Lover, Tyrant

October 3, 2008
By Austin Smith, Forest City, NC

There was nothing particularly daunting about the room itself. Its brick floors and high-rising ceiling were something of an Elizabethan comfort. Sunlight flooded in through the huge open windows and danced upon the many centerpieces of the room: such as the great metal globe, which all shall inherit, that hangs from the middle of the ceiling or the electric keyboard that never played Pink Floyd.

Perhaps it was the people that also inhabited the room that were intimidating? No, this was truly a shy cast of misfits. This was probably the first social experience for the short, pudgy fellow who was constantly pushing up his glasses. The girl to my left was quite adorable but she donned a most miserable and unhappy disposition. The bald male who sat behind me with shaking knees was most likely a homosexual. I based this on his shaved head and astoundingly colorful clothing. The four of us in this room was a meeting that could only occur out of chance; no amount of planning or social intercourse could have brought us together otherwise.

So, what was it that kept my pulse beating and my forehead glazed with sweat? It was this massive gray-haired man in his tattered brown suit and the tasks that he would ask of me. I had never acted before in my life and suddenly I expected the world of myself. Perhaps I should have memorized a sonnet or twelve bars of classical opera? Was I expected to sword fight? Was I even expected to say things in a very loud voice in front of these four strange characters? Mr. McEnnerney scooted to the center of the room in his rolling chair and said in a very deep voice which suited his features, 'Everyone in a line, please.' I was marble. I was Michelangelo's marble.

His smile was like that of a bear's as he peered at each of us standing side by side. He started with the colorful boy who had obviously done many plays with the Arts Council before. The old man simply stated, 'You are a cat' and the boy began purring and meowing as if he actually did sleep twenty-two hours a day. Next was the round boy: 'You are a cow.' The moos were sublime. Following, was the melancholy beauty and she was granted the persona of a bird. Such gorgeous tweets she uttered.

What was this madness? How did these people know exactly how to sound? Was there a text book on animal sounds I had not read? And were they not embarrassed? Did they not recognize their fellow humans judging, watching, and examining them? And the worst thought of all, what devilish product of imagination was I to be burdened with? 'You are a fish'. The two corners of my lips immediately shot down and I thought, 'Okay, I look like a fish now, but what sound should I make? Ah! I am out of water! I shall gasp for air!' This performance, however ridiculous it was, received a burst of well received laughter. My heart was beating out of my chest with glee. I was like the discoverer of Atlantis. Had I found the key to acting? Was it impulsiveness? A halo had now formed above my head.

Mr. McEnnerney had had fun in examining our vocal range, and now it seemed he wanted to stretch the limits of our imagination. The colorful boy was asked to mime the sewing of his ripped pants. There was such articulate attention put towards the tension of the thread as it was pulled ever so delicately back and forth. Mr. McEnnerney was quite pleased with this act and showed it in his warm smile. I so earnestly wanted this smile. I wanted to keep it in a box that I might take it out and look at it whenever I lacked confidence. The beauty was asked to call a bird down from its perch and have it settle on her arm. I almost believed that this small girl had gone temporarily insane and found an actual bird in the room. Her expressions were like a bouncy ball thrown down a hallway, reacting to whatever it came in contact with and adjusting as needed.

I was asked to find a box on the ground with a hidden switch. My mission was to find this hidden switch and release a tiny dragon from the box, and then act surprised. I walked across the floor and stubbed my toe on this heavy obstacle. Curiously, I examined it and lowered my body to meet it on the floor. It was a small box with color of a deep, rich purple. A beautiful pink gem was placed in the center on the top of the box. I delicately lifted the box into the light. My hand ran over the smooth wooden material as I puzzled over this alien object. There appeared to be no openings'but wait! There was a tiny hole on the side, just big enough for my smallest finger. I placed my pinky finger in the hole and grimaced in anxiety over what I was to expect. A tiny golden dragon burst forth from the wood and breathed a small orb of fire. I leapt back in amazement. There was that bearish smile from that wise old man. I donned a brilliant white tunic handsewn by God.

I thought of Alice: 'I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!' A whole new world of characters was swirling in my head. I stood upon a chair and exclaimed, 'I'm king of the world!' And for a moment I really felt like Jack Dawson, a persona unbound by life's rules and guidelines, as he declared his esteemed position on the Titanic. I felt a kinship with Johnny Depp as I pretended to be this weird Hollywood character searching for a bathroom: this actor knew what it was like to literally become another human being. I felt like Quasimodo when I portrayed him. This deformed beast looked totally different from how he felt. This self alienation was becoming familiar to me. And to stand in from of these people with a proud hunchback was a most rewarding feeling.

Mr. McEnnerney grinned, 'You're acting is coming along isn't it?' The colorful boy nodded towards me with learned acceptance. The melancholy beauty flashed a half smile that almost broke my heart and filled it with happiness at the same time. Even the round kid, in his ignorant bliss seemed to see a transformation in me. Was this acting? My wings were finally spread. I was free to soar into the heavens. The angel I had become had many faces.

Austin, the colorful boy, the beauty, the round one: we were all spirits. This reception house was a gorgeous palace, a cloud-capp'd tower. But we would all fade away and shift into our normal everyday lives after this profound occurrence. We were much like super heroes: fighting crime in a mask by night and returning to our normal identities by day. These emotions that were locked up inside of us were strange to me. Were these thoughts and feelings that I could project to an audience my own? Certainly not. They were borrowed, yet they were a part of me.

I had Michangelo's eyes. I could see the angel in me, and the demon, and the lover, and the tyrant.

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