GNOMES, A NEW CHALLENGE
A sad and pathetic comedic piece
By Jerry Bisantz
A Gnome. The casting call was for the role of a garden gnome. A garden gnome. Now, before you make any kind of decision on how you feel about this “casting call,” a little bit of back story is necessary.
I am an actor. I have been for years. At the ripe old age of 67 years, treading the boards on this planet I have had the honor of portraying everyone from Don Quixote to Jack Kerouac, to Harold Hill, The Pirate King, you name it; Shakespeare, Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim, George Bernard Shaw, I have done it and I love what I do.
I realize it isn’t always a glamorous job.
Endless audition lines, waiting in stuffy, narrow rooms, 8×10 glossy picture in hand, resume on the opposite side, call backs that don’t amount to anything, wasted gas and time on endless trips to the agencies, checking my cellphone to see if I “got it” … you get the picture.
Hey, no one twisted my arm. This is the deal, it IS what it Is, (where have I heard that term before?)
So, when a casting agency who I have not heard from in a very long time gets in touch with me… boy, do I listen.
“Jerry, I have a GREAT one for you! REALLY show off your comedic skills!”
Comedic skills, huh? Yeah, sounds good, something I can really sink my teeth into! I am on the edge of my seat. After all, COVID killed all in -person auditions, and I haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire lately.
“Oh! So great to hear from you, Julie! What is it?”
“You will be auditioning for the role of a garden gnome.”
“A garden gnome! It’s cute! It’s for a liquor store in Maine. Great little script. I thought of you immediately!”
Now, one has to ask WHY my agent would think of me: a 67-year-old guy with a growing paunch, recessive hairline, and, from what I feel, no “gnomish” qualities, why would she believe that this is right in my ballpark?
I draw a deep breath. After all, Julie is a great gal, has been there for me, throwing all sorts of auditions my way. Best to sound… uh… enthused.
“Oh! A gnome? Like those things that just kinda sit in gardens and just look… uh… like…
“Like gnomes!” Julie’s excitement was a bit overwhelming. Glad she is so excited to throw this incredible opportunity my way. Apparently, this is big. I mean, hell, I can be a huge hit in Bangor.
“What do they want from me?”
“I will email you the script. Directions for the audition are on it. Tape yourself at home and send it in by Tuesday at 12:00. Can’t wait to see what you do with it! Gotta fly! Ciao!”
Great. Another “taping session.” I don’t think people realize that it just ain’t that easy, setting up for a taping session. Basically, it’s a pain in the ass.
After all the work that goes into it, I also have to pray that my new dog, Oliver, (an exuberant one year old American Foxhound who barks at ANYTHING he sees going on outside) will stay quiet long enough for me to tape myself talking into my computer video screen.
Do I really want to do this? Crisis of conscience here, folks. Let it sink in a little.
I have yet to receive my “lines.” Fingers crossed. Maybe, just maybe they are cleverly written and I can do something with them.
Other things to consider: what does a gnome look like? Do they want me to dress like a gnome for the audition? Or is that just too weird? I mean, what do I have in my house that could possibly work? A funny hat? Not really. A pillowcase on my head? No, that’s too much like “Grumpy” from Snow White.
No, I will do this straight. No matter what, no costume.
Me. Pretending to be a gnome.
I mean, ya simply cannot turn down auditions. If you do, the phone stops ringing. When that happens, you are done. Yesterday’s news. Someone else will get those calls. Every actor knows that. Hell, I have buddies as good as me, better than me, who never even get the calls I get. I should feel lucky I get these referrals.
So, it’ll be me. “Acting” like a garden gnome.
No role is too small, right? Right?
I receive the script online. If that’s what you would call it. Two lines. Both take offs on the word “gnome.”
First set of lines: (laughing, mid-sentence about to deliver a punchline:) “…and you know, the saying goes; go big or go gnome!”
Second set of lines: (in pick up line voice): “I’ll be your Gnomeo if you be my Juliet.”
Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
I am encouraged by the director to “play it” three ways.
Take one: laughing, very over the top.
Take two: using what I believe is a “gnomish” voice.
Take three: do it in a way that I believe would never work at all. Huh?
Really. Would “never work at all?” What the hell does that mean? A “gnomish” voice?
- Fine. Just do it, Jerry. It’s an audition. And it pays $800. Suck it up.
Down to the basement. Bring everything upstairs. Ring light. Music stand. Put a little make up on my reddish nose (probably from too much Guinness at the neighborhood dive bar) let the dog outside for a while. Pray he stays outside while I tape. Set up the computer camera just… so.
I turn on the ring light. Adjust the tone. Stand three steps away. Look directly into the computer’s camera lens. Check the video for clarity. Check the sound. Ready to go.
Time to “slate.”
“Hello, my name is Jerry Bisantz. I am nonunion, five foot ten inches, from Lowell, Massachusetts, and I will be reading for Gnome Number Three.”
No role is too small.
No role is too small.
I turn off the light.
I turn off the computer
I walk downstairs, grab a cold brew from the fridge.
Some roles are too small.
© Jerry Bisantz 2022