English/Communication Department / Orchard Ridge Campus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David James' Home Page

 

SO YOU WANNA BE AN ACTRESS?

(a one-act play)

 

CHARACTERS:

 

R.J.: a small time director hired to mentor JEANIE. Once he was big; now he canít find a job with any respectable theatre company.

JEANIE: actress wanna-be who, after losing her mother, has decided to go to New York and become a stage star

 

SETTING:

JEANIEíS living room in her apartment

 

RJ:

Okay, so letís get started.  You want to be a famous actress. I am your director and weíre going to make this happen.  If youíre going to make it up on the silver stage, you must do everything I say.  Everything.

 

JEANIE:

Got it.

RJ:

Do you have the check?

 

JEANIE:

Right here.  Cashierís check, like you said.

 

RJ:

Excellent.  This buys you a one-week intensive, 24-7, acting blitz.  We eat together, act together, drink together, smoke together, sleep together, shower together.  Weíll get you ready for the big stage by next Saturday, or my name isnít . . .

JEANIE:

Do we really have to . . .

 

RJ:

Yes.  I am the professional here, remember.  Iím the one with credits off-off-Broadway, the one whose done summer theatre.

 

JEANIE:

But I donít smoke.

 

RJ:

You will learn, my dear.  Now, letís practice the ďentering the apartment in a depressed moodĒ scene.  This is very versatile.  For some unknown reason, playwrights love this scene.  Okay, this is a little test.  Letís see what youíve got: come in the door and sit on the couch, depressed.

(JEANIE leaves and enters, turns her head to the audience, and sits on the couch.  She puts her chin in her hands and makes a sad face.  All this is done very amateurishly.)

 

RJ:

How much did you pay me?  I need another thousand, right now. 

 

JEANIE:

Was I that good?

 

RJ:

Write the check, write the check, come on, come on.  Okay, now letís try that again.  This time, donít act like a frigging cartoon character.  Pretend . . . pretend your mother has just died . . .

 

JEANIE:

But she just did, remember?  Thatís why I came to New York.  (JEANIE cries.)

RJ:

Yes! Thatís good, but youíre jumping ahead.  Crying is usually on day three.  Try to walk in and do what you did right after you heard your mother died from a terrible disease.

 

JEANIE:

Breast cancer.

 

RJ:

No, make it decapitation in a car accident. 

 

(JEANIE cries and leaves.  She enters, crying, slumped shoulders, shuffles to the couch and falls onto it, crashing to the floor.)

RJ:

Much better.  That could pass as real.  Next time, try to stay on the couch.  Itís ďover the topĒ when you fall on the floor.  Try it again.

(JEANIE cries.  Comes in, shuffles to the couch, falls on it, sobbing.)

 

RJ:

Now sit up and blow your nose.  Donít look at me.  Concentrate.  Keep your focus straight ahead.  Think of your mother in extreme pain.

(JEANIE sobs louder.)

 

RJ:

Good, good.  Now, pick up the phone, pretend to dial, and ask for Roger.

 

JEANIE:

Whoís Roger?

 

RJ:

Your lover.  Go on.  Focus.

JEANIE:

Is Roger there?

RJ:

Good.  Now tell him you need him.

 

JEANIE:

I need you.

RJ:

Tell him youíre going crazy.

 

JEANIE:

Iím going crazy.

 

RJ:

Tell him youíre in such a state that you must have him, you must feel his skin on your skin, body against body.  You have to drive out the memory of death and replace it with human compassion.

 

JEANIE:

(looks stunned) I want you to make love to me?

 

RJ:

Itís not a question!  Itís an assertion!  An assertion of life!

 

JEANIE:

Get over here and screw my eyes out.

 

RJ:

Too crude.  Be romantic, but direct.

JEANIE:

I need you, now.  I must have you, in the biblical sense.

RJ:

Close, but it doesnít quite work.  Say youíre starving for love.

 

JEANIE:

Youíre starving for love.

