Category Archives: Theatre

Roommates NEW

Roommates

by Robert W. Welkos

Three world famous actors started out long ago as NYC roommates struggling to make it. 3,222 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City — 1950s

Sheldon Dumar, Bo Daggett and Bill Travers live together in the same New York City apartment 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3building as close to roommates as three straight guys can get, all in their twenties and all focused on finding acting jobs.

Tonight, Sheldon is awakened by a pluk, pluk, pluk noise. What is that, the faucet? Geez, can’t a guy get any sleep around here?

“Shut up.” He covers his ears. “I said, shut up, dammit!” Groggily, he rubs the sleep from his eyes and stares unfocused into the grayish darkness. He has to laugh. How does that TV show go? There are eight million stories in the naked city… and now this is one of them: Bo’s shitty leaky kitchen faucet. Then Sheldon remembers all those lessons drummed into him using the Meisner Technique. Learn to improvise, Sheldon, like Meisner says. A phrase. Respond with intensity. Let your emotions flow. Sheldon glares at the faucet. “Are you pluking with me, faucet? Stop pluking with me!”

Sheldon dips his head and laughs. Always on. Always the actor. But he’s thankful Bo doesn’t kick him out of the apartment. Bo wouldn’t, would he? They’ve been pals since meeting at the Pasadena Playhouse, as unlikely a pair as Wally Cox and Marlon Brando.

Sheldon asked to crash at Bo’s pad while looking for a job in New York. Found one, too. Waiting tables. Don’t we all in this profession until the auditions pay off? Now Sheldon is looking for something off-Broadway or maybe a TV commercial. That would suffice until he gets on his feet financially and can afford his own pad. Until then, Bo says Sheldon can sleep on the kitchen floor. What a pal. Pluk, pluk pluk.

Continue reading

09052017 - Rusty Nails IMAGE 02 1500

Rusty Nails

by Christopher Horton

Everybody knows the dreams and desires of a Hollywood actress are ageless. 2,147 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“It was too clichéd. That’s why I never forgave him. To drop dead after cutting the grass? Really? Just charmless.”

There was no venom in the old woman’s voice. In fact, her tone was coquettish — a little creepy now that she was in her late eighties. There was no venom in my thoughts either, even though it was my father she was talking about. He’d had a massive coronary when I was nineteen, when he was a few years younger than I am now, not to put too fine a point on it. At the time, I knew she was going to be more trouble in the years to come than he would have been. I’d felt guilty about thinking that then. But I was right. Yes, she was my mother. I watched her smoke her cigarette. She still did that coquettishly too.

“The rest of it was my fault. You know, my mother told me not to marry him. Hell, his mother told me not to marry him.”

I did know that. Because she’d mentioned it countless times, even before he was gone. Poor bastard — he’d been too stable for her, although that was exactly what she’d needed. And, after fleeing Germany as a teenager, he laughed at her rages and outrages. He’d become an accountant. He wanted something safe, probably because his refugee parents had run out of money in L.A. whilst on their way to Australia and initially survived thanks to tangential acquaintances with Thomas Mann and Billy Wilder back in the old country.

As for her, if you haven’t already guessed, she had been an actress.

Continue reading

Shimmy 3

Shimmy Into The Picture
Part Two

by Maya Sloan

The Burlesque starlet must seduce this new sophisticated film-savvy audience. 1,845 words. Part One. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1937

One hour till open. I stretch out my arms, brace myself on the wall and find my center of gravity. Then I wiggle a little and take a deep breath, sucking in the tummy. I give the signal. A few tugs, and I re-adjust by wiggling again. Breathe, suck, signal. Another round. Another.

“Harder,” I tell my new maid. On the signal, she gives a sad little tug. Nothing can be sad today. Nothing can be little. This is Hollywood and, after a month of focus, late night rehearsals and a sleepless tech run, costume fittings and interviews, the audience will rush for their seats and I’ll be in front of them. But, for now, there’s still work to be done.

