Ali Marsh, Matthew Ballard, Frederick Weller, Holland Taylor
Claire, the star of a t.v. series, is unable to get an audition for an avant-garde, Eastern European theater director doing a production of 'A Streetcar Named Desire.' She uses her influence to secure a guest role on her series for an actress from that production, theater Grand Dame Olivia von Hoffen. In return, she asks Olivia to help her get an audition for the play.
Olivia sizes her up, then asks to see a head-shot and resume. When Claire shows the theater actress her straightforward, attractive head shot, the latter responds, 'How predictable. Let me show you mine.' Olivia shows her a photo with a totally blurry, out-of-focus face in the foreground and the clear image of a dog under a tree in the background. 'Right from the head shot,' Olivia explains, 'You want them to know that you're going to be avoiding the cliche choice.' Olivia then proceeds to demonstrate this principle of cliche-avoidance on the set of the t.v. show. When Claire follows suit, total mayhem ensues and the production grinds to a halt. After the t.v. director curses out Olivia, Claire quits the show and storms off the set. When the t.v. director runs after Claire and tries to talk her down from her eruption, we learn that the two are married with a small daughter. Claire's rejection of the t.v. show seems to be a symptom of a larger mid-life crisis. Claire stops Olivia outside of her trailer and asks Olivia once again to help her secure an audition for the avant-garde director.
Cut to: Claire's audition for the director. She struggles to make sense of his direction, which is clouded by a mixture of his English-as-a-second language malapropisms and his garden-variety madness. When she requests to audition with a scene in which her character actually has some dialog, he is outraged at first, but then sees some potential in her feistiness. He then runs her through various acting exercises (in a musical montage), including animal work, a classic 'mirror exercise,' some crying in her underwear and some vomiting into a bag. After this grueling work-out, he offers her the role (of Stella), on the condition that she'll repeat a series of phrases. She's okay with the first phrase, 'I am ready to weep tears of vomit,' but feels violated after repeating the last phrase, 'My life up til now has been total bullshit.' In response to her complaints of feeling violated, he explains, 'Feeling raped is the beginning of wisdom.' 'Excuse me?' she asks, appalled. 'It is from the bible,' he replies. After a few more words of wisdom from him, she realizes he's crazy as a shit-house rat. She declines the job, which does not go over well with the vaunted theater director, who is not used to hearing the word, 'No.' Back on the set the next day, she has a new-found appreciation for her life and marriage.