We're nearing the end of the audition process for Dragon's Breath. It's been wonderful having so many talented people come to us wanting to be a part of the show. And it's been incredibly moving having such positive feedback from the auditioning actors. The people we've called back to read for us have been complementary towards the script, and their enthusiasm has been clear in their performances. And even as our EPAs were in progress, we were being discussed by actors on websites such as Audition Update, who proclaimed us a friendly pair of auditioners.
Of course, this kind of real-time discussion on social media has...consequences. You see, when we were holding our EPAs, we had large chunks of time slots for which union performers had not signed up, and we were able to see many non-union performers (who often wait patiently for an entire day without ever being seen). When the word got out that we were seeing everybody that we could, it opened the floodgates to all manner of folks who ordinarily NEVER attend such auditions, who had spied a chance for their work to be seen at last. And some of these folks did indeed find themselves in the mix of people we've called back, and are considering for roles in our show.
And some of these folks did not. Some of these folks were...different.
Towards the end of our auditioning day, a willowy young man in a purple T-shirt strolled into the center of the studio. It would have been customary for him to perform a monologue at this point - something from a published play, or perhaps a film, which allowed him to perform a character in the two minutes he had with us.
This is not what he did.
In somewhat halting, broken English, he improvised an odd psychodrama in which he was arguing with somebody over a cell phone - about what was never clear. Periodically, he would be put on hold - as happens all the time in heated arguments - and when that happened, he would become enraptured by the on-hold music. The willowy man in the purple T-shirt then proceeded to dance in the center of the room and sing along to a version of "Purple Rain" that existed only in his head.
At least I think it was dancing.
And then he did it again. And again. For two minutes. Random, impossible-to-understand argument, made up off the top of the man's head, punctuated by moments of interpretive dance set to a cracked karaoke version of "Purple Rain."
We were fascinated. We couldn't shake the feeling that we'd stumbled upon some sort of brilliant, Andy Kaufman-esque bit of anti-performance that would be hailed as genius in twenty years' time. So we asked if he had any background in improv, sketch comedy, or the like.
He told us that he sometimes dressed up as the Donkey from Shrek for childrens' parties.
Now, it was clear at this point that this person was simply lost at sea. Someone who had seen too many of the early-round-audition episodes from American Idol, and had become convinced the sideshow parades which that show traffics in were somehow the accepted performance norm. And as auditioners, it was clear what our accepted role was at this point. We were supposed to be upset that our time had been wasted. And now we had a bonafide audition horror story - which the bloodsport of reality performance competition has trained us all to respond to with mocking laughter.
But I don't want to mock the Purple Man - for so we've come to call him. I'm writing this to praise him.
Because life is short. Most of us are too worn down by our worries and responsibilities to indulge even as mild a fantasy as the Dance of the Purple Man. And even in the arts, supposedly a bastion of the weird and the eccentric, the demands of the business usually precludes anything truly strange from ever happening. There are too many people judging us for something that gloriously insane to make it through the cracks. And after years of being politely ignored by casting interns, even the weirdest get worn down by the sheer futility of it. They get upset at the waste of time, too. And life becomes more prosaic, day by day, as time marches steadily on.
But for two glorious minutes, one sunny afternoon in June, the Purple Man got to sway and dance to music only he could hear and make sounds he thought were singing, as all eyes in the room were upon him.
And sometimes, maybe that's enough.