Monday, November 9, 2009

Another Rx, another show

I well remember my acting days.

That’s chiefly because there’s not much to remember and because I’ve never really been an actor.

In high school, my fellow students and I would sometimes perform plays during English class, just sitting at our desks. And I enjoyed that.

And I’ve sometimes wished I’d been born long enough ago to be an actor during the Golden Age of Radio, where all you had to do was stand at a mike and read from a script – no memorization required! (The older I get, the more difficult it is for me to memorize lines – or anything else.)

Now … where was I?

Oh, yes, acting.

Although I enjoyed reading parts from my desk in school, and although I appeared to be fairly decent at it (though it’s hard to know for sure as the school’s policy strictly prohibited the throwing of foodstuffs), when it came to acting on stage, where I had to know what to say, when to say it, where to move, when to move, whether to say something and move at the same time without bumping into someone or something ….

You get the idea. Let’s just say that if Stanislavski had directed me, his book would have been titled “An Actor Despairs.”

Do I ever get a hankering to practice the thespian craft these days?


But when I need to test my acting chops, I don’t go to the Actors Studio. (Not that I haven’t tried, but as far as I know, James Lipton still has an injunction against me.)

Nor do I visit a community theater group to “show them how it’s done.”

No, when I want a quick workout, there’s one place where I can always go:

The prescription counter at the neighborhood drugstore.

Every once in a while I go there, and we do a very brief one-act play. There’s little in the way of blocking, not a lot to memorize, and it’s the same thing every time – kind of a pharmaceutical Kabuki.

It goes something like this (as comedians used to say)….

CLERK: Name?

ME: Murphy, Mark.

(CLERK walks over to a set of shelves and spends up to 20 seconds looking around before turning to me.)

CLERK: Did you just drop this off?

ME: No, I called it in to your automated phone line yesterday morning.

(CLERK leaves the shelves, walks over to a computer, presses some keys and looks concerned. Then the CLERK walks over to a box, searches that, talks one or two people, goes over to a second set of shelves and searches that, then returns to the first set of shelves and searches the exact same section that was searched before.)

CLERK (with a note of triumph that would make Archimedes bow his head in shame): Got it!

… This is basically it, though the script does allow for minor improvisations, bits of business, etc. For example, if the clerk is a guy he might address me as “buddy,” even though calling our relationship an acquaintanceship would be at most somewhat of a stretch.

I wish I could say that we adjourned to Sardi’s afterward to await the reviews, but one is so pressed for time these days, although once in a while the head pharmacist does have us stay for a bit so he can give us notes.

But as it is, it’s a heady enough experience – the roar of the Bengay, the smell of the Muzak!

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