Sunday, December 18, 2011

Please Pass the Emmy

Quote of the blog:

One of my bosses: I don’t hire actresses if I can help it.


Somewhere in my parent’s house is a newspaper clipping with a picture of me and another girl in college. Underneath the picture are our names and a short article. I never dreamed that article would cause a mini-scandal.

One fall semester in college I took a “Theater in Elementary Course.” It was a great class – we made puppets and put on puppet shows, read books, and put on skits in various elementary schools around Utah County. We were a small class with only eight or nine students; one of whom was Becca. Now, if you ever meet Becca you’ll remember her. She’s well-spoken, well-traveled, and has a great sense of humor. She also has Downs Syndrome and is quite accomplished.

Sometime in October, Becca and I and a few others in class were assigned to do a short performance of Little Red Riding Hood at a nearby elementary school. I was to play Little Red and Becca was assigned the part of the wolf.

Now, none of our performances (so far) had been high stress. It’s not like these sweet students were throwing tomatoes, booing us off stage or heckling or even criticizing. I never overheard a six year old say, “You know, I found her reading of Strega Nona, quite lacking…” I never threw down “Joyful Noise” and yelled, “I can’t work in these conditions! If you need me, I’ll be in my trailer!” Which would have been tricky because I didn’t even have one. I suppose I could have sulked in my car... The kids usually paid pretty good attention to our (largely improvisational) performances and cheered enthusiastically when we finished. I think the poor little dears were so happy for a break from the regular routine that they would have been an supportive audience even if we were pretty bad - but let’s ignore that as a possibility.

On the big day of the little performance we gathered in class. We had run through the skit once but were confident in what some of us - bolstered by the encouragement of cheering children - may have deemed as our improvisational genius. We grabbed our props and were ready to head to the elementary school when Becca made an announcement: her mother was so proud of her doing all these performances in the schools that she had contacted the local paper and they were coming to write an article on the performance and take some photos. All of a sudden people were fixing hair and double-checking flies and makeup. I tried to find a happy place and channel my inner Little Red Riding Hood. We were nervous but the show must go on! And it did.

The guy from the newspaper showed up, took pictures, asked a few questions and left. A month later a picture of Becca and me showed up in the newspaper. Becca was a snarling wolf and I was a scared Little Red. The caption listed our names and something like “...perform for an elementary class at O- Elementary School.” The actual article was about Becca and how she was working on her theater degree and how much she had accomplished and exceeded expectations and doctor’s predictions, etc. It was quite inspiring. We clipped it out and put it in a box.

Now, for a good portion of my time in college I worked as a hostess/server at Outback Steakhouse in Orem, Utah. I really liked that job. And the winter of my elementary acting debuts (accurate in all it’s meanings) was a winter that I missed our annual Outback Holiday party. When I returned to work I noticed that someone had cut out the article and photo and posted it on the employee board in the back of the house (ie. In the kitchen at Outback). I was a little embarrassed but secretly a little pleased that someone had noticed.

My little embarrassed and secretly pleased turned into hugely embarrassed and publicly displeased soon after.

It was the beginning of the shift and things were slow so Matt, one of the servers at the restaurant I’d worked with for a few years, came up to the hostess stand to catch up. We chatted about our holidays and then he said, ‘Brook, I didn’t know that you did volunteer work with Down Syndrome kids. That’s really cool.” I was a bit surprised, but thought of the picture and said, “Oh, that’s just a picture of me and a girl from a class at school, I don’t do volunteer work with kids with down syndrome.” *smile. *shrug.

Matt narrowed his eyes and arched an eyebrow at me. “Wait. You don’t do volunteer work with Down Syndrome kids?”

Me, “Um. What? No, that’s just a picture from a class we have together.” And I told him how we performed Little Red Riding Hood for the first graders.

Matt started laughing and leaned over the hostess stand to share what was so amusing. Apparently, during the Holiday Party, the manager gave a toast to all the great people that worked at Outback. Then he held up the article and said, “Take Brook for example. She volunteers to work with Down Syndrome children and hasn’t even ever told any of us about it. This is the kind of person she is. I hope you all take time to read this article that I’m going to post on the employee board.”

I think I inadvertently let out a horrified “EEP!!” when Matt finished. He found the situation funny but seemed a bit exasperated with our manager who had used me and my (non-existent) altruistic service with Down Syndrome kids as an example– like the Father who tells his son, “can’t you be more like Jimmy?” When you find out Jimmy was a fake! My jaw dropped. Who would have known that one of my most inspiring roles was a part I never even played.