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For instance, the Actor awakes to an empty bed. He has been drifting in and out of consciousness and has followed the dead end trails of every dream he might have dreamt reluctantly, even heartlessly. At the moment he cannot sleep: his mind is attentive, less restless than focused, like a microscope or camera lens, ready to render the angles of his life to death if need be.
     A voice within reminds him, "You're alone."
     The Actor's response is a mumbled, "I don't care," while he stands and looks down at the messed side of his double bed. He wants to be alone—he tells himself this surely and assumes he will take advantage of his solitude to assess his career, which has spanned eight years, as well as to find a way to come to terms with Leigh, his lover of three. But he does not have time— it is almost ten o'clock and his scene partner, Carol, will soon arrive—and he has yet to make his living room into the set of Sean O'Casey's burlesque, Bedtime Story, from which they will rehearse a scene for their acting class.
     The Actor's body is stiff. Blinking, he wanders into the living room and throws a white sheet over the coffee table, to make it a bed, thumbtacks a dark sheet over the kitchen doorway, to make it a front doorway, arranges pots squarely on the kitchen table, to make it a stove, and puts two kitchen chairs together, to form a couch. The Actor will play John Jo Mulligan, a bachelor, and Carol, recently a mother, will play Angelica Nightingale, a gay lass. According to O'Casey, she has spent the night or part of it and the ensuing action centers around her leaving before dawn; however, Angelica's love is unrequited. She wants their intimacy to be discovered. Spiteful, she sings, "I don't care what becomes of me, I don't care cos' I'm on the spree," at the top of her lungs, flustering John Jo, who is to be portrayed cyclically—as flattered, ambivalent, uninterested and expedient. Yet at the moment the Actor is mad. He does not know Carol well but knows she works and acts and is married and wonders if her husband is taking care of her baby. He surveys his apartment: a cracked ceiling, an aqua rug, two dying plants, one plastic shade, and concludes he does not want to be a house husband—he does not want to be a husband. He loathes thinking of himself as being anything but an actor; but he is losing his confidence gradually, unmistakably, senses its diminution as discontent and regrets it.
     He lowers the shade and lights a candle. Its flame blackens the wick, yet barely grows while he feels himself slide, or fall, into character: his heart picks up pace, he holds his breath, expectant. The doorbell buzzes. "Come in, lass," he tells Miss Nightingale, and sees, when she does so, clutched in her hand, a yellow, white, orange and blue bouquet.
     "For me?" he asks.
     Carol is taken aback by the sound of his voice—by its bright tone, which belongs to John Jo Mulligan. She blushes, purses her lips and flutters her lashes, in character, before nodding yes.
     But while John Jo Mulligan starts to deliver his next line, the Actor plainly sees Carol as Carol-being-insincere: her emotions are false, her flowers for their scene. The Actor's concentration breaks. He feels beside himself: twenty years younger or fifty years older, less shocked than disillusioned—retroactively disillusioned. That condition, that circumspect burnout, makes sense to him and is seconded by losses—loss of youth, time, love. He is sweating. A cold point emanates from his spine and expands into a chill, which spreads to all of his skin, not to change, but to reclaim his facade. He wants to go back to his bedroom. He has a line to deliver. He clears his throat, parts his mouth, but can say nothing.

