Mrs. Patterson is a Toothbrush

So I decide to take an acting class.

I’m pretty nervous, because there are two styles of acting teachers. This style, the kind that comes with incense and new age music and a gentle voice:

“Hey. So I want you to FEEL this character, Mrs. Patterson. Like: if Mrs. Patterson were a toothbrush, and you’re brushing your teeth with THAT toothbrush. How does your mouth look while that’s happening? Goooood.”

Or, there’s this style, in a plain room spoken by a plain person in a plain voice:

“No. Your arms are locked by your sides. Mrs. Patterson gestures a lot. Do it again.”

The first kind… does not work for me. It didn’t work for me when I was six years old in California and all of the adults I knew were saving up their money so they could be Rebirthed, which means going into a dimly lit room and being taken through your birth all over again so you can experience the trauma but, like, protect your… infant… self – I don’t even know. So I’m nervous. Because straightforward teaching is what works for me.

So I look really hard to find the perfect class. I choose the one with the most practical class description and I pay ten dollars to watch the class and make sure it’s the right one for me.

It takes me four seconds to find out.

“Hey, guys. Welcome. Welcome. Let’s dive right in. Who came with a question?”

A young woman in the front row says, “I have one.”

Share it with us.”

She says, “I’m wondering about… dreams. And feelings.”

“That is an AMAZING question.”

(…was that a question? I look around, but everyone else is nodding. Apparently that was a question.)

“And in the coming classes we’re going to excavate your dreamscape. And your lifescape. And your artscape.”

(…and if that had been a question, that… would have been the answer. Apparently.)

“Let’s say you’re in a scene, and you’re a massage therapist talking to a client.”


“You’re NOT a massage therapist talking to a client.”


“You’re talking to your FATHER.”


“I’M your father. Find your father in my face. Where’s your father in my face? Sophia?”

The young woman says with confidence, “Your chin. My father is in your chin.”

(And I just know that somewhere across town there is an acting class teacher saying – “In this scene, you’re a massage therapist talking to a client. So be respectful. Go.”)

“Brian? Where’s your father in my face?”

The be-toque-ed kid says, “The lines around your eyes.”


I’m taken completely off guard. I thought I was just watching the class.

“Um…” I cannot picture my dad’s face in my head, AT ALL.

“Sage. Where is your father. In my face.”

“Um, I’m sorry. I have absolutely nothing. Sorry.”

“Sage. That is o-kay. What letter does your father’s name start with.”

“It… uh, it starts with M.” I have NO IDEA where he is going with this.

“Where’s the M in my face. Find the M.”

“Oh. Uh…” And I do know at this point that I can just say, like, “your nose” or “your cold and dead sharklike eyes” but – just like I couldn’t pretend at the psychic fair my dad took me to and the fortune teller was convinced I was a psychic, and she was like, “I know you can see something of this lady’s future, Sage, sweetie, what do you see?” and I couldn’t make something up – just like then, I can’t pretend here. “Sorry. I’m sorry, I’m not good at this game. I really don’t know.”

At which point he gives me a pitying look and moves on to the next student, the prettiest girl in the class.

“Now Stephanie, I’m your lover. You’re talking to your lover. What in my face is your lover. Where can you find your lover in my face.”

Stephanie whispers intimately, “Ohhh… Your neck.”

“Goooood. Now, what’s hard to say to your lover? Think of the thing that’s hard to say to your lover. Now say it as loudly as you can, SILENTLY. Gooooood.”

And I am wondering all the way home if I’m just too dumb to understand Real ACTINNNNNNG but the next day I’m telling an actor I really respect this story and he’s like –

“You know what? Good for you. I wish more people had the guts to just call acting teachers on their bullshit.”

Hey! So maybe instead of being too dumb to understand Real ACTINNNNNG I’m actually that kid! The one from the Emperor’s New Clothes story! You know the one, the girl who’s like, “…BUT THE EMPEROR IS NAKED,” and everyone is angry at first but then they can’t help but admit it! MAYBE THIS WILL BE A REVOLUTION IN ACTING CLASSES EVERYWHERE! MAYBE I’LL START MY OWN ACTING SCHOOL AND I’LL HIRE THAT GUY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CITY AND HE’LL CALL HIS CLASSES “STRAIGHTFORWARD PRETENDING 101”!

And then everyone will take that class! Movie stars will start acting in movies! It could happen! And everyone will start going back to the movie theatres and a gang of ruffians will drop Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and Kristen Stewart in a little rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and they will never find their way back to land! And once people start having a wonderful time at movie theatres together they’ll realize they really enjoy walking! And riding their bikes! And they will stop driving their cars! Everywhere! All around the world! And Global Warming will be halted! And WOMEN WILL GET EQUAL PAY! WHY? I DON’T KNOW, THEY JUST DO!

All because of one brave little child.

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