What have I been doing lately?
This week has been incredibly busy for me, with three or four assorted acting gigs going on.
The strangest, by far, is the one I’ll talk about here. About a month ago, I was contacted and asked if I could play a nerd. Not really sure exactly was being asked of me, I said "sure I can".
Turns out there’d be a convention at the Delta this week, of the Mechanical Contractor’s Association of Canada. They wanted me (well, someone, not ‘me’ specifically, like, they didn’t seek me out, just any actor who could do it, and someone at the Delta thought of me) to pretend to be a new delegate to the MCAC and show up to a few events and kind of make my presence known to all.
Wierd gig, sounded easy, and it paid pretty good money, so how could I turn it down.
The name they gave me was Stanley Theman (you know, "Stan the Man", ha ha, right?) and I owned a company called New Energy Refrigeration and Development Mechanical, Limited (or N.E.R.D Mechanical Ltd. for short, ha ha, right?). I was to be from Whitehorse, NWT. I was to dress "like a nerd" they told me. Best I could do was this: I made my hair look greasy and flat and greasy. I wore my "Teddy Goldman" glasses and a tight short-sleeve dresshirt over a blue long-sleeve turtleneck. I had my iPod in my shirt pocket, and some large headphones (which I "forgot" to remove) on my ears. It was my wierd version of a nerd. (I wore variations on this theme throughout the week of events)
So, my for my first appearance, I was to show up at the MCAC Board of Director’s meeting on Tuesday morning, be confused about why I, as a new delegate, was not allowed to sit in on the closed meeting, then leave in something of a huff (or a minute and a huff, as Groucho might say). It should take about 5 minutes tops, they told me.
So, in to the Delta I go on Tuesday, and into the Elfin Pekaha room, where, sure enough, a board meeting was taking place. There were probably about 40 or 50 people, mostly men, sitting around a square of tables, doing, you know, important (to them) work. I interrupted them. I figured I’d be nervous doing this, but nervous in an actorly way. In reality, though, I became really nervous because I was interrupting their meeting. I could really sense the bother I was causing these people. I fealt really uncomfortable.
The room went totally dead-quiet when I first entered. I went to the snack table and thought about pouring myself a coffee, but couldn’t find a carafe. So I abandoned that idea and started to look around the table for an empty seat. That’s when the Chairman (who was the only one "in on" the joke) asked me, politely, what I was doing there. That’s when the nerves hit me, because everyone was looking at me, and a definite air of being-bothered was in the room. I said I was looking for a seat. He said it was a closed meeting. I told him "yeah, no problem, I’m a new delegate. I’m a member" and showed him my conference badge. He said this meeting was only open to member of the board. I didn’t understand what that meant.
I continued to play dumb for a minute and he continued to ask me to leave. Someone got up and left ("to get security?" I wondered/hoped). Finally, I "got the message" and promised to leave. I apologized to the room for being an idiot and said I’d leave. I kept apologizing and the chairman kept telling me to leave. I then changed my slant and said it didn’t seem fair that I couldn’t sit in, and wondered what kind of secret stuff they’d be talking about that I shouldn’t hear. "It’s a closed meeting, you’ll have to leave" he kept saying. "Can I at least get a juice?" I asked. That got a laugh. Kind of a "what a pathetic tit" laugh. "Sure" he said. As I was getting a juice, one of the board members, who was near me, said "What boat did you just get off of?", kind of as a joke to his compatriots, not really to me. I replied. "No I didn’t get hear by boat, I came by plane, and those friggers lost my luggage."
Anyway, I finally left, and it took maybe 4 minutes tops? Seemed to go well, I thought.
The next event I was scheduled to punk was the First-Timer’s Reception on Wednesday night. Basically, show up, get people to look at me, and then leave. That’s what I did. I shook people’s hands, approached and interrupted groups in conversation with awkward conversation starters of my own. I was in and out in about 10 minutes, just like they asked. As I was leaving the hotel, I was walking past The Club (a small bar/llounge in the Delta). It was packed with MCAC delegates. A trio of them, near the door, saw me (they were board members and remembered me from that meeting), and called me over to them. I could sense, from their questions, that they were trying to figure out if I was real or not. I had decided to use a variation of my Moe Gorman voice, as it was one I was sure I’d be able to keep up for long periods of time, if need be. Unfortunately, it kind of comes off as a bit "maritimey". One of the guys picked up on that and asked me "if you’re from Whitehorse, how come you have that accent?" "I moved to Whitehorse 17 years ago" I said without missing a beat. "Originally I’m sort of from the maritimes. Guess I can’t lose the accent." I was quite pleased with this lie, but kicking myself for the "sort of" vagueness. Sure enough, one of them says "what do you mean, ‘sort of’? How can you be sort of from some place?" I began to hem and haw a bit, on the technicalities of time spent in one place and how perhaps the place you have lived the longest is the place you’re from… beads of flop-sweat being born on my brow. Hemming and hawwing, until the third guy gruffly says "Where were you born?" Sydney, Cape Breton I lied. "Then that’s where in the hell you’re from" he said definitively, killing the conversation. I am-scrayed from them as soon as I could.
