So I get a call. One of the rare calls from my answering service…Plaza 7-6300. I don’t know if they’re still around. It could be a dentist’s office by now. Anyway, I was told to go to the Phoenix theatre for an audition for “A Month in the Country” to be directed by Sir Michael Redgrave.
Wow…I thought…BIG time.
So I went along with the other 200 or so actors that were asked to make an appearance! Lo and behold, there was Sir Michael, charming as hell. He gave me a copy of the play since I’d never read it and told me to “look it over” and come back at 4 pm. And I did look it over. Again. And again. Still again. Maybe ONCE more couldn’t hurt.
I returned to the Phoenix theatre, more or less confident and waited maybe three minutes for Sir Michael. Someone else was in there doing HIS audition.
Finally, I read a long scene WITH the director himself. The two producers looked on. I read well. Sir Michael gave me a directorial note and wanted me to read the scene one more time.
Why not? I thought. I’ll read that scene twenty more times if it does the trick.
Midway through the reading…and when I had finished that piece of direction he’d given me…he slapped his knee in satisfaction and stopped the scene. He liked what I had done. I knew it. They all thanked me, and I thanked THEM for their time…and off I went to the nearest phone booth to call an old girlfriend of mine.
“Hey, hey,” I told her. “I NAILED it, I really nailed it. I think they liked me. I really did. I think I’ve got a REALLY good chance of getting the understudy part.”
And that’s how I felt. I had made the rounds for so long, seeking acting work, and here I thought perhaps they’d let me understudy that role of Beliaev.
At 6:30 pm I went to pick up Ann Howard, a lady agent I knew, for dinner.
“Ann, can I use your phone, please, to check my service? Before we go out to dinner? I mean, just in case.”
I dialed (no push-buttons then) Plaza 7-6300. “Hi, it’s Al Hedison, any messages?”
“Yes,” the voice answered. “Phoenix theatre called. You got the part. Pick up the script.”
“What did you say?” I answered.
“You got the part. Pick up the script.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear, hear you…what? Pick it…pick up…what?…”
“Al, are you deaf? Pick up the damned script at the Phoenix Theatre. You’ve got the part!”
I was still not sure. I mean, she didn’t SAY understudy…she SAID you got the part. She said it, I think, three times. Al, you got the part. Suddenly, for some strange reason, I couldn’t feel the floor under my feet. I told Ann, the agent I was to have dinner with, and although she was thrilled for me and wanted to celebrate…I said to her that if she wouldn’t mind, I just wanted to be alone that night.
I left. And here we go with another night I will ALWAYS remember. I walked out of her apartment, I think on 49th Street East. I hadn’t had a drop to drink and STILL I staggered. I reached Third Avenue…and in those days there was an El…a subway above ground. I started walking uptown on Third Avenue, throngs of people, a noisy El above, honking horns. I heard nothing. I was in a daze. NOT the understudy, the part, the part…
I continued walking uptown. It was crazy. Where was I? Was there a world around me? Not the understudy. Not another rejection…the part. I got THE PART…
I’m on the corner of 53rd Street now and the flood-gates open and I can’t control myself. I stop. I look up. I think. and I sink to my knees. And I sit on the curb of the sidewalk. On the curb of the sidewalk. And I cry. Oh, did I cry. I looked up with tears in my eyes and kept repeating, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you.”
Passersby on the street must have looked at that poor bawling soul and wondered WHY he had so much to drink.