----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: The Big Flop

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Big Flop

At the end of October, I was cast in a murder mystery. "Why are you just now sharing this fabulous story?" you may ask. Well, because it doesn't exactly have a fabulous ending.

Before I got this part, my experience with murder mysteries was severely limited. Once, when I was visiting Washington, D.C. with my mom, we went to see a play called Shear Madness. It was set in a hair salon, and one of the characters had perpetrated this crime, and the twist was the the audience got to vote on who they thought did it. It was pretty funny. Then, for a friend's birthday one year, a big group of us went to see a murder mystery in the San Diego area. That was a big mistake. It was in a restaurant that clearly used to be a Denny's, and the murder mystery started at, like, 5:00, so we were there with all the senior citizen early-bird special diners. The show was incredibly hokey, and the food was even worse than what you would find at Denny's. This was the first time that Mr. Pink had met all my friends, and for some reason, he decided to order the veggie pasta instead of chicken. He's not even a vegetarian. Anyway, that turned out to be the biggest mistake of the night. What he got was spaghetti with a can of Veg-All dumped on top. Totally unappetizing. The chicken was dry, but edible. For dessert, we had red Jell-O topped with Redi-Wip. The actors were all playing gamely along, but the show was just silly. I felt kind of sorry for them.

So, fast-forward to my experience as a player in a murder mystery. I had some trepidation, but I was going to get paid, so I figured, how bad could it be. Well, it wasn't quite as bad as the San Diego production, but it was close. The first time we did it was for a group of students up at Sonoma State. At first, they seemed to be pretty into it. My character's name was "Helen Hywater" and I was mingling with the crowd and getting some laughs. But as soons as the free food was gone (spaghetti--no Veg-All, though), the students fled. So, we were left playing to a half-empty, exceedingly brightly-lit room. And it was sort of a ludicrous script about dueling archeological societies. I did, however, get paid at the end of the night, and it wasn't a bad fee for a couple of hours' work.

The next time the guy called me, he said we were going to do the same show, but it would be even better because we had already practiced it once. And, we were booked for three consecutive shows, which meant a nice chunk of change for me. So, I agreed to do it again. This time, things went terribly awry.

First of all, the audience was made up almost entirely of men. Now, I know I can't speak for all men, but in my experience, men don't willingly go to see murder mysteries. They usually go because their wives or girlfriends drag them along. Second of all, all these men were computer geeks, all in town for some big conference. So, they had been taking seminars all day and were just looking forward to drinking and relaxing with their buddies at dinner. The murder mystery was presented as a "fun surprise," so none of them even knew what they were in for. Also, there were guys there from all over the world, so many of them didn't speak the best English. Finally, one of the cast members didn't show up. Ever. We had to get one of the banquet staffers to read her part. First, the staffers wanted me to do it, but in a character-driven murder mystery, where someone is supposed to be the guilty party, it's a little tricky for one person to play two parts.

Anyway, at least the food was better this time, and the lights were kept lower, so it wasn't quite as obvious when the crowd slowly started filtering out the exits. At intermission, one person at my table said, "Intermission is French for cocktail!" and off he went, never to be seen again. There was a raffle with cool gadget-y prizes at the end of the night, and you had to be present to win, but even that wasn't enough to get people to stick it out. For some of the prizes, they had to draw three or four names just to find someone who was still in the room!

The next day, we all got an email saying that the rest of the performances had been cancelled. We weren't supposed to be paid until the third performance, but luckily, I had taken the producer up on his offer of a partial advance. So, at least I was paid for one night's performance. But I don't know if I can suffer the humiliation again. And a big part of the problem is with the script. I mean, honestly, who cares about archeology? A sex scandal or something, now that would be motive for murder. But archeology, not so much.

So, a word of warning...if someone offers to take you to see a murder mystery, get all the details first. Some can be good. And copious amounts of liquor will probably help, so, at the bare minimum, make sure alcohol will be served.


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