Friday, September 16, 2011

Camera Test



I had been avoiding the test as if it were another blood letting.

In actuality, it was a camera test; the stuff of dreams...well, at least my dreams.  Since I was three or four years old, I  have imagined myself on television.  I let that goal propel me into classes, auditions, shows, through four years of college and even being live on-air for PBS.

So, fast-forward to 2011 and I'm still that hopeful little girl (just in a bigger body) but that good feeling so interwoven within me becomes confusing.  That was then and this is now.  I'm a 43-year-old Muslim mom and kindergarten teacher in Egypt.  Can I still realize my lifelong goal of having a TV show?

A major satellitte network thinks I just might---hence the test.

They had wanted me to do a show during Ramadan, but I turned it down so I could really utilize all the possible time with my family in The States.  I turned down a dream.  That's not easy to do.

Having avoided it once, I started avoiding it again and again.  No, I couldn't come in to record segment on an Eid memory.  No, I wasn't available this week.  Finally, I knew that I had to agree to a time to take the camera test.

Even then, I wasn't sure if I really was going to audition.  It felt unreal; I guess that dreams do.  It wasn't the first time I'd dragged my feet at a time when I needed action.  Whenever I have avoided the very steps which could help me reach a goal, I have to get very objective and ask myself,

"How is it going to feel if I have to tell everyone that I never did it? 

On the other hand,

"How is it going to feel if I can tell everyone that I did?" 

For me, it puts it in perspective and I really didn't want to say that, "Yes, I had a chance to be broadcast around the world but I simply was feeling lazy and didn't make the effort to go in."

Yet, that night I fussed and fumed around the house as I cleaned floors.  I already had my job as a teacher and my jobs as mom, wife and homemaker.  I was tired as it was.  Why would I add more to that over-flowing plate?  I had some anger and resentment at one more possible work commitment.  I would love to coast through life for a while...

BUT opportunity knocks when the time is right, even if it doesn't seem right for us.

I stopped all my busy-ness and decided to pray.  I prayed isha and then I prayed istakkarah.  I truly took this huge dream of mine and put it on Allah.  If Allah wanted this for me, then I asked for ease and blessings.  If Allah didn't want this for me, then I asked him to take it away from me and make me satisfied with it.  I meant every word.

After the prayer, I was calmer---I won't lie and say I was totally carefree.  No way!  This was a pretty overwhelming proposition.  I made myself up and dressed in the Old Navy hot pink hoodie I'd gotten while overseas. 

Somewhere along the way, I appologized to my husband for being fussy.  Fear brings out the fussy in us all.  I knew that I was embaraking on something big (either the end or the beginning) and I didn't know what exactly.  My husband is too male to know what we women do with ambiguity; we roll it around and around in our heads without knowing how to stop. 

Men know how to stop.  They cut to the chase.  "Go or don't go.  It doesn't matter."

So, I did go.  He came with me in a taxi.  The studio called to make sure I was on my way.  Yep, a real deal.

When I walked in, I realized what a little beehive of activity the studio was at night.  I'd only been around during the day and never seen it swarm with people.  Right away my contact from all the phone calls introduced himself.  He had me meet a lady who I needed to follow.

Ah!  It was the make-up room!  I tried to explain that I was already made-up but she was telling me that it was too thin for the lights.  On went a layer of orange.  I had to stop her.  My husband tried to help her understand what I was trying to say.  Half my face was orange---which would be OK for various projects (Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka comes to mind) but I was hoping to keep my skin tone as realistic as possible.  Even though she tried to wipe off the color on the left side of my face, I swear I looked two-tone.

She wanted to line my eyes.  I tried to explain that I already had eye liner on but (once again) it was too light.  She got out black liquid eye liner and put it right next to lower lashes.  I looked so different!  I won't say, "good," but my husband sure was impressed. 

She powdered me, had me put on lipstick and sent me out to the green room.  It was funny sitting there.  All the workers took that sneak peek at who was auditioning tonight.

When I went in, I made a "ice breaker" joke with the stage hand carrying the hammer.  I asked him in Arabic if he was going to hit me with the hammer if I did a bad job.  One of the most important things to do on set is to be agreeable and friendly with everyone.

