Fade in: A late-January casting ad in Backstage reads, "Victorian low-budget horror film seeks dark-haired actress, late 20s, to play 'Emily' in H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. Shoots in Middleburg, Va. in May. Directed by Eric Young. There is no pay."
My actor's life in New York has plateaued. An "aging" ingenue, I find myself at callbacks surrounded by enthusiastic 20-year-olds whose fresh voices and figures betray the fact that I've indeed reached my 30th year. My loyal agents send me out on as many auditions as they ever have, but I book fewer jobs. Lonely and unemployed, I scour Backstage just to keep busy.
"Why do I read this stuff?" I scold myself. "Nothing ever comes of no-budget monster movies!" I clip the ad anyway and stick it on the fridge.
Cut to: A week later. I plow through huddles of amateurs as I cut ahead, New Yorker-style, to the backstage area of one of Manhattan's many Westside theaters. I'm early for my appointment, and am informed by an attractive and polite young Southern woman that the auditions are running at least an hour behind schedule.
I explain briskly that I have a commercial audition in 90 minutes in the Village (where I routinely get lost), so I'd better pass.
"Just a minute, Emily," she says and walks away. Subdued by her accent and the fact that she bothered to use my name, I wait. I even glance at last at my surroundings and notice a large camera crew arranging full audio and lights. All this for a no-budget horror film? Impressive.
The lanky, aqua-eyed director interrupts the interview he's conducting to hear what the young woman has to say. Then he excuses himself from a lovely actress with waist-length hair and approaches me.
"Can you wait until I finish with this young lady?" he asks quietly, hunkering down to my eye level.
His clear, unjaded eyes and his use of "young lady" seem to have charmed me because I nod and wait while he scoots back on stage.
Cut to: The following week. That same Eric Young offers me the role of "Emily" in his monster movie. To which I say no several times because I don't want to miss commercial auditions to shoot for several days at a gorgeous Victorian bed-and-breakfast in Middleburg during cherry-blossom season, all expenses paid. After the fourth phone call, his upbeat resonant voice brings me to my senses.
Cut to: 18 years later. Eric and I have a fabulous life together with our lanky, aqua-eyed teenage son.
Montage as credits roll: Eric producing an acclaimed DVD about monster movie special effects at his own film company.
Me playing recurring roles of Wife, Mom, Character Actress, and Taxi Driver for polite teenagers.
Our teenage son introducing family friend (famed screenwriter of "Fatal Attraction") to the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Epilogue: Sometimes, to reach a happy ending, a character's objective needs to morph. Mine did. Instead of looking for a paycheck, I finally looked for much, much more. The audition I almost walked away from opened the door to the best part of my life.