“Better, dearie,” I say, biting my tongue. I can’t have her bawling; that would throw off the whole schedule. “But this time, put more oomph into it. They’re not apron strings, if you catch my drift.”

A slight lift of my chin, giving the signal. I brace myself, and… nothing. I glance over my shoulder, and she’s just standing there like a dumb hick, mouth gaping open, limp laces hanging from each hand.

“What’s the problem?” I ask, trying not to blow my lid.

“I don’t want to hurt you!” she squeaks. “Isn’t it painful?”

“Don’t worry about that,” I soothe. “You gotta wear your pain like high heels, understand? That’s how it is in this biz. Besides, no one was ever corseted to death.”

Continue reading

Shimmy 1

Shimmy Into The Picture
Part One

by Maya Sloan

A Burlesque starlet finds herself at the center of a Hollywood seduction. 2,678 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City – 1937

I’d never met Millsap myself, or believed anyone who claimed they had.

Marvin Millsap – Boy Wonder, Burly Q Impresario, The Titan Of West Coast Tease – was as elusive as his success. While the Minsky brothers were never afraid to talk up their game, working the scene from Friar’s to Mulberry Street, Millsap was as elusive around Tinseltown as a ghost. Not that I cared for the Minskys so much, despite the hype. In fact, I avoided them like a plague, keeping to the occasional one-nighter gig in their Burlesque theatres if the price and terms were right for a limited engagement. They weren’t a fan of yours truly, either, or so went the talk. “Hot on the stage,” Billy Minsky was rumored to say, “but ice cold bitch in everyday life.”

To be fair, he was right. We all have our charms.

But Millsap? He was a different story, the kind that changed depending on who did the telling. Bootlegger money, said some. Inherited green. Murder Inc. wiseguy, big in the shylock biz. I’d heard he was a Rockefeller. That was the thing about show business: you heard a lot. But most of it? Just an illusion. Cheap scenery and a trick of the lights.

One thing, for sure: when it came to a Millsap show, money flowed like the Niagara. He’d only been on the scene for a couple of years but had made quite an impression. New York might have been the soul of Burlesque, but since Millsap landed in Hollywood, he’d given 42nd Street a run for its money.

That’s why, when I first heard the rumors of a new show six months earlier, I knew where the train was running. A spectacle! An extravaganza that would put the Big Apple to shame! The girls were in a tizzy, talking everybody’s ears off. But the one thing they wouldn’t say? A slot on Millsap’s roster was just a tiny step from a face up there on the big screen. The secret showgirl fantasy was a starring role in picture shows. Of the few who’d been scouted by casting directors, flown out for screen tests, even shot the forgettable cameo from time to time, they’d inevitably came back tail between their legs.

As for me, I had no comment. Unlike my contemporaries who’d never shut up – Gypsy Rose, for instance, or should I say homely Rose Hovick of Seattle Washington? – I believed less was more. At least when it came to my words.

Continue reading

H Warming

"H"

by Cari Lynn

Actress Peg Entwistle jumped to her death from the Hollywoodland sign in 1932 at the age of 24. Here is a fictional imagining of her final journey. 2,319 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Immortality is a tricky business. I am sorry for being a coward. Though, in the moment, I always felt myself to be one of the bravest women in the world. Standing alone in the spotlight. Embodying fears and dreams and convictions. Compelling strangers to feel something.

But those moments were fleeting. And then you spend the rest of your moments, and hours, and days searching for that spotlight again. Maybe it was never bravery at all. Maybe I wasn’t doing any of it for the strangers. Maybe it was I who needed to feel something.

The ladder is narrow and crude. Steel spurs nip me. My hands, nails perfectly polished, speckle with blood. I count as I climb. One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. My heartbeat pounds the seconds in my ears. I stop at fifteen.

Fifteen goddamn seconds. Maybe I say this aloud. Maybe I scream it. It doesn’t matter when no one is around to hear. A woman on a stage with no audience.

