One of the best things about being a performing artist is that although the job takes you to some amazing places (big stages, tours, international events, TV etc.), it also takes you through some equally strange and interesting places. Valentine’s Day is a case in point.
I’ll be pulling (or should I say pushing) through my day of love this year in a decorated grocery trolley by singing renditions of popular songs to customers. In conjunction with Pick ‘n Pay, I’ll be playing a singing cupid that gets pushed around the Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket store in Brackenfell this Saturday in an obvious attempt to (again) push sales of their range of Valentine’s Day specials. I’ll be accompanied by a team of other cupids who take turns to push the trolley and assist customers where necessary. Fun you might say, not so for everyone!
Some of the songs whose lyrics are being altered to push sales include Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, UB40’s “Red, Red Wine”, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and Lionel Richie’s “Hello”.
This isn’t the first time I’m doing work for Pick ‘n Pay – last year I played a stationary pixie that pushed back to school stationary specials. What’s interesting is many people find it extremely horrific/terrifying to perform such acts in public – anything that could garner possible public humiliation or embarrassment. I don’t have a smidgen of shame in this regard! Which reminds me of a particular incident I had in a sweets store as a kid.
A family member and I were on our way to watch a movie at the cinema, and on our way we stopped at a sweets store to buy snacks. While browsing, a hit song (I can’t recall the name now) came blaring over the store’s radio. Loving the song, I started dancing along to the beat and singing along to the words. This family member snapped at me and pretty much shut down that idea rather swiftly. Naturally, embarrassment followed not because of the act of boogieing down, but because I was made to FEEL embarrassment externally. News of what I did quickly travelled through my family and further packed on my humiliation. It was not a good day and I suppose I couldn’t really make sense of it then. (Funny enough, to this day I still boogie down and sing in the shops on occasion. Ironically the act has come full circle and I’m actually getting paid to do it now.)
Later at high school I did something equally, externally humiliating in the presence of a good friend. Again, the embarrassment only followed because I was made to FEEL bad about it, not that the act was in and of itself bad (I don’t recall what I did, but it definitely didn’t warrant this response). This friend shut me down with these words: “Josh, must you always be so over the top?! Dammit, dude!” It made me feel incredibly terrible about myself, so much so that our friendship was never the same thereafter. What’s worse is, I was made to feel that the blame was all mine. I didn’t particularly care for mending a friendship that sought to bend my character to the will of this dominant persona and that was probably the beginning of a valuable life lesson.
Here’s another hilarious example. Last year I was on the train on the way to an audition. Passing the time, I ran my words softly under my breath, slowly increasing the ferocity of my physical gestures – pretty much minding my own business. To my left sat a couple avidly discussing other matters that came to an abrupt halt when the girl noticed my seemingly insane self-muttering. Here’s a transcription of the dialogue that followed (the girl made no secret of her opinions on the matter):
Girl noticing me, gestures to guy
Girl: What the hell!? (She made use of more loaded expletives here, but for the purposes of this post I’ll offer the more PG13 version. The conversation was also in Afrikaans.)
Girl: Look at THIS dude, he’s bloody mad in his head! OMG!
Through all of this I continued with my internal monologue, finding the conversation very, very amusing.
Girl: What the HELL is wrong with him? Can he not see how stupid he looks? @#$!, man!
Guy: Yorrr, leave the guy off…
Girl: No man! He’s bloody losing it! (horrified). OMG! OMG! OMG! He’s freaking me OUT!
Guy: He’s probably just having a fit, leave him…
The conversation continued in this vain for most of the train trip. Both of them had NO idea that I was an actor, just running his lines. No idea. I wished I could’ve laughed or have been a spectator of this seemingly fictitious scene – but this would’ve risked my falling out of character. But imagine I didn’t use the time the train ride allotted me to go through my audition piece (I was not feeling very confident in my effort to learn my lines), I’m pretty sure the audition would’ve sucked. There’s a lesson here. Rather risk looking mad/bonkers/cookoo and be yourself, than try to please everyone all of the time. Some people never learn this lesson. It’s changed my life.
PS: Please come watch me risk public scorn at My Earth Community‘s Artsemble on Saturday night. More details here.