This evening I found myself walking around my house reciting a portion of Will Eno’s one-man show “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” that I auditioned to do for speech team my sophomore year.
I stopped myself and thought, “Why am I reciting this? Sophomore year seems like ancient history and I haven’t recited it since then.”
(To those that are familiar with “Thom Pain,” the portion I auditioned to do started with “Picture, I don’t know, a bird” and ended with “Or I say ‘Child Harold,’ for no reason. Then one of us walks away.” To those of you that know nothing about it or only know of it because James Urbaniak originated the role of Thom Pain or because Charles Isherwood raved about it, just keep reading.)
My sophomore year of high school, I decided to do acting for individual speech events. The previous year I did Poetry Interpretation and did “My Girlfriend’s In Love With Holden Caulfield” from The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan.
We were told for acting to do a piece from a one-man show, preferably the kind that seem like really long monologues. I had a copy of “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” sitting around the house, so I decided to do that.
I practiced this piece, got input from my mother. I edited out one profanity and changed another to be less offensive. I then showed up at auditions and performed this piece for the coaches.
Just so you know, “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” is not a feel-good play by most definitions. But most of the plays that I really like aren’t lovey feel-good plays. (for example, “The Pillowman”)
After I finished my audition, the coach said, “It’s too dark and complex.”
I did another category, I don’t really remember it too well. It was about how too much television is bad for you and I did a section out of “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman. Regardless, “My Girlfriend’s in Love With Holden Caulfield” kicked it’s ass. I ended up not competing at districts because there was a snow storm in Northeastern Iowa and they postponed districts to the following week and I would have been performing at the same time that I was supposed to be in Cedar Rapids catching a flight to Chicago to go to New York. (On a side note, after I found this out, I went to Cedar Rapids and saw part one of “Angels in America.”)
The next year, the speech coaches approached me wanting me to do another piece. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any snowstorms or flights to Chicago for me to catch. They left the field open for me and I thought about what to do.
My mind went to a spoken word version of “My Humps” and stayed there for quite sometime. But I declined to do it.
Which is a shame. I tend to strike people as a straight-laced, sophisticated individual. If I could have done a spoken word version of “My Humps” and kept a straight face, it would have been awesome.