I’ve always been a bit paranoid. I’m the type who keeps a toothbrush in her purse, not because I want fresh breath, but because you never know when you’re going to get kidnapped.
I wasn’t always this bad, but when I moved to the city when I was seventeen, suddenly I was surrounded by thousands more people than ever before. The possibilities now seemed endless for a Law & Order episode to play out on me as the unsuspecting victim.
One of my first jobs was at a certain daytime talk show famous for their paternity tests. Working there was depressing, it just sucked the soul from me. But thankfully, it forced me pursue what I really wanted to do with my life, which is voiceover acting. Consider this: I could look like any morbidly obese pajama-wearing tranny with a dozen baby daddy options and still make a paycheck in the Industry so as long as my voice sounds nice. Perfect. So I began looking through the most reputable place where I could certainly find an honest job. I’m sure you’re all thinking the same thing my 22-year-old self was, Craigslist!
I found a listing right away; a startup company wanting to record those on hold messages. Ya know the “thank you for holding, your call is important to us…” I thought great! I can do that. I replied to the ad and got a response immediately! It was a guy named Charles who wrote, “I like what I hear, my friend’s apartment has a sound studio. Would you like to come by next week to record?” In retrospect, I was likely the only thing he heard but I didn’t care! I was on top of the world! I felt great… until I told another human being.
My friend Dave at work was a reasonable grown-up to me, so when he basically repeated back, “OK, you met a guy on Craigslist who wants to take you to his friend’s apartment that has a sound-proof room? Wait, don’t tell me, I know the name of this horror movie.” Fine. I hadn’t considered any of the repercussions, namely the high potential of cold-blooded murder.
In the days leading up to the “recording session”, it became a joke around the office. “Sarah, it’ll just be a meat locker with a bunch of frozen voiceover actresses.” Naturally, all of this weaved into my brain and I began to realize this probably was an elaborate ruse to lure idiot craigslisters into their kill room. Nevertheless, my 22-year-old-self was willing to risk death because this is what New Yorkers do! They take risks! … Right? Well, if this turned out to be the worst decision I ever made, I didn’t want to become one of those cold cases opened for decades and ensure my mother had some closure. So I concocted a brilliant plan: if I was mangled and dismembered, the police would have a hard time identifying me UNLESS I left them a clue. Naturally, I wrote my social security number hidden on my inner thigh. You’re welcome NYPD! Now you’ll be able to piece together the puzzle that is my chopped up body. Brilliant! I was a communications major, cut me some slack.
Recording session day finally arrived and I met Charles at his friend’s apartment building. Charles turned out to be a middle aged little Irish guy. Not just short, but little. If this went down badly, I thought, maybe I could take ‘em. We shook hands and he turned to the glass door behind him at street level and invited me into his friend’s “apartment”, which was by no means an apartment, it was a vacant storefront. I felt the panic start to rise in my chest but for some reason followed him in anyway.
Charles locked the door behind him and said in his Irish lilt, “won’t you head down to the basement? That’s where the studio is.” And of course it’s in the goddamn basement!
As I walked down the narrow staircase, I could hear the sound Dave’s voice, “they won’t even have a microphone, Sarah!” I reached the bottom step and at that moment began having trouble breathing. As I got my bearings I saw the sound studio at the far end of the basement. Not unlike this so-called “apartment” this was not a sound studio at all. It was a storage space. A storage space with concrete walls and a door that had to have been 10” thick. Charles followed down behind me and ushered me in and the little room. As I looked around, to my horror I quickly realized… no microphone. He spoke in his singsong accent, “my sound guy is running late. Have a seat then and we can practice for a while.” Thanks for humoring me, Charlie. I really appreciate that.
I sat alone with Charles in the dim room for what seemed like eternity, when an older man peeked in through the door. I thought I get it, you’re the killer and he’s the craigslist mastermind. He then introduced himself and confidently held up the recording equipment. It was a 1990’s cassette player with a record button on top. This was either the lowest-budget production or their murder microphone was already rented out. Two against one, my odds were nil. I decided I’d have a fighting chance if I didn’t lead on that I knew their game, so despite my inevitable untimely death, I politely recorded their scripts which sounded like, ::freaked and panicked:: “You’ve reached the Law offices of Fucking Terrified and Sons”. What better time to mind your manners than when you know you have minutes to live!
I finally decided to take a shot at freedom, checking my watch I said, “oh my lunch hour is over, I should really get back.” They two of them slowly raised their eyes from their scripts and exchanged a long silent look. The older man simply gave Charles a nod. “Oh god,” I thought, “this is it. It’s over and I’ve walked right into this. What have I done with my life?” Charles then spoke, “Off you go, then. We can pick up next week”. And before I knew it, I was outside on the street again, unharmed, unscathed, and intact. I practically sprinted back to work, my heart leaping out of my chest, finally catching my breath again.
I wish I could say this led to a successful voiceover career. It didn’t. But I am happy I lived to tell the tale.
*This story was performed before a live audience on May 7, 2012 at the Magnet Theater hosted by the incomparable Adam Wade.