I Think I’m Feeling Very Chinatown

There’s been an Asian theme running through my week.
First, I thought I had found a great new way to get to rehearsal. I looked on a map and it looked like a subway that was unknown to me called Chrystie Street was closer.
So, next time I go to rehearsal I get off there. Now, Cranky cannot tell north or south for at least three minutes after getting off any subway. This train left me off at an intersection I had never seen in my life. I felt like the train had entered a vortex and gone through the center of the earth and come out in China. Like when I was a kid and I thought you could dig your way to China on the beach.
The sidewalks were packed with a lot of Chinese people in a hurry and one slow moving confused looking Caucasian. There were mounds of fish piled on wooden stands. Scary carcasses in the windows. And crowds and crowds of people. Not the tourist land Chinatown of knick-knacks and restaurants. Nope.
I wasn’t sure which way to walk. “All the buildings look alike.” I thought. So I picked a direction and started walking. When I had a feeling I was going in the wrong direction, I asked a man on the sidewalk, “Excuse me, which way is Little Italy?” And then I immediately felt horrible. Is if OK to ask a Chinese man in Chinatown the way to Little Italy? Are they in competition? Was he thinking, “What’s wrong? Chinese food not good enough for you?” Of course I thought of all this AFTER I had opened my mouth. So he pointed in the direction I was already going, thus adding five more blocks of going in the wrong direction until I finally wised up. Thanks Mr. Man On The Sidewalk. You got me back. So, I arrived at rehearsal huffing and puffing and fifteen minutes late.
Then, yesterday, I had tea with an actress friend and she told me that she’d been asked to do a reading of a screenplay and the director wants her to read the role of an Asian woman. Huh? She is as WASPY as they get. “Why?” I asked. “The director said he couldn’t find an Asian actress,” she said. “In all of New York City?” I asked. “Well, he’s won awards for his filmmaking.” She said he had won an award called THE GOLDEN BALLS or something in Cannes.

She was told that she would be reading for the wife role and when she got to the rehearsal he switched her to the Asian woman. “Do you think I can do it?” she asked. “Can you wear pointy sunglasses?” I answered. “The days of Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi are way over.”

“What are you gonna get out of this?” I said. “You know I’m glad I’m talking about this,” she said, “When I was there a couple of times I felt like I should have left. But I’ve been convincing myself that it was OK.”

This is what we do ALL the time. Your gut says NO. But your actor self hates to turn down any opportunity no matter how disturbing or annoying it its. This is why actors need other actor friends to talk then down from these situations. Because when you feel that way, no good is gonna come out it. She is not gonna get cast as the Asian woman when he makes the film.
Maybe someone should start a hotline for actors. Actor’s Anonymous. It could be staffed by other actors. I could just imagine it. “THEY WANT ME TO BRING TEN CHANGES OF CLOTHES AND I HAVE TO SLEEP IN THE PARK AND PAY MY OWN CARFARE.” “Just say no,” says the person on the helpline.

3 Responses to “I Think I’m Feeling Very Chinatown”

  1. 1 dramaqueen June 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I can totally relate to not turning people down on the tiniest hope (or even big promises from the person seeking help) that something will come of it. Your friend’s type of experience is unfortunately, not uncommon.

    I think it stems from the belief that any chance to act is still “a chance to act”, no matter the time, money or effort it takes. This is still an industry where “paying your dues” means working for free (and in some pretty unsettling or uncomfortable environments). In a lot of cases, it costs the actor to actually get the chance to act, versus the actor getting paid.

    Of course, we keep on doing it because we enjoy (almost) an opportunity to act.

  2. 2 TheManInTheYellowHat June 24, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Love the hotline idea. I know I’d use it! It would save all that turmoil time during the “Do I really want to be associated with this” phase. Now I know that if I’m on the fence about something and can’t seem to easily fall one way or another – it’s a no. Hope some Asian actresses are reading this – then again, what’s with the guy that he couldn’t fine one?!

  3. 3 senior Pathwords Partner June 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Confucius say: The path between Chrystie and Mulberry is an arduous one. Choose it, and ye shall be one smelly step closer to Buddha.

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June 2009

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