Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Yesterday, using my illicit transportation tool, I traveled down to Victory Gardens Theater to read the script for Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Love Person, in preparation for an audition hours later1. The play, a compelling look at missed communications and language barriers, makes extensive use of characters on telephones, Blackberries, and Instant Messaging systems. It features a lesbian couple, one of whom is deaf, and another couple of different ethnicities and values. It premiered at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis earlier just this year (and part of me thinks I may have met the playwright at the Asian-American Theatre Conference while I was all-too-briefly there), and despite one of the characters’ obsession with the Sanskrit language it is one of the most contemporary plays I have read in awhile that has nothing to do with the Iraq War.
But there, in the script, I came across a Klondike-5.
You’ve probably encountered one of these at some point or another…the false phone number prefix customarily used in fiction so as not to inadvertently give out somebody’s actual phone number. It’s been around for almost fifty years now, and its design is a direct result of merry pranksters with too much time and not enough creativity calling the phone numbers they found on TV just to see who would pick up. I would have thought that this practice would have disappeared with running refrigerators and Prince Alberts in cans, but as recently as 2003 people were reportedly calling a non-555 phone number from the film Bruce Almighty and asking to speak with God.
Or maybe they just wanted to hear Morgan Freeman’s voice, which is understandable. That man has got a great voice.
I like the Klondike-5 as a piece of literary history; I feel less enamored of it when I actually find it in narrative. It pulls me right out of the immersion, every time, reminds me that what I’m watching or reading is fictional…it shows me the supports on the back of the scenery and causes the sun to flicker, ever so briefly. It’s unwanted meta-theatrics, the sort of thing that doesn’t belong in the work as a whole but was placed there by a focus group, or a committee of business school graduates, or a politician who swears he’s just doing it for the children, not for the rush of adrenaline he gets from getting all control-freaky.
But it has to be there, because people still want Jenny to call Tommy Tutone back, because that joke is apparently still funny. And the best way around it is to purchase a dedicated phone number just to field the calls, which can often lead to enjoyable viral marketing techniques, but also seems a waste of money to placate those with little to no impulse control.
I’ll pledge this. Although I’m not in the habit right now of having characters I write give out their phone numbers verbally, if ever I decide that such a moment is important to the script, I will use my own personal home phone number2. And if that script gets a wide exposure to a mass audience, I will let the phone ring, I will occasionally pick up and speak to whoever decided to call, ask them what they thought of the play or film or episode of television from where they got my number. I will ask them what they expected to hear at the other end of the line, what they wanted to say to anybody who picked up. I will ask them if it’s still as funny as they thought it would be before I picked up the phone.
And who knows? Maybe it will be.
But I’d rather imagine a day when nobody is forced to tack on a Klondike-5 or similarly transparent device just to deal with the tyranny of the mischievous.
1 I did not get called back, but I think I did a decent job on the audition. On these rarer and rarer occasions that I actually go into an audition I feel the itch to get back to basics, to go on more auditions, to audition for anything and everything in the Performink listings. I actually don’t have time to either audition or be cast in half of these things, between everything else I find myself working on, but I still want to. I was invited in to audition for the House Theatre of Chicago’s next show and it killed me to have to say no because the timing overlapped with these past weeks of Christmas Carolrehearsals and because the audition itself occurred at the same time as I was rehearsing for Too Much Light. I don’t regret the decision or my priorities; I just regret that circumstances didn’t work out that would have allowed me to explore the opportunity.
2 I’d use my cell if only incoming calls didn’t also cost money. I swear I would.