Thursday, I was scheduled for three appearances. First one at 7:15am, as people were milling around waiting for the breakfast event (at which Ron MacLean was guest speaker!!) to begin. I brought my camera for this one and basically just kept coming up to groups of people, couples, people by themselves and asking them where they were from (I didn’t have my own glasses on, so I couldn’t read that information that was on their conference badges). My goal, I said, was to try and get a picture of myself with someone from each province in Canada. This seemed to work quite well, and got me interacting with a bunch of people. I was supposed to do that for 10 minutes or so, and it worked out perfectly. My camera’s batteries died after about 10 minutes and that gave me the perfect excuse to "go back to my room and get new batteries" rather than enter into the breakfast room.
Second gig that day was the Companion’s Tour. I was supposed to try and take the Companion’s Tour (on 3 Trius motor-coaches), but then end up not taking it. This event didn’t work out so well for me. I was supposed to show up at 8:45 and talk it up with the delegates Companions (mostly women) about the tour and stuff. Trouble is, nobody was waiting for the couches. Slowly, women started to trickle in (from the breakfast) but it was pretty awkward to try and start up conversations with them. It’s easier to be kind of jerky when there are more eyes watching, I realised. When it’s one-on-one like I was trying at this moment, it felt pretty creepy. Eventually, one of the coaches got filled up, and I went on it and took a seat, asking anyone and everyone if they thought they’d mind if I, who was not a companion, took the tour anyway. After chatting up the women around my seat on the coach, and just before they were about to leave, I "happened" to ask when the tour was over. 3pm I was told. That was too late for me, I said, and awkwardly made be exit from the bus. I was only supposed to spend about 10 minutes at this event, but because of the trickling of the companions, it ended up being about 25 minutes. It went okay, but was my least favourite of the week.
The third that day was an appearance I was to make at the Suppliers’ Showcase on the Mezzanine. 30 or so booths set up in rows up and down a couple of hallways. I was basically to show up and visit each booth, ask stupid questions and be a bit of an annoyance. And that’s basically what I did. I found it kind of tricky to get away from some booths without them asking me specifics about my company (to see, I assume, if I was worthwhile "pitching" to). Even a cursory probe from them would’ve made them quite aware that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Luckily, I got away pretty much unscathed.
This morning at 7:30 was the Awards Breakfast. I arrived and returned to my taking a picture with someone from each province routine. I was looking for anyone from Quebec, the only province I still needed, so this allowed me to quickly go from table to table asking if anyone was from Quebec, and explaining my goal. This worked very well in getting me around to as many people in a short time.
Then it was time to eat. I played it pretty quiet during breakfast, as I didn’t want to get into conversations with the other 7 people at my table for fear of blowing my cover. After breakfast was eaten, awards were handed out. For 10, 15 years service, Lifetime achievement, etc.
The final award was a new award for them, sure to be very prestigious, to be given out to a deserving member of the association. It was going to be given to me, I was told. Then the MC told the room about this person’s accomplishments, and the accomplishments were very impressive: $400 million in income last year alone, 30% profit over blah blah blah. People were very impressed with the numbers and statistics that were being spouted. This person’s business was hugely successful was the gist. Then: "The 2005 "Gotcha" award goes to… Stanley Theman! Stan the Man, come up and get your award." With the word Gotcha, the whole room, I’m sure, caught on if they hadn’t already.
I went up and received my award – a rubber chicken – said thanks, etc, revealed my real identity and then promptly left.
And that was that.
What a wierd gig. It was fun, but still through the week a fair amount of worry on my part, wondering what in the hell might go wrong at my next appearance, afraid of going too far and making it overly obvious that Stanley was a gag, or worrying about playing it too subtle and not making a big enough impression on enough people. It’s a pretty delicate balancing act, trying to be out there enough so that people take notice of you, but no so out there that you’re not believable.
I had a good time though.
That is an amazing story, my hat is off to you for your quick thinking.
I love stuff like that, makes me want to get into my irish voice for an evening and pull one over on a waitress or waiter while everyone else laughs.