Tragedy Plus Time: When Bad Things Happen to Funny People
by Kate Tellers
Welcome to the first “Tragedy Plus Time,” a weekly column that explores the truth behind our favorite equation.
For this week I’ve gone into the vault. Several years ago I was miserable working a day job and scrapping along at my career. One day I decided to write it down.
8:53am – Wake up (late) and realize that I have no income this week since last week was a holiday.
9:47am – Arrive at my temp job that is only temporary in the way that neither I nor the job are willing to make this situation official– the ubiquitous “it’s complicated” of day jobs. I work thirty hours a week and I have my own desk. But! I have the freedom to leave whenever I want to audition for all of the non-union cable commercials and Off Off Broadway one act festivals my sweet heart desires! What I don’t have is health insurance.
9:53am – Or coffee, the machine is broken.
9:54am – I open my work email to assess my tasks for the day. One is a filing project which includes a spreadsheet made of the contents of a box that has been shoved below my desk. I am to tag, label and file these items in the new secure filing cabinet. If I can stomach this for one (1) hour, I will have earned enough money to buy one (1) sandwich. I set to work.
10:48am – I am at a standstill as I am unable to receive a response to the following email: Am I to assume that everything in the box needs to be kept and filed under lock and key? For example see Misc Item # 7 titled simply “Turtles”. Please advise.
10:59am – Time is going by very slowly. I submit for some auditions, and tweak my material for tonight’s show. Finally, aching for some human interaction, I pick up my desk phone and call my unemployed friend. Our conversation goes as follows:
CALL ME FROM YOUR CELLPHONE, I HAVE NO MINUTES!
12:36pm – Finally it is time for me to leave for my dentist’s appointment. I’ve not had my teeth cleaned since college (other things that happened in college include my first email account and the Lewinsky scandal), but somehow I’ve been convinced to sign up for a “wellness plan” and I’m hoping to undo a decade’s worth of coffee addiction for just under fifty dollars.
The dentist is nice enough. I tell her my predicament and she hooks a hose on my lip. And then it begins. Various metal instruments are forced into my mouth. Something medieval has risen up within this woman, and with each trip to the sink I see more of me swirl down the train. Finally she releases me to schedule a follow up appointment.
I go to the counter to settle up. It is double the cost that I expected. I protest, state payment charts and wellness plans. No say the dentist and the receptionist, you are wrong. My chin trembles, I breathe deeply. I hand them my debit card and cry. They apologize, I apologize. I leave. At the elevator bank I look at my reflection in an office window. My teeth are pink with blood. I take the train back to work.
2:02pm – Check my voicemail. Bad news. Our tech person for tonight bailed last minute. That means that we have to find some one, fast. And that means we have to pay them.
6:04pm – Leave work and head to a meeting with co-producer for some last minute brush-ups on tonight’s show. We rehearse a wedding march through the kitchen that doubles as a guest room in her apartment and agree that she’ll pack our costumes, two prom dresses from the Salvation Army and a leotard, and I’ll pick up some prop champagne. By “prop champagne” I mean the cheapest sparkling thing money can buy.
7:15pm – Go to the gym and shower allowing enough time to walk to the theatre. Walking means not paying for the subway. It’s only 25 blocks.
9:30pm – Finish show, it’s funny. The audience likes it. They have to since it is almost wholly comprised of the cast’s boyfriends.
9:43pm – Pay our tech, give away the prop champagne, and in my last sad act of the day, we pay the theatre the covers for the audience members we did not bring through the door.
I am broken and tired. I have bled, I have cried, I have paid some one else so to perform for my friends. And no one will give me an answer on the turtles. Still, tomorrow I will wake up in the morning and do it all again.
Kate Tellers is a writer/performer/director/producer currently at work on the cabaret “I Sing Dead People,” “Disco Balls” (director) and on-going projects with The Moth.
Follow Kate on twitter @katadudle