This weekend I concluded one of the weirder acting jobs I'll ever have, playing a role in the Simi Valley Ghost Tour, an historical re-enactment-cum-haunted house at a park just 3 miles north of the Regan Library.
DE ANZA: Nonsense.
PARROT: At least when you talk, my lips don't move!
If the applause didn't kick in at that point, I had "You don't even HAVE lips" waiting as a backup.
So in practice, the gig was like this: A tour is admitted into the park. At this point, I wait because as station 11 I was at least an hour away from my first performance. Eventually the crowd would arrive at the barn across from my gazebo, which still meant 20 more minutes, and from then on I could watch Krishnaventa, the crazed cult leader to see how the crowd might be for my scene. On a typical night I would do the scene 8-15 times to groups of varying enthusiasm.
It occurred to me that the gig kind of approximates the experience of being an actual ghost: stuck in the same place, forced to perform the same actions for what seems like an eternity.
I haven't had to do a dual act by myself since high school, and you know what? It gets lonely up there. If I forget my lines I got no one to prompt me. Periodically I would make a mistake and have the parrot correct me, or the other way around. After a while I relished those kinds of errors because it livened up the scene for me. I never made them on purpose though because people can tell.
It wasn't all isolation though; each scene was introduced by a local junior high school kid, and they hung out with me at the gazebo between scenes unless they hung our somewhere else. They were like a pack of energy-drink-fueled wolves, roaming around the park. I learned probably a little more about 13-year-olds than I really wanted to know. For one thing, all the girls like Philip* but they don't LIKE him.
I'm pleased to report that it was a paying gig and I did get paid. Not only that, but... well, at some point one of the other actors suggested I should get twice the pay because I was playing two parts. I laughed it off but in fact, they did give me a bonus. It wasn't twice, but it wasn't nothin' either. And next year the organizers tell me they are going to keep the concept of a ventriloquist act for that scene, because I guess it worked. Kudos to me for not ruining Juan Bautista De Anza's (and Pequito's) big night!
*name changed to protect "Philip"