It is well known that Brando rode the subways, to study people, so as to perfect his craft. At noon, the Actor takes the N train from the Theater district, where he lives, to Bensonhurst, where his grandfather has lived for forty years. During his ride the Actor eats his breakfast: a bagel and an apple, reads unsolicited mail and studies the script of The Daring and The Deceitful, the soap opera for which he will play a bartender. In real life the Actor is a bartender—part-time, at the Lincoln Center Grill. He met Leigh there three years ago—along with the opera crowd she and two friends came in, sat at the bar and drank marguerites. Leigh did not drink, she talked to the Actor—about the ballet she had just seen, about her apartment on Riverside Drive, about East Lyme, Connecticut, where she had grown-up, about her mother, a title searcher turned real-estate lawyer, and her father, also a lawyer, living in California. When she left, she left her phone number on her check. The Actor was breathless. Leigh was persistent. She moved in at the end of that year and appeased his pride by letting him pay the larger share of the rent until his trust ran out.
     Today, the Actor avoids her calls (she is in Dallas working on a bankruptcy proceeding), in order to find within himself another character: Willie, a gay-basher who, in an up-coming NYU film, comes to terms with his identity. But the Actor is forcing the part: he can neither alter his perspective nor re-direct his emotions away from himself or his failure, which he feels is real—indeed, he feels he has jeopardized everything he started with when he embarked on his career during his last year at Yale. Since then he has spent his days looking for work, his nights temping and his late nights preparing spaghetti dinners, watching reruns of the local news and falling asleep to the munch and beep of garbage trucks. Each morning he awakes late, rushes through a rehearsal, a shower and a meal before he runs out in black boots or work boots or penny loafers or whatever the audition requires. And each afternoon, after he has been told he is not right for the part, he goes to the YMCA, plays basketball with kids half his age, showers, buys a hero and returns to his apartment to sit in front of the TV and tell himself there is no purpose to his routine, no end, just this day and the next. As a result, the Actor is mean when he is not distant or sulking. He reads great plays incessantly, thinks about writing his own one-man-show or starting a theater company—he researches the government grants for which he is eligible, but usually ends up napping with his papers spread about his bed.
     At the moment, he bows his head. He would like to be taken to a trading post, where he can swap his method for an attainable goal and a good start, have his slate wiped clean and be allotted the time he has lost. He would like it all done privately, too, so that no one would ever know and he could forget. He closes his eyes, lets his senses drift. The sound of the subway train, the thrust and unsettling kachungt, surrounds him, confines him, as if he is a prisoner or an exile—he knows better how he got where he is than how he can get out.
     The train goes over the bridge. Light in random blocks falls across his chest, drawing his attention. Squinting, he looks through the dirty window, across the water: blue, calm and rippled uniformly—looks at the farther and larger Twin Tower: candle-like, where his father works. Less like a son than like a brother, or, say, like a friend, the Actor thinks about being like his father. He would be a lawyer then, work with people his own age, for people with families, make money. But because he is disdainful instinctively or habitually of the work, he believes being a lawyer is playing a part. His acting teacher, Stanislavsky, once said, "You must live the part."
     "How wise is it to live a bad part?" the Actor wonders.
     He has no answer. Rather, he has his experience. And before he can compare that to the 'bad part', or even stand to change his seat, the train goes into the tunnel and he notices his reflection in the dark glass. There, he looks different: his hair appears jet black and matted but is really brown and fine, his pupils have either expanded or the whites have receded into the circles surrounding his now colorless eyes, his nose, normally prominent, dominates his cheeks, which look glued on and pale. He believes he is distorting himself purposely, testing himself: his tolerance for himself, his ability to rationalize or transform that which appears distasteful and ugly. The belief that his life will be different if he changes is supplanted by the reality that his life will continue to change if he stays the way he is. He wants to pause, cease and desist, declare a truce between his thoughts and experiences so that he can formulate a recovery, a rescue plan, write his own self-help book or pamphlet, so to speak.
     The train stops. Before him, a young mother holding her daughter's hand barely makes it into the subway car, but leaves her other child, an older girl, on the platform. The doors will re-open, the Actor is sure. But they do not. So he stands. But the train moves, making him stumble while he sees through the gray window the girl on the platform freeze, her finger in her mouth, the sudden draft in the station making her hair flutter. He is speechless—he steps toward her, but then she is gone—or he is gone, into the tunnel.
     Meanwhile, beside him, the smaller girl is screaming, "Let me go, let me go, let me go!" while her mother pulls her off the floor and into a seat. Also in the car are two men, old and raptly interested, looking at the Actor in particular. He feels he has to do something. The woman is oblivious to her crisis. The Actor touches her arm, tells her what happened and offers to go back. But she takes her daughter and moves to the other end of the car.
     The Actor is stunned. He thinks she does not understand—that she does not realize what she has let happen. At the next stop he follows her off. But she walks quickly to a far bench, where she sits and waits for the next train. The Actor: hunched, mouth agape, mind locked into readiness, feels two-dimensional. He tries to compose himself: to relax the muscles of his face, arms and legs, slow his heartbeat, breathe regularly. But he becomes self-conscious and tense, static and jittery in tandem spurts. He half-turns, as if he will turn in-place (to take a second look), but sprints up to the street instead and continues back toward the previous station, as if racing: arms bent at their elbows sharply, knees rising straight and high, until he loses his sense of direction and stops, catches his breath and lets himself hate the woman for not having let him help her.
     It feels good to hate her, good in his heart, then bad—very bad. The Actor believes he is guilty. He becomes nauseous. He steps right, and then left and then right until he loses his strength, bows his head and feels the high sun thicken his hair, making his head feel heavy and his body feel small. The Actor was born in Brooklyn, but moved to the suburbs when he was four; therefore, he is lost, or thinks he is lost or feels lost emotionally. His spirit is low. Dejected, he looks at the two-story, two-family houses: close together, row upon row of red brick, for as far as he can see. Strangely, the uniformity, the nascent familiarity, clears his mind, while his heart, which has been running, slows to a regular beat. He feels fine, balanced, yet light on his feet, as if drugged or sedated. In seconds, from someone, he finds out where he is, and then walks past the houses, wondering how much one might cost.




the actor prepares

michael maschio