These days I’m generally consumed by quotidian pursuits, like instructing the very young in the art of mandarin peeling, (‘stick your thumb in the top. It won’t bite’). Or sending out wrong emails to people, reminding them to attend  unscheduled events.


In fact it’s so long ago I did something inspired I can’t actually remember. So when I last showed up yesterday, sporting a hint of lippy and clutching the well-worn pages of a scene it felt like a rapid left turn from the mundane and straight into a fun park.


The screen test, plucked as it was from the pages of a brilliant script and adapted in turn from an enduring classic, contained the most powerful subject matter you could or would ever hope to lay hands on. And there was further room for warm fuzziness. The casting director for this particular motion picture had given me my first ever job at a tender age.  I mentioned this to him before we got down to brass tacks and he paused to reflect. I scolded him gently for not instantly recalling my early stellar performance as a corpse fished from a drain (I was so thrilled to have been awarded my debut role that I declined the offer of a free tetanus booster).


Anyway, here I was, however many years later having popped up from  extended sabbatical, well out of the habit of doing anything as dramatic as an audition (unless you count a midnight dash to children’s emergency with a stool sample) and debating internally as to whether my acting cogs had rusted over completely.  But strangely enough no sooner had I committed myself to a few days of assiduous line learning, stealing moments here and there to rehearse in the shrubbery than I found myself going through the all too familiar motions of an audition process. Stopping at security to ask a hatted guard for directions through the production lot, perching nervously on the casting office couch, eavesdropping on the actor before me belting out a pitch perfect performance, deflating into the couch’s saggy cushions then rallying like a shaky stock market and driving myself upward. The girl before me was wrapping up and I could feel the blood pumping as I briefly checked my appearance in my compact mirror, batting away thoughts of too old too fat too thin too blah. My turn. I extended my hand. (“Three kids! How old? You must be busy!”)


From that point on it’s all about careening headlong into surrender: that’s the sheer joy of playing out a scene.  Feeling alive from your sneakers to your scalp, heart pounding, saliva evaporating, mind racing. It’s at this critical moment the experience reminds you of a fabulously glamorous friend who has turned their complete attention to you, laughing with hilarity at your every nuance, flattering you at every turn.


But then, within mere minutes, it’s over. You emerge from the casting office blinking in the sunlight, spat out the other side, your glamorous friend nowhere to be seen. Just you, walking back to your car through the lot, that brief visitation with both scene and character dissolving into the ether leaving only the faintest imprint on your consciousness. That’s when the experience feels like an old foe.


I reached over to collect a tiny discarded sock from the back seat and smoothed it down on the top of my script, then crumpled my temporary film-production-parking-permit into a ball and tossed it in the bin at security on the way out.


But I still have one ear cocked waiting for the phone to ring.