26 March 2008

How to avoid answering that question

Warning - if you have delicate sensibilities, you might want to stop reading after the word "whew." Just a suggestion. Because mental images? They could form.

I am not a smoker. I did smoke some clove cigarettes in college because I thought that they smelled nice and (probably) because I thought that they were cool. And because I thought that they weren't really cigarettes.*

So to prep for Agnes, I am taking "smoking class" with one of my co-workers, which is the source of much conversation around the office. (Possibly the only thing that I could do to evoke more comment would be to get pregnant. And, no, I'm not willing to do that for my art.) The cigarettes that I am using for the show - in compliance with the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act, are tobacco and nicotine-free. They are made from "lotus leaf, corn silk, licorice root, and plant extracts and essences," and, according to my co-worker, smell and taste worse than actual cigarettes. They also have health warnings on them because they are still a lung irritant-delivery system.

Every day for the next few weeks, I'll go downstairs with my co-worker when she takes her 3:00 break and we will hang outside the back door and smoke together. Yesterday I learned not to smoke like a novelty item, and every day in every way I'll get better and better.**

So, as I say, this is the source of much interest around the office. One of my bosses has offered to teach me to chew tobacco should it ever be necessary for a role (uhm.... thank you?) and today we had this exchange:

You don't have to inhale, do you?

Yeah. It's a hundred-seat house, so fake smoking looks like fake smoking which is distracting.

So is that the most unsavory thing you've had to do on-stage?

Uhm... no.

Oh?

Yeah. And one of our co-workers saw that show. And told me I did a good job.

(pause)

You're blushing, so I think I won't ask any more questions.


Whew.

Because I cannot come up with a scenario where I explain the (fully dressed) fake oral sex that I had on stage during Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead without both of us being weirded out for the rest of the day. Minimum.


*They are real cigarettes. With oil of clove sprayed on the tobacco. And no filter. How I was ever admitted to an institution of higher learning remains a mystery.

**Émile Coué -- Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux

4 comments:

Average Person said...

Oh, my dear sweet Leta. First, let me commend you on your dedication to your art. As a former smoker, having to teach non-smokers to smoke on stage gives me terrible pains in my ass. Terrible. The fact that you said that you can now not treat the cigarette as a novelty, well, "You've Come a Long Way" as Virginia Slims would have said. As a HIGHLY critical person, I would notice faking and guffaw everytime I saw it, which at the Arts Barn is a little .. noticeable.

If your office likes this, wait till you have to find handicapped people on the street to mimic their gestures in order to be more realistic in a role. That's my personal favorite. (You know, just cause they have a white cane doesn't mean that they don't know your following them.)

Megan said...

Well as a past Agnes participant I think smoking lessions are a great idea!!! Poor Lori I made her take home cigarettes and practice...mean director:) I'm sad I won't get to see you in the show!!!

aquazoo said...

For the acting scene (it was just for class, not an actual play) I would smoke a cigarette down halfway and then put it out on the floor. The funny thing was the other girl in the class scrambling to grab that half-cigarette afterwards and gently putting it back in the pack for later.

Oh, we were keee-razy kidz! And later I found out that the other classes doing that scene just pantomimed the smoking.

aquazoo said...

Drat, the above ate my opening paragraph! It went something like this: Back in High School, I was a theatre geek and my neighbor, Carol, taught me how to smoke. We would practice as we went to school together on my dinosaur. I did it for acting class, really!!