call me ever 20 minutes or so. Just make sure I still know that I’m on the road.”

My mom wasn’t too worried.

“Even as a child you never convulsed from fever. You’re a fighter. We raised you that way.”

But she called every 20 minutes none the less to make sure that I was ok. To motivate me again for the next stretch and to tell me that I was stronger than I thought I was. Mauritz called as soon as he was out of his morning meeting. My left hand searched blindly for the call button on the steering wheel while my right hand held on to the door as I stuck my head out of the car where I had pulled off to rid myself of the berroca and oats Mauritz had tried to get me to eat before I left. About 15 minutes into my trip and I knew it was going to be a long drive. One of the longest.

As timing would have it, Mauritz phoned for the second time as I as pulled off on a traffic island or an of- ramp and was again throwing up. Clutching the car door so that it didn’t swing open with the passing traffic and desperately trying to keep the remainder of my hair clean. I could hear the concern as he listened to me heave over the blue-tooth speakers. The fever just had to break. But it didn’t.

I was half an hour late for the start of my session that afternoon. But I had booked into my guesthouse, I had fumbled through a shower and I had managed to drive myself all the way there. It was entirely prayer that got me there.

I was there, and I was somewhat ready to work.

The hall was silent as I walked from the back doors past parents and scholars to my table in the front. Everybody had been told that the adjudicator was very ill, but that she was on her way. The ladies in charge of the English speech and drama were visibly relieved at my presence, and just as visibly disconcerted by my pallor.

They had tried to arrange a stand in adjudicator so that I wouldn’t have to work that day. They hadn’t been able to find one, hence their relief when I actually showed up. They had been able to arrange a scribe and someone had run off to the pharmacy to get me every tablet that would break a fever and keep my food and the medication down. I wrapped myself in my blanket and worked until after 8 that evening.

By the time I got back to my room in the guest house, my fever had broken.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Hootchie-Pants Are Go!

Hot cop look is what the casting director wanted to see, according to the email. I mentally started building up the look in my head. Tight leather pants, a bomber jacket perhaps a pair of aviators. And then I saw the reference image. It was more Lara Croft that hot-cop. Maybe hot-stripper cop. The single reference image for wardrobe I, the discerning thespian, was supposed to wear was a girl in hot pants with boots and the single line “hot cop look”.

It’s still winter. It’s still cold here. I put on skin tight long pants with my boots. I figured most of the women at the audition would go the same way. Just before I left the house I threw a pair of my shortest denim shorts into my bag. Just in case. Just in case the other girls were also in tiny, tiny pants. In the winter.

And they were. I arrived to the audition in long pants, over the knee boots and a tank top underneath my jacket and thick knitted woolen scarf. The other girls were already in their hot pants. One had long pants on and was looking rather skeptically at her legs. I trotted off to the bathroom and put on my tiny shorts.

I grew up in leotards and swimming suits. I spent every afternoon of my childhood in lycra. That means that I really don’t care all that much about wearing skin tight clothing, or exposing some skin when it’s for the purposes of my work. So I’m not shy about wearing the tiny pants. But I also know I don’t have the stereotypical model body, and I would be standing next to models. Who were also wearing tiny shorts. So without bothering to look into the mirror, I had them on and I was out into the waiting area.

I didn’t have to wait long. We were herded in to start the audition.

“Now, I want to see hard-ass, then I want to see fun ass.”

It was a fun audition. More so than most. Especially since I went through to the next round of taped auditions which means I actually stand a chance of getting the role. But a small on the voice in my head had quite a laugh at my master’s degree in drama, when I was only required to shake my booty in hotpants and then look really tough.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Sing Through the Sniffles.

I haven’t had a good run with doctors in general this year. I’ve been MRI’d, gone back for results only to hear the doctor has no results for me, had a huge needle stuck into my knee and then had my knee operated. That was January to February. My physio was basically my closest friend for the first half of the year, and the last time I went to the doctor about a pain in my chest just wanting some anti-inflammatorys I was sent in for emergency blood tests, lung tests and an EKG.

The only thing that feels less like going to the doctor then me right now, is my medical aid. So when I started with a snivel, I decided to dose myself, get some rest and let my body fight it off. This weekend, I think my body stopped fighting. And I went down. As in, closed off half of our flat to keep me warm, wrapped in a blanket with a role of toilet paper down.

Which is all good and well, except for the fact that I have a huge audition next week. A singing audition, for which I need to prep two songs. On the piano. With no voice. Well, a cackling, crackling, toneless kind of voice. Fantastic if I was auditioning to be the cookie monster.

What my piano looks like right now.

I’ve performed sick before. It’s part of the job. I’ve performed on broken toes (I kid you not) and with sinuses so bad the doctor wanted to hospitalize me. You get your cortisone shot, or whatever you need to keep you going for the next few hours and off you go. And no one has more home remedies on how to get over a sore throat, flu, bronchitis, depression or a near death experience than a troupe of actors and a vocal coach. You can worry about recovering the next day. But when I desperately need the time to prepare to actually get the job? Well, that’s an entirely different story.

So the sheet music is spread on the piano, and I’m memorizing words and melodies. I'm marking pauses, ritardandos and working on dynamics. I’m drinking every effervescent tablet I can find in our house, mixing it with honey and apple cider vinegar and hoping that by Wednesday I can get the notes out. If those notes are pitched correctly, that would be a big win!

Monday, 1 August 2016


The intimidating “industry” has entered the quiet season. I’ve been quiet. I’ve also been away. I’ve been away to hot weather, humidity, swimming in the ocean at night and walking around at 2 and still feeling hot. I thought we had escaped the heart of winter back in South Africa.

Alas, the week that we arrived home Johannesburg was hit with winter rain (which we never get) and hailstorms (usually exclusively a December/January thing). It was cold. Colder for myself and Mauritz as we covered up our tans. And then the email for an audition comes.

I walked out of my house on Friday at 8:30 for my 9:30 audition. Now when you audition you want to look good. And by good I mean sleek. As sleek as possible. The camera is really an unforgiving friend. and casting directors usually only need seconds to decide, based solely on what you look like, if they want you for a callback or not. So I can’t wear tights under my jeans, or something under my shirt. I don't want extra bumps or lines. The casting director needs to see what I look like. What I do do though, is put on the thickest, warmest coat I can find which simultaneously won’t cause my hair to become static. I forage for a scarf preferably not made of wool (see jacket annotation) and anything that has a zip in the front that won’t ruin my hair or makeup. This means I left my house in a jacket that would protect against the cold and the rain (an unusual combination in Johannesburg) and a scarf around my neck that I could put around my feet while I’m waiting. 

When I arrived at the audition I had one of those golden moments. I picked up a form and before I could start to fill it out I was ushered into the audition space to be briefed on what I had to do. I started taking off my layers as I walked in. Upon arrival I was given a spoon and told I had to pretend to eat something.

I’ve eaten things in auditions before. It’s not the weirdest thing I’ve had to do. But when I looked down at the spoon it was covered in lipstick. Needless to say it wasn’t my shade. I looked up at the casting director. I think there was slight panic in my eyes. And also, I was trying not to shiver.

“Please don't actually put that spoon in your mouth though. Just pretend”