I’m not going to lie. I’ve had a short-lived acting career, amounting to my third grade Flag Day play, in which I played the leading lady– the American flag. And granted, I was only chosen for the role because I just so happened to own an American flag costume. But still, it was a significant part, which required heavy memorization and even a few musical numbers.
However, since my elementary school days I have taken a back seat to the theater. I prefer to involve myself in the creation of the masterpiece, rather than being at its epicenter. And frankly, with a voice like Lucy Ricardo’s, musical audience goers are quite appreciative of my on-stage absence.
Today, despite my years of theatrical neglect, I decided to brave the stage again– minus the musical ditties. I signed up to serve as a character in the New York District Attorney Office’s Annual High School Mock Trial Competition. And, in a bit of an ironic twist, I was chosen to play the victim (named Paul Walker).
In said role, I play a Pathmark employee, assaulted, beaten, and robbed when exiting the grocery store at 1:00 AM. My assailant is a homeless alcoholic, who in a fit of drunken fury, strikes me with several bottles, requiring me to get several stitches along my face and neck.
The humor in this situation is that as of late I have been contemplating a career as a criminal defense attorney, taking the side of defendant rather than the accused. And by being placed in the accuser position, I am forced to step outside my comfort zone– in which the defendant’s behavior can somehow be excused– and accept that victims have voices too.
While prepping me for my direct examination, the high schooler acting as my attorney asked me to describe the pain that I suffered as a result of the assault and robbery. My initial response, “Nothing too serious– just a few stitches, a mild concussion, and a laceration or two.”
“Nothing! Too! Serious! Those injuries sound pretty darn serious to me,” the high schooler said in a concerned and slightly perplexed manner.
“I mean, the guy was drunk. It wasn’t like he did it deliberately.” And as if she were an ADA in an episode of Law and Order, the high schooler demanded an immediate recess. During said recess, she reminded me I was “working” for the prosecution, and that I had suffered some pretty severe injuries, in addition to losing $70 in cash and several credit cards. The crime warranted punishment, and I needed to assist her in ensuring that the defendant received his just desserts.
As the sixteen year old lectured me, I realized I had failed to step outside my comfort zone– to challenge my proclivity for pitying petty criminals. I was being inflexible, and if she had any chance of winning this case, I needed to do the honorable thing and cooperate.
At this point, I expressed my understanding, admitted my mistakes, and vowed to be her star victim. I proclaimed that I would be the “most credible and lovable witness to ever testify in a New York courtroom.” In fact, I promised to adorn a few bandaids in the areas the victim claims to have received stitches. If I was going to play on the jury’s heartstrings, I would need to feign wrongful injury.
Skeptical, but hopeful, the high schooler took me at my word. This of course explains why on a picturesque Monday night in August, instead of frolicking through Nolita’s tree-lined streets, I find myself standing in front of mirror trying to induce fake tears. So far I’ve lost exactly one contact and had a miserable mascara run. All I can say is thank G-d I am playing a male victim, who notably wears glasses.