 

RJ:

No, ďIím starving for love.Ē

 

JEANIE:

Sorry.  No, Iím starving for love.

 

RJ:

Youíre my only hope.

 

JEANIE:

Iím your only hope.

 

RJ:

No, no. Cut.  This isnít working.

 

JEANIE:

Maybe I should take my blouse off.  (Pause.)

 

RJ:

That might work.  Do you usually take your blouse off when youíre depressed?

JEANIE:

No, but Iím wearing a push-up bra.  It might spice up the moment, you know.

 

RJ:

Tell you what, letís save that for the bedroom scene later tonight.  Right now, letís move on to some improvisation.  The key here, Jeanie, is to ďtransportĒ yourself into whatever scene we work on.  You make up your character as you go along.  So, I enter as a burned-out factory worker and you pretend to be my whore of a wife, or my mistress addicted to coke, or my high school sweetie whose weight has ballooned to 220 after having six kids.  You get to choose, see.  Thatís improv.

 

JEANIE:

But which one should I be?  Iím not overweightÖ

 

RJ:

You donít have to BE overweight, you have to ACT it.  Youíre an actor.  You become other people, live other lives.  You could be a plumber, a lesbian, a president . . .

 

JEANIE:

So Iím no longer JeanieÖ

 

RJ:

Your job is to ďtransformĒ Jeanie into other people.  Think of it as ďwhat if.Ē  What if you were 400 pounds?  What would you feel like?  What would you say?  How would you walk?  Fart?  Belch?

 

JEANIE:

I have to do all that?

RJ:

No, but you have to think about it to portray the woman.  Ready, Iíll start.

(RJ leaves and enters as a factory worker, throwing stuff down.)

RJ:

Mildred?  Whatís for supper?  Iím frigging starving.

 

JEANIE:

(pretends to be fat, puffed cheeks, arms held out at the sides) Why RJ, you know I canít move off the couch.

 

RJ:

Listen, bitch, when I get home after sweating for 10 hours, breaking my back in 100 degree heat, I want my supper.

 

JEANIE:

But . . .

 

RJ:

No damn butís.  Yours is so big you could but all day long and never lose five pounds.  Now, get me a cold beer.

 

JEANIE:

BBBBe glad to.

(JEANIE gets up with difficulty, walks bow-legged over to fridge, gets beer and gives it to RJ.)

 

JEANIE:

Iíll order a pizza just the way you like it.  How about that?

 

RJ:

Get out of my way.  I canít see the football game.

 

JEANIE:

Oh, how are the Lugnuts doing?

RJ:

Lugnuts?

 

JEANIE:

Do they have any homeruns yet?

RJ:

You are one pathetic, fat bitch, you know that?

JEANIE:

Am I really that good?  Really?

 

RJ:

Cut. Cut.  Jeanie, you have to stay in character.

 

JEANIE:

Oh, Iím sorry.  I thought you were giving me a compliment.  Iíll never get this.

 

RJ:

Look, itís day one.  This is to be expected.  Itís not like you will ďget thisĒ instantly.  Acting takes practice.  It takes focus.  It takes drive.  By Saturday, youíll be better than Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, and Meryl Streep all put together.

 

JEANIE:

Youíre just saying that to make me feel better.

 

RJ:

Did it?

 

JEANIE:

Yes.

RJ:

Acting!  The power to alter moods, ideas, behavior all by using the ďinstrument of the body.Ē   That was pretty good for a first time.  Letís go to stage two, which puts a different kind of pressure on you.  In this scene, you are in charge and I ďrespond/feed offĒ your character.  Iím the boss in my office, and youíre meeting with me to ask for a raise.  Okay?  Okay.  Stand there.  5, 6, 7, 8, go.

 

JEANIE:

Knock, knock.

 

RJ:

Come in.

 

JEANIE:

Hello, Mr. R.J. . . Cheapskate.

 

RJ:

Yeah, what is it?  Iím pretty busy here.

