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Secret Agent Man

Ye Olde Mail Bag

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Ye Olde Mail Bag
We received an interesting letter this week at Secret Agent Man headquarters. It came from a New York actor, and I'd like to start off this column by sharing it with you.

"Hello. Okay, so two months ago, I did a Shakespearean competition, and I got into the semifinals but didn't make it past there because I made a mistake or something. Anyway, they asked me to come back as a guest to perform for the national arts club, so I said yes. I'm having the thought of inviting agents to watch me perform. They wouldn't have to travel far, because the theater is in Manhattan and close to everyone's address. So do you think it's a good idea to invite agents to my Shakespeare monologue performance or would that be a waste of time?"

Great letter, huh? You should know it took my assistant an hour and a half to translate it from young-people talk to what we adults call English. We had to add some commas, but we kept the run-on sentences because they made me laugh. And you have to love the idea that this theater is located at some magical location that's close to every single agent's office in New York. Who knows? Maybe the space is in some kind of vortex that's always on the move, just like the island on Lost.

This might shock you, but yes, agents do judge actors on their command of language. Excuse my old-school thinking, but I feel actors should know a little something about basic sentence structure. Also, brevity is always a good thing when you're contacting an agent. I don't need to know every little detail of this guy's life. Just give me the facts, pal.

Here's how I would write the same letter: "I'm performing a Shakespearean monologue and I'm thinking about inviting some agents. Do you think that's a good idea?"

Done and Done

Now, let's move on to the actor's question, because it's actually a good one. Would I attend an evening of Shakespearean monologues? My answer is no. I love classical theater as much as the next guy, but I would never in a million years go see this car wreck. Here are three reasons why:

1. As an agent, I mostly cover film and television projects. So if I'm considering a new actor who doesn't have a reel, I have to see that actor perform in a role that he or she would be cast in. That means no Shakespeare, gang. It just doesn't translate to the modern world. I need to see what you can do with a contemporary piece.

2. Believe it or not, I actually like Shakespeare. The comedies have always felt dated—probably because they've been ripped off by a thousand sitcoms—but the tragedies still ring true. When a Shakespeare play is performed with skill, the experience can be a thing of beauty. And that's exactly why I'd never go see this show. Shakespearean monologues taken out of context are boring. They lose all their meaning. As an audience member, I'd rather see the entire play, not isolated moments from the text.

3. Watching actors perform Shakespearean monologues would come in second on my list of things to do after work. "Anything else" would come in first. My day starts at 10 and ends around 7. At night I have to read scripts, attend screenings, scout new talent, drink, and, hopefully, spend some quality time with Mrs. Secret Agent Man. Watching an actor butcher Hamlet's soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1, is not a priority.

I hope you've enjoyed this sample from ye olde Secret Agent Man mail bag. Now give me my robe; put on my crown. I go, and it is done; the bell invites me. Parting is such sweet sorrow.    

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