Sickle at Heart

As a professional (union) actor, as well as a longtime reader of Back Stage (ever since it was Drama-Logue), I was so bothered by your July 16 essay, "Bukowski and Popsicles," that I was compelled to send this reply.

Surely Alexis Peters is a beautiful and talented young actress (as evidenced by her photo, training, and listed credits), but I must tell her—and so many others who regularly get taken advantage of—that her recent encounter with "one of the biggest directors in Hollywood" was not "something extraordinary" by any means. Rather, it was extremely manipulative game-playing, pure and simple. My dear young lady, you got used. You were had.

Mon Dieu, how dare I say such a thing? Well. Let's begin by recognizing that you exited your meeting with Mr. Big Director sans having accomplished one shred of professional business, i.e., conversation about your résumé and credits or reading a scene or doing an improvisation or even performing a monologue. You unwittingly let yourself get put in the very uncomfortable position of discussing highly confidential (depressive) psychiatric states of mind—and then felt pressured into reading the poem he handed you (after leaning in way too close to you, in my opinion) and pronouncing it "beautiful."

Sorry, Alexis, but I don't believe for one nanosecond that you found that mega-downer piece of tripe beautiful. In fact, I suspect that fib came from the growing, gnawing discomfort that started with the slurping of the Popsicle that was inappropriate for him to offer you in the first place. And in doing that, Mr. B.D. forced you to witness another woman, ostensibly his administrative assistant (or at least secretary/receptionist), demoted to personal waitress, serving up frozen desserts. (No, I am not denigrating those who wait tables, but this is clearly not the job Carla signed on for.)

One last thing about that Popsicle: You compromised yourself by accepting it instead of politely declining. Your better judgment told you to pass, and ignoring it is what caused the troubling phallic image to arise in your mind, which unfortunately served to undermine your comfort and confidence level. Then Mr. B.D. tried to liken you to Sisyphus and get you to admit insecurities with a mild game that pretends empathy. Sure, all of us have our own demons to contend with. But what went on in his office in that regard belongs in a psychologist's or psychiatrist's office, not in an interview/audition for potential casting.

Taking an objective look at this now, you need to acknowledge that, professionally, nothing whatsoever was accomplished, other than Mr. B.D. getting to pass time with a very attractive young woman. Your time in preparing for and attending this meeting was wasted, and furthermore your personal boundaries were disrespected. Being dazzled by his impressive office with the corkboards covered with celeb-inscribed photos is quite understandable. But all that doesn't change the facts.

I speak as someone who has also fallen prey to being awed and wanting to gain favor with "big names" in this business. Thankfully for both of us, it seems to have gone no further than a harmless if futile "meeting." But we all know of cases in which other young and/or gullible aspiring performers were not so fortunate. That's why I wanted to re-sound the warning for us all. We can't be reminded too many times to be careful for ourselves and to watch out on behalf of others.

Jennifer Taft
Morro Bay, Calif.