Together with six others, I attended an acting workshop one weekend. We each introduced ourselves. Cara said that she’s studying film and TV acting. Cara’s got the whole package: huge almond-shaped eyes, long legs, broad, beautiful smile, long, full wavy hair.
A couple times she photographed herself with her iPhone: leaning against the wall, a coquettish smile frozen on her lips. She ate snacks, and the wrappings rustled and her apple crunched.
Each of us had prepared a monologue to work on in the group. One woman brought a text about the seven deadly sins. When she ran it by us, the teacher suggested a few approaches she could apply to improve it. Unbidden, Cara announced she had a huge problem with Envy. “Or rather, what I mean is, I have a huge problem because others keep feeling envy towards me.”
When it was her turn, Cara told us: “I only learned yesterday that I was taking part in this workshop. So I brought along something I wrote in a course on developing your own monologues based on your life.”
Looking to the side I rolled my eyes: there’s a reason we turn to great literature when looking for monologues – it’s been thought through, structured, refined.
“So,” Cara told us, “this is about something that really happened when I was 15. I call it ‘Getting the short end in a new school.’” Though she brought along a hand-written text, she recounted the story without consulting it. New in the school, she worked to establish herself in opposition to a ‘fighting machine’, a big girl (the second time a ‘Polish girl’) with an aggressive look on her face and a tough stance, plus a number of followers among the other girls (and brothers to back her up). Cara went on: “I couldn’t help it if the boys liked me. This one Palestinian guy fell for me. It’s a problem I often had back then. Actually I keep having this problem: men develop a crush on me, men who don’t interest me whatsoever, it happens a lot.”
See: here’s why the rest of us stick to written texts – so we don’t go off on irrelevant tangents.
“But my rival wanted him for herself. And since I had no designs on him – it was fine with me if they went out together – and in fact in the end she got him – she should have been happy! But then … there was this gym incident – we were playing basketball. I can’t help it that I’ve played basketball all my life. It’s something I’ve always done with my brothers. I’m really good at it, and the boys were really impressed.”
Wow, that’s great for you.
“And so I was playing center and doing a fast break – and you know how it is when you’re doing a fast break, you’re moving down the court – and then there she was, right in my way. And she was twice as wide as I was, like I say, a fighting machine. And she took offence and slammed me against the wall, telling me she’d see me after class. And then – though I told the gym teacher that I was sure something was going to happen in the locker room – that damned teacher didn’t intervene. He just didn’t have the balls. In the locker room her clique held me down while she beat me up. She beat me so badly that I ended up in the hospital, where my mother had to pick me up. Afterwards there was a big conference with all the parties – and no one took my side, no one. For some reason everyone considered me the aggressor!”
Cara looked around at the group defiantly, looking for nods of confirmation of her version of what had happened.
Cara had taken up all the air in the room. It was her workshop, and I couldn’t hear myself think any more. Which didn’t stop me from watching her ...
published 8 June 2013