I feel brave having climbed up here, all the way to the top. From my perch, Tinseltown glitters and twinkles, just like the rest of the world thinks it does. Hard to believe it was only several months ago that butterflies fluttered in my stomach when I first glimpsed the Hollywoodland sign, a beacon of shiny white against the mud, a real-life picture postcard informing me I was here. The new face in town, the Broadway actress, a real actress, who desired to be in pictures. All this seemed much longer ago. Another season. But there are no seasons here.

I had thought it brave to come to California. To traverse such distance for my craft, my calling. But I was nothing more than a squirrel trying to hoard acorns. It’s autumn in New York, soon to be winter, and who can much think about Broadway in the year 1932 when people are starving to death. Yet, I’d gone to the train station this morning for a one-way return to New York. Only to burn with humiliation as I counted pennies at the ticket window, and still came up short.

Continue reading

Orson Welles 2A

The Invasion
Part Two

by Robert W. Welkos

Nothing in showbiz ever goes as planned, especially when Orson Welles is involved. 2,833 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City — October 25, 1938

Orson Welles’ baritone voice caused the half-empty gin bottles to vibrate against the mirrors in the St. Regis hotel bar where he was a regular. “Hey, Mike, a martini for Miss… What was your name, again, my lovely?“ he asked the beautiful redhead seated next to him.

“Dalrymple, silly,” she replied, pretending to slap his cheek.

“Miss Dalrymple Silly!” Orson repeated to the bartender. “And two olives, Mike… one for the lass and one for the scurvy rat nibbling on your shoelace.”

The reed-thin bartender in bow-tie and checkered vest looked offended. “We ain’t got no rats in here, bud. I know ‘cause I clean up every morning.” He plucked the menu out of Welles’ hand, “And no more double steak dinners and pistachio ice cream until you pay your bill.”

Welles smirked and returned his undivided attention to the swirl of ginger at his side. He stared at her fair features and emerald eyes. The redhead placed a finger on her chin. “I haven’t seen a Martian that I know of, hon… Although I have an uncle who is friends with some blind Venetians. I mean, he makes Venetian blinds.”

Welles titled his head back and roared with laughter. “Excellent! I knew you’d be fun! A gorgeous actress with wit. You don’t find too many of those prowling the theater district, my dear.” He lowered his voice. “Now, what do you imagine a Martian would look like?”

Continue reading

Orson Welles 2

The Invasion
Part One

by Robert W. Welkos

Would the American radio public believe Martians were attacking? Or Nazis? 2,086 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Berlin, Germany — March 1938

“Ladies and gentlemen… Am I on?… Ladies and gentlemen, this is Peter J. Simons of the Beaumont Global Radio Network. I am looking down Unter den Linden, a major east-west thoroughfare in Berlin. As far as the eye can see, there are German Waffen-SS — a paramilitary force under the command of Heinrich Himmler —marching in a parade. I can hear the trump-trump-trump of their boots as they goose-step in unison holding aloft flags with the familiar Nazi swastika. Crowds line the grand boulevard — men, women and even little children — all thrusting out their arms in a rigid “Heil Hitler” salute. There seems to be some sort of commotion up ahead. Nazi thugs are surrounding a man on the ground and they are slamming his head into the curb. It’s terrible, terrible… I’m being given orders by a Nazi official to leave the area. But I’m an American journalist! And now more violence is breaking out. A woman who came to the man’s defense, her face is covered with blood after she was beaten senseless… Now I know why the Nazis invading the Sudetenland has Americans on edge that they could be invaded, too.”

London — September 30, 1938

Dignified before the gathering of supporters at the airport to greet his return, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off the plane to cheers and stood in front of the microphone to talk about his meeting with German Chancellor Adoph Hitler. “I believe it is peace for our time.”

A few days later, in the House of Commons, British MP Winston Churchill rose to deliver his response to the Munich Agreement. “Do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

New York City — July 11, 1938

Orson Welles sat in the dimly-lit bar near the St. Regis Hotel holding an unlit cigar. The 23-year-old actor, director, writer, and producer was celebrating the premiere of the live radio dramas he created, each a weekly hour-long show presenting classic literary works performed by his celebrated Mercury Theatre repertory company.

