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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Casting Call

Alexandra Grunberg is a student in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has previously been published in The Fast-Forward Festival. She loves Stephen King, Game of Thrones, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

"I'm sorry, I just don't think you're right for the part."
Michael Poksi shuffled the resume in front of him to the bottom of a large pile of resumes, the result of a disappointing casting day. He stared at his watch and sighed. 5:45. If the train was not running late, he might just get to see the last ten minutes of the game. His team was probably losing, it was a bad season, but that was all the more reason they needed his moral support.
As he moved to get up, he realized that the actor in front of him had not moved.
"I'm sorry," he said again. "But you can leave now. We're looking for something else."
"What are you looking for?"
With an audible and pointed sigh, Michael slumped back into his seat. The actor winced and Michael smirked. Though he would never admit it, he got a thrill from the fear of the actors and a kick from the power he got from being a casting director.
"Well for starters, we're looking for the king of the Martian regime."
"I'm perfect for the part!"
Michael sighed again. This happened sometimes, but not often, and he usually had an assistant with him who would kindly escort the stubborn actor outside. But the bubbly and aggressive Terri had the flu, so this was his problem now.
"Look kid," said Michael. "You look like you're about sixteen and, how can I put this, you're awkward as a giraffe with three legs. I've never seen someone as uncomfortable in his body as you are."
The kid shifted his weight, embarrassed. He did bear a startling similarity to a giraffe. His arms and torso looked far too long, as well as his thin neck, and he had to be significantly taller than the six feet two inches he claimed on his resume.
"A king is probably tall."
"I guess," said Michael. "But you're pushing it. Also, you talk like English is a second language. I don't mean you have an accent, but you're emphasizing each syllable like you're discovering speech. It's weird."
"If he's a Martian, English is a second language," insisted the actor. "Besides, how do you know how Martians talk?"
Michael laughed.
"Well if you're an expert, enlighten me."
The actor opened his mouth wide and emitted a high-pitched whine, followed by intense chattering. The sight and sound would have startled any other man, but Michael had seen his share of theatrics in the audition room.
"Very interesting," said Michael. "But this time, I'm going to believe the writer. The king speaks English. You don't."
The kid looked deflated. Michael felt triumphant. He pulled his bag onto his shoulder and stood.
"And last of all, but probably most important," said Michael. "You're wearing make-up. I mean, really? I don't care if you're pockmarked or covered in scars, you look like a dying drag queen."
"How do you know what a Martian king looks like?"
"I know he doesn't look like you."
The actor laughed. It was the same high-pitched volume of his nonsense chattering.
"Ah, I think I know what you want to see."
The kid moved his hands to his face and began to wipe off his make-up. Next he pulled off his cheeks, followed by his nose, which he popped into his pocket. His hair came off next, revealing a bulbous skull that extended far too much behind him. His eyes he plucked out last.
"Do I look more like a Martian king now?"
Michael stood frozen, his mouth wide open, terrified.
"I'm perfect for the part."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Author Comments

As an actress, I have gone on many casting calls, from professional productions to exercises in class. My fellow actors and I are always told that the casting director wants us to succeed, but after numerous rejections and comments which they always claim are never personal, sometimes I just wish they knew what it felt like to be the powerless ones.

- Alexandra Grunberg
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