Once upon a time I was actively involved in live theater. Not just in high school or college, but community theater.
Yes. It’s true. I have headshots somewhere around here, even, and they are hilarious. Someday I will show you, but I can’t find them right now. I did find this for your viewing pleasure:
See that vamp up there on the left? That’s me as the shy and bumbling and accidentally well-spoken Annelle in a stage production of Steel Magnolias, circa 1995.
When I first got to LA I popped my headshot and resume into the fray of actors who would do anything to perform before an audience and quickly learned that I actually hated them and the whole scene. They were miserable, awful people who talked only about themselves. Oh wait, maybe that was just me.
While waiting for my “big break” I worked backstage on a few small theater productions. The one I remember most vividly was a several-weekend run of Athol Fugard’s “My Children! My Africa!” which was a meaty, emotional drama about two school children on each side of the Apartheid divide in South Africa. The whole experience was very intense in a scrappy, no-budget sort of way.
I was the assistant to the director, and so I was involved with every phase of the show. Despite the low-rent nature of the production, it seemed like an endless stream of young actors auditioned for the three available parts in this small cast. We held what I remember to be many long nights of readings, where I sat with the director and producer and helped move things along. They had worked together several times before, and they had inside jokes and could complete each other’s sentences and even had a special code they used during the auditions. Many times I saw one of them scribble the letters “DM” on an actor’s resume, and then slyly push it across the table to the other. Eventually I asked the director what it meant.
“Dead meat,” she told me.
And the dead meat would be thanked, told to expect a call if he or she made the cut, and sent out of the room.
There was a lot of dead meat coming through that door, according to those two. It was a cruel label, but their shorthand was at least a polite way of shielding those poor kids from the truth while quickly getting their point across to each other.
I was a great director’s assistant. I didn’t realize it at the time but that production was a springboard into my future career behind the scenes as a producer and director myself. I’m pretty sure if I had auditioned for that pair, I would have been DM’ed indeed. Thank goodness for the internet, where DM means something much more positive and I can perform away on my YouTube channel and I don’t have to care whether anyone even clicks on it or not.