Martha Hannah asking question at Austin Network Mixer May 2017 (3)

QUICKSAND

It was evening, the lights low, the room packed with tables and heavy chairs, booths in the back. Like most party rooms in restaurants located smack on interstate access roads, it was well-worn, but the drinks were good and the wait-staff quick. We were at Sherlocks in North Austin, waiting for the Network Austin Mixer to begin. It’s an opportunity for actors to network and learn. It’s important to be there.

The crowd was gathering, slowly filling the room. In the front, spotlights shone down on 3 chairs on a stage, awaiting casting directors, Donise Hardy and Kim and Brad Burton to appear for a panel discussion. Off to the side, an open mic for Q & A, where even I got up later to ask a question. But, at this point, people were chatting, still milling around.

I grabbed a table down front, pulled up a few chairs. First, an older, new to the business actress I did not know, needed a seat. She said she had a long, hard life story to tell. Looked a little weary, a little cynical. I didn’t ask.

Next Tricia Eakin happened to walk by and joined us. Actress-writer, she is sweetness itself and a delight. Her writing is so strong. Luckily, I did the lead in her FronteraFest play, ‘A Good Run’, over a year ago. It was great to have a chance to catch up with her. My dear friend, Mohammad Ahmed, from my A Working Group class, next sat down. Another AWG buddy, Emily Farr was on her way.

Tricia and I started talking about a movie still she’d shared on Facebook. Of course, she’s gorgeous and it’s this wonderful shot of her from the back, standing waist deep in an emerald green, algae-filled pond. Her blonde hair is swept up, her back is bare. For me, having grown up on a farm with ponds full of snapping turtles and snakes, I was amazed she’d get in it. Tricia said what surprised her, when she waded in, was sinking deep into the mud at the bottom of the pond.

Now, Mohammad, who is unfailingly cheerful and helpful, always has well-intentioned ready advice. It’s one of the things I love about him. And that he always says things with such conviction. He says, “I can tell you how to save yourself if you walk into quicksand. You know what to do? Do you?” Like our very lives depended on it. There’s a pause and Tricia says, “Well, you don’t move around, right?” The other actress just sits there, looking at him.

By then I’m smiling because the conversation has taken this great, absurd twist. Notably, pond silt has just morphed into quicksand. Mohammad, with that great smile, says, “You stay still! You stay real still! And it will save you!” Though I doubt Mohammad has ever been in a country pond in his life, I know he’s sure he has the answer.

Tricia Eakin, so sweet, nods politely with, “Oh. Okay” But the other actress stares at him for a moment, gives him this cynical WTH look and says, “Do you have ‘experience’ with quicksand?”

By then I am rolling, laughing to myself, watching this. Mohammad confidently says, “Well, in the movies! Quicksand in the movies!” Which, of course, in Actor World makes total sense. How could you ever doubt it? It’s the only explanation you need. -– by Martha Hannah