Overture! Curtain! Lights!
The Abysmal Dollhouse
“You killed tonight! You killed!”
The stage manager had swept her into a hug. The last curtain call was now a memory. Everyone had congratulated her as she made her way to her dressing room. The applause was still reverberating through her body, flushed, exhausted, elated. The stage manager had notes, as she always did, but they were already handed off to the director. Right now, the notes were not important. Right now, they were alone in the dressing room.
“You killed,” she repeated, sotto voce. “I killed,” the actress agreed, as the hugging turned to more. The greasepaint was removed, the costume stripped off. The sound of kliegs and stage lights being shut off came to them, the closing of doors, the stamping down stairways, the stage door opening and closing. The house shut down, bit by bit.
Opening night and its memory were now three months in the past. One scathing review, virulent in its attack, quickly trickled down to the box office. The critic’s disdain for the show, for its star, poisoned the good reviews, seeping into future audiences perceptions. The internet picked up on the critic’s vileness and hammered death nails into the production. There was glee from the bloggers whose words were taken up as gospel as their sites hits grew. The vloggers’ views gained followers. It was a numbers game for them.
The show did not go on.
The stage manager eventually booked a gig, a national tour, and was gone. Regional auditions came and went, restaurant service turned over, catering jobs few and far between. The star struggled to keep a smile on, but it faded day by day, replaced by an inner numbness. What was supposed to be her IT, her night of nights, was finis. The emptiness inside of her led to her wandering, from point to point. One night, finding herself walking along the east river, she was tempted to take on Ophelia’s end unto herself. The foot traffic around her was constant and stirred her away from this path.
She was on the way to an audition, having left another, earlier, where things were just “not the right fit.” The sunlight was in full force, no cloud in the sky, and it hit the store window, reflecting off of it, and enveloped her, and only her. A quirk of a smile matched a glint in her eye. She made a quick bow to the window, followed by a light made laugh.
A sigh escaped her as she stood. Tilting her head, she took in the store and moved closer to the window. She laughed again as she was able to make out what was in the window.
“A doll’s house. Perfect.” She checked her watch and saw she did have time to kill. She made her way inside.
The Shopkeeper greeted her, polite and all smiles, only faltering a moment with a look to the corner. The actress missed this as she marveled at the array surrounding her. She was entranced by the variety of dollhouses, their displays, the colors, the sizes, the architectural styles. To her, they all were mini playhouses. She imagined the roles that could be enacted with each one. The Shopkeeper spoke to her only when a question was asked. She had an odd way about her, with murmurings of the occasional “shhh” or what sounded like “hush,” but since none of it seemed to be directed towards the actress she gave it no weight.
“Look!” the actress squeed. In a flash, she was standing in front of a scaled down version of The Provincetown Theater. “I performed here when I went to NYU.” Her cheeks turned rosy, eyes glistening, as she took in the details.
The structure was narrow and only two stories high. The Shopkeeper released the front and it swung open. The actress squeed again, taking in the sparse seating, the small stage, almost black box in its function. She knew the stairway in the back would take her to the green room, such as it was. It brought back memories that made all the recent unpleasantness disappear from her conscious mind.
A poster announced a production of The Emperor Jones. She loved O’Neill. She turned to ask the Shopkeeper a question, but when she turned around she was in the lobby, program and ticket in hand.
The inner doors to the theater opened and she walked down the aisle steps to take her seat. Sitting through the performance, applauding wildly at the curtain, she found herself closer to the stage, a new play just ready to begin. The program in her hand showed a different play. This was a treat, a release, and she simply accepted it all without question.
From viewing a series of plays, she found herself working backstage, then eventually performing on stage. First as an understudy, followed by the chorus, supporting actress, and what seemed like forever, leading lady. The lights would dim, no more rehearsing: she knew every part by heart. The applause fed her soul.
The sodden mess that was her heart when not on stage slowly healed. Eventually, it made room to accept the attention of this stage manager, who had been working every show. They fell into each other after one production that took a lot out of everyone working it. They were never without a show to put on, busy on and off stage.
The actress felt like her old self again. It was opening night of a brand new play, and as had become the norm she was the lead once again. The audience was thunderous in its approval, standing ovations and five curtain calls.
The actress flew into the stage managers waiting arms backstage.
“You killed tonight. You killed.”
The actress kissed her long and hard. Take a breath, she looked at her lover and said: “Yes, I did kill!”
Off in the last row, in the darkened corner, the Unfolding Doll sat, knife in hand.
During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.
*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.
** Apologies to one and all. This was a very stressful day. Normally I am much earlier with my posting, but at least I made it before it became the 18th and P. Phew.