Allison Page: scaredy-pants.
Halloween is approaching, and apart from the fear of being dismembered by a maniac and blended into a soup, my biggest nightmares are the artistic ones. If you’ve ever auditioned for something or watched auditions for something, you’ve probably either performed or had to watch Christopher Durang’s short play The Actor’s Nightmare. Basically a guy is mistaken for an actor’s understudy and has to go on stage not knowing any of his lines. The play was inspired by a real phenomenon that seems like it happens all the time. I have a recurring one. It’s extremely specific.
I’m in a period drama of some kind. I’m dressed in Victorian servant attire. My face is smeared with dirt. Backstage, I meet up with my co-star (somehow for the first time even though it’s opening night) and it’s MERYL STREEP. She shakes my hand and says, “Miss Page — can I call you Allison? — Allison, I am so thrilled to work with you.” and I’m polite and calm, you know, because she should be sooooo thrilled to be working with me. Dream Allison apparently has quite an ego. The play starts. I walk onstage, alone, surrounded by a set that looks like an old brick building. I strike a fairly absurd pose, and then suddenly realize I have no idea what any of my lines are, or even which play this is. I stand silent. In my peripheral vision, I catch Meryl offstage with her arms crossed. She is shaking her head from side to side and frowning. She makes that all-familiar, neck-cutting, you’re-toast gesture. I frantically run offstage. Meryl taps me on the shoulder and shouts “YOU’LL NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!” I fall to my knees and scream “MERYL, NOOOOOOOO!”…and wake up in a cold sweat.
This has been going on for 15 years. It’s less frequent now than it used to be, but it still pops up from time to time. And it’s always Meryl. Always, always Meryl.
But two days ago I had a new kind of artist’s nightmare…A PLAYWRIGHT NIGHTMARE. It was bloodcurdling.
I invited a lot of people over for a reading of something I had written. All the actors arrived (like 20 of them) and I was in the kitchen making food for them — specifically pizza and fried eggs. All the eggs were over easy so they required real supervision, and the pizza was extremely labor intensive. I had to make the dough fresh for each one, and the toppings were so particular that I had to bake the pizza for only a minute at a time, remove it, add certain toppings, and put it back in over and over again. Hours and hours passed and people were leaving left and right. We didn’t read a single word because I spent all that time in the kitchen. I finally came out with one cold fried egg and a single slice of pizza left for myself, and everyone was gone, except one actor. MERYL STREEP. She shook her head silently, then walked out of the room.
I guess, now that I’m having nightmares about it, that I must actually be a writer. I look forward to decades of dreams about not finishing things, or being attacked by words carrying machetes.
And Meryl, today I will finish a script, just so I don’t let you down. Your withering glance is really intense.
Or maybe I’ll just never sleep again.
Allison Page is an actor/writer/dreamer in San Francisco. You can see her murder people in Theater Pub’s DICK 3 Oct. 26th and 27th at PianoFight in SF.