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ActorQuest - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bway 7

In November, Kristin Huffman made her Broadway debut as Sarah (flute, piccolo and sax) in John Doyle's production of Company.  The actress continues her collection of stories about a 15-year career that has led her to the door of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.


Live theatre is my main love, but there are times when a commercial or industrial is a nice change of pace. There are definite perks. Today's adventure was a Peter Piper Pickles commercial.  I haven't done a "food" commercial in a long time. Not since Winchester Farms Sausage, where I had to eat a bratwurst 50 takes in a row.  But today I got back in the swing.

The cool part is that it was to be shot in a great house in a very wealthy area of Connecticut. I had no lines and all I had to do is watch my "son" eat a pickle. Our "call time" was 11:30 and once I arrived I talked with the hair and makeup lady for a bit.  Then I talked with my "son's" mother, Cindy, for a bit.  Then we broke for lunch.  So far it was a really taxing day. I took the opportunity to wander about the huge mansion. Technically I guess you could call it sneaking as we were only supposed to be using the kitchen and one other downstairs room. But I checked out all the rooms and formed opinions about the decor, confirming two of my suspicions about wealth.  First, it doesn't mean you have taste. And second, your children may not thank you for it. This based on the bumper sticker I saw stuck to the 16 year old girl's closet that read: "Therapy has taught me that YOU are to blame".

When we came back from lunch, I chatted with Billy, the sound guy, and then watched Chad, my son, make the worst looking pickle sandwich in the world.  They had him sitting on the counter in the kitchen, surrounded by pickle jars, and piling them on top a piece of bread. Bread and butter pickles, dill, kosher, relish and polish. All on one piece of bread. I am not an advertising executive, but I would think you would want your product to look appetizing. Unless you were pregnant and craving these suckers, this really did nothing for a pickle's appeal in my opinion.

Poor Chad had to say his line to the camera "Pickle People love Peter Piper's" and then chomp down on the pickle sandwich while smiling at the camera.  Right before all this action, Cindy informed me that Chad had a really bad gag reflex.  She said he had to do a tomato soup commercial once and since he hates tomato soup she was worried during the whole shoot that he would throw up.  This was nothing compared to the panic I could see in her face as they started shooting the "chomping down" portion of the commercial. I found myself hoping that he hadn't had any of the chocolate pudding that was on the lunch table.

Chad was really a pro and tried to give the director what he wanted take after take.  "Chad, look at the sandwich and then lift it up and say the line and then bite down and let your eyes get really big."  These instructions varied from shot to shot.  Chad kept biting and yet I noticed that there was no spit bucket for him. Usually on food commercials there is a bucket that the "talent" can spit whatever he bit down on in the last shot to get rid of it and start in on the next take. Poor Chad had to keep swallowing the bite. After about the 10th take Chad's aforementioned gag reflex started to kick in.  I saw this pro go from a confident 11 year old to a bleary-eyed has-been in all of five minutes.  It got so bad after one take that I was sure he was going to hurl.  Cindy jumped to her feet and I even felt a little sympathetic reflux.  I don't think the poor boy bargained on being in Peter Piper Pickle's version of Fear Factor. It was tense for a minute or two but they finally got the shot they wanted before Chad could throw up.

In comparison, my part was rather painless.  "Ok Kristin, now just pretend you are watching your son build this sandwich and then watch him eat it".  Chad had been excused and so I was just pretending to see him eat, but all I could think of was his gag reflex and the expression on his face as he held back vomit take after take. Like the pro that I am, though, I gave them a broad range of "looks" to pick from in all of about 20 minutes.  A couple may have looked nauseated but I am sure some were usable.

So after two hours of waiting around to shoot 20 minutes of facial expressions, sneaking around someone else's house, and watching a kid practically throw up on pickles I was sent home a little wealthier, and with seven jars of free pickles.

Sometimes live theatre just can't compare with THAT.

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From This Author Kristin Huffman

Kristin is making her Broadway debut as "Sarah" (flute, piccolo and sax!) in the John Doyle directed production of COMPANY! Kristin was Miss Ohio and (read more...)