Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
11:40 AM, Saturday May 22nd, was the third time in as many years that I auditioned for the Neo-Futurists’ brilliant and long-running work of genius Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind.
The audition process, for those unfamiliar, requires that one write and perform a solo performance piece of two minutes in length or less. TMLMTBGB is a weekly attempt to perform Thirty Plays in Sixty Minutes, and consists of several such pieces, drawn from each performer’s real life and expressed honestly and openly to the audience, often drawing them into the play itself. The callback process is more of the same, although it also requires a written piece for a group of performers, and generally speaking, they want you to do something different than you did at your first audition.
The first audition, in 2001, was strong enough to earn me a callback, which also went well…just not well enough to get me cast.
My second audition, in 2002, went terribly. I had flaked left and right on the writing of my audition piece; by the time I got to the audition day, I was a wreck and the piece I had written was filled with flaws, which were only magnified by my poor performance thereof.
And this third one? It went well, and of the four pieces the Neo-Futurists have seen me perform, this one was the most solidly adherent to the principles of Neo-Futurism, which I learned two summers ago in a workshop taught by Greg Allen. It didn’t earn the laughs of the first audition piece, “Rolling Stone” Reviews Angry Phone Call, but it wasn’t meant to be as deliberately funny. And I still had nerves, which seem to keep happening, damn it all, whenever I’m required to speak out to the audience. Sometimes it’s unnoticeable, but in a space and atmosphere as intimate as the Neo-Futurarium, I’m sure I was shaking like a fault line.
In any case. I’ll find out tomorrow if I’ve earned a callback this time. I’m even on the prospect; I’m not optimistic but I’m not pessimistic either.
I will say that no matter what happens, I continue to love these people. Besides being brilliant, they’re always warm and welcoming and still remember who I am despite the fact that I hadn’t seen a Neo-Futurist show in over a year (before last Sunday’s refresher patronage). Greg congratulated me on the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship; this was a wonderful surprise because I hadn’t ever mentioned it to him, meaning that he’d simply found out about it via the IAC newsletter or what have you and noticed my name. I am in awe of these people. Hearing them call out my name the same way the denizens of Cheers welcomed Norm when I walked into the space was surreal. One does not expect one’s gods to take notice, if you will.
In any case. For any wondering, this was the piece that I performed.
THE CONTENTS OF MY CARRY-ON
(BILAL is holding an item of luggage.)
BD: This is my bag.
Before you ask, I packed this bag myself, this bag has been in my control at all times, and no, nobody has asked me to carry anything into the theater.
(He produces his passport.)
This is my passport. The passport has not been in my control at all times.
(to a member of the audience)
Would you mind holding this? Thank you.
The passport is not in my control right now.
But nobody ever asks me about that. This passport is the most dangerous thing I own. Please be careful with that.
(He opens the bag and begins pulling items of clothing and costuming from it. As he speaks, he puts on a wig, hat, ties and funny glasses, etcetera, slowly appearing more and more clownish.)
Here’s what happened. A couple of months ago, I misplaced the passport. I took it downtown to verify my identity for a temp agency, and a few days later I realized I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in my backpack or in my jacket pocket or back at the agency. It was just missing.
(to the audience member holding his passport)
You should be careful with that. That is the passport of a Pakistani-born American citizen in his mid-twenties and for three weeks I had no idea where it was. I had no idea who might have taken it or who it may have been sold to or what that person’s intentions might have been. I can’t stress enough how careful you should be with that. That is the sort of thing mass murders are made of.
Before you ask. No. I did not notify anybody. I didn’t tell the post office, or Immigration Services, or the police, or the local branch of the FBI.
Before you ask, no, I can’t give you a good reason why. I don’t know if it’s just because I was in a mood to procrastinate or if it was because I couldn’t process the idea that I could be even the tiniest cog in something as potentially enormous as terrorist attack. That somebody with jihad in his heart and explosives in his briefcase could be walking through an airport terminal pretending to be Bilal Dardai from suburban Chicago.
Before you ask, no, I don’t use my passport that much. I’ve only ever been to Mexico, Canada, and Pakistan, and that was twenty years ago, back when it was just a third world country, not a third world country with nuclear secrets to sell. Ten years ago misplacing my passport meant I couldn’t travel abroad. This year it means that I may have placed all of you in danger. Everybody in this theater, everybody in this city, everybody in this state, people I love and people I don’t even know placed in the path of catastrophe. This year it means that I’d be connected to those held responsible, it means that maybe I wake up one morning naked in Cuba and return months later covered in stigma and bruises.
Before you ask. It was under a pile of papers in my girlfriend’s apartment.
Before you ask, yes, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my naivete, for my hesitation, for my inability to treat the disappearance of my passport with the seriousness it deserved. I’m sorry because if something had happened, no apology would have been sufficient. I’m sorry because I feel stupid and ridiculous and the only thing I could think to do to express that was to stand here looking stupid and ridiculous.
(to the audience member holding his passport)
Could I have that back?
(after getting the passport back)
I don’t know why you did that. This doesn’t look anything like me.