The Best Piece Of Homework I Never Did
My first experience acting — like realizing it was an art form — was in sixth grade.
Up to that point: I had never known of theater as a class. I had performed in one school musical in elementary school but my character was had simply one line and was nothing more than a plot device to allow the other child to begin singing. I had co-hosted a talent show in fifth grade but hadn’t the slightest confidence that saying anything I was thinking beyond the words written on the intro cards would be appreciated by my audience.
I don’t even remember the teacher. I barely remember the first lesson.
We were instructed that at some point in the class we would have to perform a monologue on any subject matter we wanted. The only rule was we had to be arguing for or against something. The monologue could be prepared but if we wanted to we could be gusty and do something “the french called, impromptu”.
I’d like to think even if I’d known what I was doing I would have elected to take the riskier route. But the truth is I just didn’t realize it was a homework assignment.
The very next day we had to perform. I wasn’t even sure this was the same assignment. What I did know was that everyone had a subject chosen. And while everyone claimed they had prepared their arguments were not only weak but their presentations utterly dull and lacking any showmanship (yeah, I was a judge mental prick at birth).
I took the stage at the front of the class praying I had remembered that french word properly.
“I think I’d like to perform an impromptu.” I muttered.
“Okay,” the teacher replied, a hint of scandal in her smile as she thought up a topic for me, “Sell us on Plutonium Doghouses.”
I was new. This was a private school of high reputation and it was suggested that I may be a prodigal genius by people other than my mother. It was already hard enough to make friends being so socially awkward and ugly and I didn’t want to come off as a fool so early in my career but my only knowledge of plutonium was limited to short mentions in Back To The Future. I was pretty sure it was radioactive. But I wasn’t even positive I had heard it right in the movie. Still, this was it: I had chosen my poison and I had to say something. I smiled, straightened my back and put on my best salesmen voice as I acted like I knew exactly what I’m talking about.
I must have seemed like a genius for suggesting their radioactive glow would help you seem them in the dark.
They all laughed and I learned charm and a little bit of cunning can get you out of having to do almost any kind of planning.