I used to work at a post production company. We edited trailers, did post production on low-budget feature films and various other things. One thing we would occasionally do is cut actor reels. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a compilation of little scenes an actor has done which they send out to agents or casting directors who might want a sample of work before working with someone. Tom Cruise doesn’t need one but the woman who plays a waitress against him probably does. Or at least, did in the olden days. I don’t know if they still make them now that everything is digital.
An actress who may or may not have been named Sydney, I don’t remember, was in our office having her reel cut. She was close to me in age, early 20s. She was slender and short. Tiny like many actresses or aspiring actresses. She had long red hair. But the most memorable thing about her was her catch phrase. Right on. “Do you want something to drink?” “Right on.” “I just need to hook up a different drive in this room.” “Right on.”
I wasn’t doing any specific work on her reel, but I’m sure it was my job to make copies of it for her when it was done. We chatted periodically when she would step out of the editing room. We got along well and she invited me to go with her to an acting class that week.
It’s always nice to make new friends, to quote Giselle in Enchanted. Maybe I’d learn something. Maybe I was making a new friend. It was free for me to sit in, so I agreed to join her. Then she told me it was in Santa Monica.
If you aren’t from LA, or haven’t spent much time here, you don’t know the horror of getting invited to an event “over the hill” from where you live. I lived in Glendale, over the hill from the office, which was in Hollywood. There was no point in me going home after work and then heading to Santa Monica because I’d never make it to Santa Monica in time, even though it is only about 25 miles away. At rush hour, that could be a three-hour drive. Work ended at six and the class started at eight. Driving there, finding it and parking would all take time. There was no such thing as GPS or map app on the phone. There was something called a Thomas Guide, which was a giant book of maps of Los Angeles that everyone kept in their cars.
I probably stopped to grab fast-food and headed out to the beach. I managed to find the place and find parking and still get to the class on time. The class took place in a small theater, with the audience seats rising up toward the back walls, so the audience looked down on the stage. I found Sydney. That night, everyone in the class was presenting monologues. Sydney’s turn came up.
“My vagina is angry,” she started. It was from the Vagina Monologues which burst onto the scene a few years earlier in 1996. Sydney was supposed to finish her lackluster performance and then remain on the stage while the teacher gave her notes.
She didn’t get very far before the teacher interrupted her. He wasn’t buying it. She had to start over. “My vagina is angry.” And over. “My vagina is angry.” And over. “My vagina is angry.” Until, finally, she started to cry. She wasn’t really connecting with the material, written by a woman in her 40s. The teacher told her to either keep working on it or present something different next time.
She must have been the last person to go, because she came back into the seats and sat beside me. She wasn’t done crying. By now it was late, anyway, so I went home. I don’t know if we talked about getting a snack after the class or not, but there was no way Sydney was doing anything that night but cry.
I don’t remember seeing her again. We didn’t become friends. She’s got to be in her 40s by now, so maybe she can finally understand that monologue. I was not inspired to be an actress or take an acting class, but I’ll never forget the one class I sat in on.