Playing The Part and Pulling It Off (Hopefully)

By an incredible stroke of luck, I found myself on all-expense-paid business trip to wine country in Puglia, Italy. But let’s be honest, I don’t belong on this trip. I am not an importer, I am not a distributor, I don’t even work at winery but at a small independent retail shop in Brooklyn. “Just drink the wine and learn as much as you can. No pressure,” my boss told me. While deliriously drinking in the beauty surrounding me just as earnestly as I knocked back my Primitivo, my hedonistic aspirations come to a crashing halt when I realized This Is Not A Vacation. I was to pretend to be an importer and I didn’t know the first thing about acting that part- my boss sent me on this trip completely unprepared. So I shakily bluffed my way through interviews with winemakers and didn’t; get much of a rush from it. I was afraid of sounding stupid and for them to call me out as a fraud- which a few did, to my total mortification. All of this is added to the fact that I was a young, attractive American woman at least 15 years younger than anyone else on this trip. I stuck out like a sore thumb among the 60 year old European men which constituted 90% of the group. The thought plagued me, “Who the hell would take you seriously?” When I expressed my anxiety to my senior associates they consoled me with “Don’t worry, use your looks to your advantage. You’re here to taste wine and learn about this industry. Don’t let these people intimidate you, just give them a smile.” I was frustrated with my own ignorance and the feminist on my shoulder telling me if I was a young man I would be treated much differently. Flattered by the chivalrous treatment and downright spoiled by the Italian lifestyle, but I still felt uncomfortable treating this whole thing with such flippancy. I thought that if a young man were in my position, more would be expected of him so that he wouldn’t embarrass himself and the company sponsoring his trip. But as I a young attractive American woman, everyone is concerned that I am enjoying myself. No doubt everyone else is enjoyed my refreshing presence among the usual suspects. My goal is to be taken seriously, and all I can do right now is fake it till I make it. All of my audition techniques proved very useful on this trip because handling so many situations such as this all comes down the basic principles. Dress the part you’re going for, practice your lines, research your part in the context of the entire script and when show time comes simply react. After recently attending his show at the Brooklyn museum, I thought that Jean Paul Gaultier’s idea that “our body, the way we present ourselves—it’s a form of communication. Our clothing, hair and body decoration reflect our true identity” is very much true, unless you’re trying to adorn yourself in order to disguise. But, even the way you walk, it’s always giving yourself away. Self-conscious musing and constant mirror checking don’t satisfy my anxiety that I’m presenting the image I want. Your headshot can say so many different things and your audition could completely contradict or highlight those facts. We’re in the business of appearance and here every details counts. I feel accomplished that my efforts to be taken seriously were at least noticed in the fact that I behaved with demure, refined manners, unlike my fellow loud-mouth American attending this trip. It was a great lesson in self image and providing a benchmark for how much I know versus how much more I have to learn.

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