 

JEANIE:

As you know, Iíve worked for Ö Badpay, Inc. for seven years and Iíve never had a raise.  Never.

 

RJ:

So?

JEANIE:

Well, I think itís about time, you know.  I need more money.

(RJ laughs loudly.)

JEANIE:

Mr. Cheapskate, why are you laughing?

RJ:

You got me with that one.  Very funny.

 

JEANIE:

No, Iím serious.  I need a raise. I must have a raise, or else.

 

RJ:

Or else what?

 

JEANIE:

Or else, Iíll, Iíll, Iíll kill you.

 

RJ:

Miss Flatliner, is that a threat?

 

JEANIE:

No, itís a promise.  You either give me 25 cents more an hour, or youíll be six feet under by next Tuesday.

RJ:

But. . .

JEANIE:

No butís.  This is between you and me, and Iíll expect to see that raise, or else.  Mark my words, Cheapskate.  (JEANIE leaves.)

 

RJ:

But . . .

 

JEANIE:

Howíd I do?

RJ:

My girl, youíre coming alive there.  Youíre showing some potential now.

 

JEANIE:

It felt good to be another person.  I never talk that way, normally.

 

RJ:

But thatís acting: pretending to be someone else until youíre not sure who you are.  The best actors are frigging robots, really. 

Okay, letís try one more improv before a dinner break.  This will stretch your imaginative powers.

In this scene, I will play your lover, asking for your hand in marriage.  Letís see what kind of sexual energy you can muster.  You sit on the couch and Iíll enter the room.

(JEANIE lays seductively on the couch.  RJ enters.)

 

RJ:

Carla, we need to talk.

 

JEANIE:

What is it?

(RJ sits on the couch and JEANIE snuggles up to him, putting one hand between his legs.)

 

RJ:

I was wondering . . .

 

JEANIE:

I adore you.  No, I worship you.  No, I love you with all my heart and soul.  Kiss me. 

(They kiss passionately.)

 

RJ:

Wait a minute.

 

JEANIE:

What?

RJ:

You canít do that.

 

JEANIE:

Weíve done a lot more than that, my love.

 

RJ:

No, I mean . . .

JEANIE:

You want me, you know it.  And Iím ready for you.  I can already feel you deep inside me.  Iíll swallow you whole.  Take me.

 

RJ:

Cut.

 

JEANIE:

You can cut, slice, strip, do whatever you want.  Iím still all yours. Feel this throbbing heart.  (She puts his hand on her breast.)

RJ:

Oh god.  (They kiss while he unbuckles his belt to his pants.  Jeanie stands up abruptly.)

 

JEANIE:

So, how was that?

RJ:

How was what?

JEANIE:

How did I do?  Acting?

 

RJ:

Oh, fair.  You lost me there for a minute, but thatís something we can work on later, before bed.  Okay, well, Jeanie, I think weíre off to an excellent start.  Letís take a dinner break.

 

JEANIE:

I really do love you.

 

RJ:

You do?

 

JEANIE:

Come here.  (They kiss long but then JEANIE breaks away.)

 

JEANIE:

Cut and take.  Did you feel it?  Wow, just like it was real.  I love this acting crap.  Thanks, RJ.  Iíll see you at 7:00 then, after dinner?  Bye.  (She leaves.)

 

RJ:

But Jeanie . . .  (He notices his belt undone and rebelts as the lights go out.)

 

 

 

So You Wanna Be An Actress?

(a one-act play by David James)

 

 

David James

P.O. Box 721

Linden, MI 48451

(810) 735-4547

dljames@oaklandcc.edu

 

 

 

 

David James teaches English for Oakland Community College.  His most recent chapbook of poems is titled I WILL PEEL THIS MASK OFF, published by March Street Press, 2004.  His one-act plays have been produced off-Broadway in New York, at the Nantucket Theatre in Massachusetts and in Michigan.

Copyright: 2004

 

 

mmmm

 

 

 

 

Return to top of page