I worried a bit for my husband's sensibiliites.  I basically had to interact with more strange men than he'd ever seen with me before.  Usually, his jealousy spikes.  In many ways, I couldn't let whatever was happening with him to affect me in the moment. 

I knew that it would be a tricky time when the ear piece and the microphone were getting wired.  The sound man needed to put the cords under layers and clipped them around my chest.  My husband saw this going on and zoomed to the spot.  He was going to make sure that the sound man didn't make any errors in judgement.

Subhanallah, for a TV studio, it actually was such an Islamic place.  Everyone had such nice manners.  The set itself was like a beautiful ode to everything Islamic from the table, to the pillows, to the Arabesque floor and hanging wall panels.  I felt very special to be allowed to sit there.

I hated seeing my raccoon eyes on camera.  I couldn't believe that I was presenting myself that way!  I didn't even look like me.  With my past performing experience, I know that you can't analyze yourself and your looks in the moment.  You have to free yourself up and enjoy the "now".

They brought in a young man for me to interview.  He kept wanting to interact with me before the cameras started rolling and I kept resisting.  I knew that the initial burst of discovery only happens once.  Johnny Carson never talked ahead of time with his guests and I think it's a good rule.  I felt like a jerk for ignoring him on the stage but hoped that he would understand the method behind the madness later.

That ear piece became a voice in my head.  I was now being told what to do.  That must be every man's fantasy!  You tell a woman what to do and she actually does it!  LOL!  I saw my husband standing back from the proceedings and knew I had to zone him out.  They were beginning the countdown.

"Asalamu Alaykom, I'm Yosra, " I began.  I greeted the imaginary audience and then turned to greet the young man.  I really knew nothing about him and began asking about his name.  Then, I said how we had gone through Ramadan and now were in Shawwal. 

"Are you fasting for Shawwal?"  He said he wasn't but we were able to talk about it.  He gave a little knowledge about it.  I asked him who had taught him about this practice and he said that it had been his father.

I used that moment to talk directly into the camera, "This is for all the dads watching.  It's good to remember how your practices and traditions aren't really for you alone.  They are observed by your children and you are role modeling for them."

I was proud of how I shaped that dialogue into a meaningful gem.  That is the interviewer's job and as I sat there I wanted the job.

I asked the young man who else was in his family and he had two sisters.  I asked if he was an uncle yet and he was not.

I then talked about how on one of the nights of Eid we went as a family to McDonald's and all the children were calling "Amu!  Amu!"  Uncle!  Uncle! to the workers behind the counter. 

The young man explained how that's part of the Egyptian culture (and though I knew that, I let him be the expert).  I asked him if being "Amu" to all the children is something that's really in his heart.  Does he really believe that's who he is?

He did!

It was a lively exchange and I was glad for it.

The voice in my ear told me to take a caller.  This was a big surprise because I hadn't known there was going to be any caller.  I flubbed that and appologized later.

I told the young man that in The States we don't have that same feeling of every man being an uncle to the children.  I asked him if he'd been overseas.

He said that he had not (even though while prepping me the voice in my ear had specifically told me to ask that).  So, I asked if he welcomed that idea or was scared by it.

He said that he enjoyed meeting new people and talked at some length about that idea while the voice in my ear told me, "one minute".  So I then found a second to break in to his monlogue to thank him for allowing us all to get to know him.  I then turned to the camera and thanked the viewers for joining us and hoped that we would see each other again.

Thumbs up from the crew.  People seemed happy.  My husband was proud of my efforts.  We walked out without knowing the outcome.  Maybe nothing else will come of that camera test.  Maybe you will see me soon on satellitte.

I don't know.

I don't have to know.

Allah knows. 

Alhumdulillah for the chances which we're given and the chances which we take.

1 comment:

Jaime Brown said...

This is my own personal quote and I've turned it into my life guideline:

"I'd rather go 'off the deep end' into a sea of my dreams than stand ankle-deep in the shallow end wondering 'what if...' "

Whether this dream of yours sinks or rides the waves of new opportunity, at least you had the guts to do it.

No regrets.