Jewish Journal


by Tiferet Peterseil

October 30, 2009 | 4:33 am

Tel Aviv and Los Angeles are actually more similar than you would imagine.  Both cities are flowing with creativity, packed with interesting people and lately, Tel Aviv has even added palm trees to its skyline. In fact, in both cities I sometimes find myself walking around dazed and confused, wondering if I’m a major character on the stage (a la Macbeth) or just stuck in a minor role (a la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are…). 

But if you ask me, the most similar thing about these two cities is the weather.

This morning, Tel Aviv received the first major rain of the year.  Before I had the chance to wake up to the soft pitter-patter of rain drops, I was rudely awakened by honking and screaming.

Coming from Jerusalem, the windy city, what’s a little rain? A little cold? To me, anything short of frostbite is a walk in the park. So I find it fascinating when, at the first drop of water, chaos breaks loose. Pedestrians scramble frantically for cover, cars honk and drivers yell obscenities as they skid along the Ayalon Freeway trying desperately to go from 0 to 60 and brake at the same time. Like L.A., Tel Aviv traffic jams are legendary.  I remember my first rain in L.A.  The twenty minute drive to work turned into a two hour ordeal and I had that sinking feeling that perhaps I had taken the wrong entrance and was now idling in the middle of a parking lot.  But to be fair, there is a difference between Tel Aviv and L.A. In Tel Aviv, when workers come in late because of the rain they claim they had just survived “The Flood” and dare anyone to contradict them. In L.A., on a rainy day, I actually don’t remember anyone else showing up to work….

I stuck my head out the window and inhaled deeply, preparing to smell the fresh fragrance of lilies and roses which always seemed to envelop me in Jerusalem (Okay, so I had lilies and roses growing under my window. Still…) But in a city of half a million people and a million cars, the wet smell of exhaust fumes did more than engulf me, it made me gag.

And there’s another difference: In L.A. I always liked to splash in the rain (a holdover from my not too distant youth) but in Tel Aviv, rain is for avoiding, and splashing in the puddles will result in someone siccing their dog on you.

I really like the rain, the wind and the storm. Why? Because that’s the kind of person I am – romantic, stormy, forceful (I’m assuming none of you have met me) – and it’s this very set of qualities that sometimes creates more waves and ripples than I bargain for.

Take last year. There was a show on television. The kind of show you look at and say, “Why on earth aren’t I starring in that?” and then you realize, it’s because they’ve never heard of you! And why haven’t they heard of you? Because you’re new in town and you don’t yet have an agent. And without an agent you can’t get an audition.

Then I asked myself, in true Talmudic fashion, does the howling wind stop the pouring rain? Of course not. The rain beats down despite the winds. If I don’t have an agent to get me an audition will that stop me? Never! I’ll get my own audition.

I am rain (woman).

So I did the only logical thing I could think of. I tracked down the director of the show, took off a day from my busy schedule of watching television, found his mailbox and gently stuffed an overfull envelope which had a cover letter, pictures, and a self-addressed postcard in it, into his mailbox. Of course, I had to empty out all his other mail first. 

Certain that I had impressed him with my earlier material, I returned two days later and placed my showreel and resume into his mailbox – again carefully eliminating all his other (probably junk) mail.
My plan worked. This acclaimed director wrote me a letter saying that he had spoken to the casting director and I was being presented with an opportunity to audition for a smallish part in the show. Strange, but after signing off, the director wrote:

P.S. Can I have my mail back now?

This was my lucky break. I knew it. I was perfect for this series. Within two days I knew every nuance,  and had reworked every angle of the 10 lines that would catapult me to fame.

The rain poured by the time my audition came around. I took this as a sign (although it was winter) and told myself I would be the beating rain that takes the Tel Aviv acting industry by storm.  It was now or never. The director had opened the doors for me (Yes, I returned most of his mail) and the casting director was giving me her valuable time—blowing this was not an option.

For those thespians among you, as well as for those who have nothing to do with my industry, allow me to introduce you to what I feel is the most important rule in acting: Flexibility. Obviously, an actor must have a clear understanding of her character. But in an audition, or on set, you must become a chameleon, instantly adjusting to the fine nuances in your environment, reacting to your co-star’s energy, and adapting to the director’s instructions.  And I knew this instinctively.

The rain beats mercilessly.

And I was great.

At least in my mind.

My knees began to shake and somehow I became deaf, not hearing any stage direction, just watching the director’s lips move as she became more and more agitated. “What’s she saying” I kept thinking to myself? “Can’t she see I’m already doing everything she wants me to do?”

I nodded blankly at her instructions, but repeated the exact acting pattern take after take.

I was the rain.

And I became a drizzle.

I blew the audition.

My first time up in front of a major name, and I couldn’t hold it together. I could barely lift my head up after that. And I silently promised myself to spend more time looking for an agent.

Acting is all about making mistakes:  A role you should’ve gotten but you froze up at the audition; a connection you should’ve followed-up on, but you never got around to; a VIP who could have helped you, but who knew you were expected to send her flowers after your meeting?; and sometimes even acting in a role that will only hurt your career in the long term.

A production called “The Pilots’ Wives” (loose translation) has been having trouble casting for about a year. It’s something of a joke among agents and actors: “Yes, they’re still casting.”

The roles on the series are coveted by every actor in the business. It‘s a major, star-studded production.

Last year, I had an opportunity to go on an audition to this show, but I was still too traumatized from the last one, and talked myself out of it.

Now, three days into filming, there are all sorts of rumors coming from the set. One newspaper reported that the actors were complaining that they’re doing 70-80 takes a day. That they’re exhausted and by the time the end scenes roll in, they can no longer muster the energy and focus to act.

Agents are upset, saying they wouldn’t have allowed their actors to participate in the series had they known how inept everyone is. How this will only hurt their clients’ reputation as professional actors. Bridges are being burned all over the place as everyone accuses each other of a lack of professionalism.

Maybe it was good that I talked myself out of competing with all these “names”. 

Go figure. That’s acting. It’s not a science. It’s mazal. And making sure the wind doesn’t blow you away.

Sylvester Stallone once said about his pre-stardom days, “I had mastered the art of rejection”. The real art, however lies not in your ability to accept rejection, nor in your willingness to “walk out of an audition forgetting you ever entered it, and leave the experience behind you.” The real art is to take those mistakes and admit, aloud, that you made them. That’s life. That’s acting.

Yes, leaving your mistakes behind you – that takes more skill than most people can muster. But remembering how you went from a torrent to a drizzle, and still somehow reinventing your stormy self again, now that’s the real challenge.

Not to beat a metaphor to death—The rains return even after they let up.

I’m zipping up my raincoat, prepared to begin my day. I’m going to leave the hood off, because I intend to get as wet as possible. I’m even considering sneaking up on that director again….

Which reminds me, anyone know Spielberg’s new address?

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