Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Sound of Silence or How to Win $1,000,000

Hello coughing, my old friend. I’ve come to hear your song again.

My apologies to the super duo of Simon & Garfunkel. Call me a goofball (and I know many of you do) but I had the notion yesterday of winning a million dollars (that’s $1,000,000, or a one followed by six zeros!) with a cough. Yes a simple cough. I was not alone! Dozens of contestants flocked to Portland’s Living Room to listen for a cough that could win a million smackers. The rules were simple. Find the secret cougher and be the first to offer them a soothing Ricola cough drop. The winner would have an opportunity to choose 1 of 100 envelopes, one of which was a million dollar prize winner.

The silly game was sponsored by Ricola, of course. Clues were given on radio ads as to where the mystery cougher would linger. Turned out it pointed at Pioneer Courthouse Square between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm yesterday. So I bought a bag of honey lemon Ricolas and wandered in the midst of a few, then a dozen, then dozens more “covert” pedestrians who all were scoping out the Starbucks on the corner. If security didn’t know better it would have looked like a bunch of us casing the joint. We all stood around, scanned the area, and listened for the suspect cougher. Who would it be?

I did observe an innocent gentleman, knowing not of the little contest, who proceeded to clear his lungs and throat in the midst of all the cough chasers. He was swarmed by dozens of greedy folks offering a Ricola. He was quite embarrassed about the ordeal, but left with a giddy smile. If there ever was anyone needing a free cough drop, this was the place to be.

I, however, only had an hour for lunch and had to depart before the prize cougher arrived. But I did notice some interesting things. I think in the 11 years I have been employed in downtown Portland I have not once just stood or sat listening and observing. So I stood silently to listen and observe my dear city. I watched folks with hunched shoulders from carrying bags full of presents jaywalk across the streets. I heard lots of bells, like the ringer in front of Nordstroms, the Max light rail bells, church bells in the distance marking noon o’clock. The sound of seagulls scavenging the area for dropped crumbs. Pigeons cooing and waddling around avoiding the steps of humans. Not once did I hear a cough. Drats.

What did I learn? I need to observe more. As an actor and performer this lesson was well learned. Acting is, for the most part, re-acting. That is, a performer doesn’t stand on stage and deliver lines constantly. He or she listens to others, reacting to what is said or heard or seen. An actor must consciously fill the void of silence with imaginary thoughts, sounds, and actions. An actor must also define his or her character physically by actions. Keen observation of interesting people can provide lots of character fodder.

So, stop & listen once in a while. Even to the sound of silence.

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Comments on "The Sound of Silence or How to Win $1,000,000"


Blogger Seth M. Renne said ... (December 07, 2007 12:20 PM) : 

I'm sorry you didn't find the mystery cougher, that would have been awsome! Alas... I hope Plaid is going well.


Blogger Penny Karma said ... (December 11, 2007 9:42 AM) : 

Silence? Never heard of it.

Hope all's well. ;)


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