I love listening to old-time radio programs from the 1930s and 1940s. I was super excited to experience the Scott Paulson “Nancy Drew’s Tiki Terror Radio Drama” on Thursday night at the Nancy Drew Sleuth Convention. In fact, I contacted Scott to see if he needed an additional reader (yes, I touted my degree emphasis in musical performance and my daily experience in front of an audience). He was won over and said I could have a role in the script.
I practiced my Judy Garland-esque voice, trying to eliminate my Okie accent. I wore my favorite sparkly sweater and 1940s up-do. And when he handed me the script, a few minutes before show-time, he said, “You work at a zoo, right? I have the perfect part for you.”
What could it be, I wondered excitedly?
“You get to be the monkey.”
Yep. The monkey.
I said, “Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best.” I took a deep breath and cringed as I opened the script. My worst fears were confirmed. I would be “eeking” my way through the entire show. Thirty-four times, I would step up to the microphone and screech out an obnoxious “EEK EEK!!!”
Goodbye Judy Garland.
I exited the room and went to the hotel stairwell to mentally prepare for my unexpected role. My pep talk to myself went something like this, “Might as well be a good monkey. I hear monkeys nearly every day. I can do this. Be the monkey.”
I practiced a few quiet shrieks and tried some voice inflection. Yes, I could definitely pull off a semi-authentic-sounding primate. Moments later, I was sitting in a chair near the stage, ready to make my debut on page 7. One cue, I stepped up to the microphone and smiled at the audience. They had no idea what was coming.
George: This pillow is so soft and inviting!
Nancy: That’s more than a pillow, George. It’s a monkey.
Monkey: EEE! eeEE! eeEE!
The reaction was palpable and I knew I’d nailed it. I saw a few people jump in surprise. For the rest of the script, I “eeked” my little heart out. I had sad “eeks,” questioning “eeks,” and accusing “eeks” as the script dictated.
The questions received at the end of the show cracked me up. “Did you audition for that part?” “Have you done this show before?” “Do you have experience making monkey noises?” They were totally serious!
So, embarrassed might not be the right word, because once I embraced the part—it was fine. The initial disappointment at not having a glamourous role was probably my biggest hang-up, but I confess to feeling proud when both Scott Paulson and the Nancy Drew play producer, John Maclay, had nice things to say about my primate portrayal. After all, they are professionals.
My reputation among the Nancy Drew Sleuths changed that night. I was fairly unknown among these people before that moment. Now, it seems I’ll forever be remembered for being the monkey. Although I wore mostly dresses at the conference, I might as well have been in my zoo uniform from that point on. I made the oblivious choice of ordering a banana with my lunch the next day—and everyone noticed.
Be the monkey, Amy. “EEEK!”