Naturally, he wasn’t alone. A statuesque blonde, her cheeks freshly rouged, draped an arm around his slumping shoulders and stirred him.

“Tell me,” he asked her, “have you ever seen a Martian?”

Continue reading

Mae & Billy 2

Mae And Billy

by Matthew Licht

Billy Wilder wants an older and isolated Mae West to star in his next film. Or does he? 2,062 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


He was on a drive down the street where dreams die whole. The diminutive movie director steered his serious white car towards the stately Art Deco pile at 570 North Rossmore Avenue that had been named for black birds in trees. He didn’t need a map of the movie star homes. Rabenswald, he thought, as he looked for the doorbell. He’d been in Hollywood over twenty years but still couldn’t desist from mental translations. He wasn’t born into the German-speaking world by accident. Billy Wilder had never really left Berlin.

He was on his way up to Apartment 611 to see Mae West. She’d lived there for decades, resolutely in Hollywood — hanging on, hanging tough, out of the limelight, nebulously entrenched in the collective imagination. The easy life at a ranch or a beach or a mountain resort was unthinkable for the sex goddess. For Broadway Mae had been bound for Hollywood the instant she froze, hands on hips, at the center of a pitted nickelodeon stage near Times Square and demanded her spotlight. Shadowy stagehands did her bidding and swung their beams her way. Light was the semen and ovum of her showbiz. Stars are born from light. They burn and shine and can’t last forever. Actors who are really stars illuminate till they burn out. What’s left, on reflection, is ashes, smoke, in her case, a nostalgic perfume.

Billy knew a thing or two about stars, even though he never took any astronomy classes at any fancy-pants East Coast college. He knew sex, power, mystery. He was a writer, basically: a storyteller who made his creations reflect the world’s darkness under brilliant piercing light. His imagination cut through the shadows and fog of the erotic swamp.

So Billy rang her doorbell and lit a fuse.

Continue reading

Carol Burnett3

Does Carol Burnett Come With Salad?

by Jim Piazza

What’s worse than writing for the worst TV show? Writing for dinner theater. 2,182 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


“I knew Bret was gay!”

“You don’t know anything,” Mickey snapped.

“He blew me a kiss last night!”

“Actors do that all the time.”

“In a deserted parking lot at two in the morning?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “They gave you a car?”

Mickey may have been dying, he may have been richer than Dolores Hope, but give anybody else a dented Volvo rental or a day-old donut and he wanted one, too – with sprinkles.

While Mickey was enduring the final days of a mysterious cancer in New York, I was trapped down in Neptune, Florida, with the Sam Shepard send-up we’d written together. It was my first foray in theater after four years of uncredited script-polishing in a forgotten woodshed on the Paramount lot. I was eager to see my name on something besides a summons from Traffic Court. The play was purposely “so bad it’s funny”– but nobody seemed to get it except us. Even the Alaska Rep passed despite Mickey’s marquee cred: three Oscar noms, two Tonys and a Pulitzer.

Continue reading

Jimmy Marilyn

Jimmy And Marilyn:
The Golden Years

by Peter Lefcourt

They never dated or acted together. What if these two icons were alive and living together? 929 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“Todd call?”

“I don’t know – check the machine…”

“He said he was going to get me in to read.”

“You pick up my prescription at Rite Aid?”

“It’s two days’ work. I could play that role – a guy from Montana runs a gas station. I told them to send over Giant so they can see me do the western thing.”

“Jimmy, I told you — you need to take everything off your résumé with a ‘5’ in front of it. They don’t want anybody who worked before 1960. I took Some Like It Hot off mine last year.”

“You ever go in on NCIS: Temecula?”

“I go in on them all. Strasberg always said that you should use an audition as the first rehearsal for the part.”

“The thing about those NCIS series is you get residuals forever.”

“Your pension check come?”

Continue reading