This is the first draft of the frist scene in ACT. It is longish, but if you're reading my stuff, you read novels. Unedited, of course.
"Sorry – sorry, let’s try it again," Leigh said a little kinder than usual.
"Leigh, we have been at it for hours," Josh whined, as only he can. "You don't know your lines." He said more harshly than necessary.
"Listen, Josh, you will do as I say," Leigh said returning to her usual abrupt manner. "Now, run the lines, again."
Josh spun around and angrily took his mark down stage. If he was trying to hide his disgust, he was unconvincing. Leigh didn’t seem to notice, or she didn’t care.
It was too expensive to have the house lights on. From his dark vantage point in the balcony, the janitor sat for hours watching the two rehearsing on the dimly lit stage. He knew that in time the two would run the gamut of their many moods, so it didn’t matter which mood Leigh was in at the moment.
This private rehearsal between Leigh and Josh began at the unusual hour of seven A.M., it was now three o’clock in the afternoon. They were undoubtably tired, but with those two, tempers were always flaring. The best anyone could do is stay out of the way for as long as possible. No one really wanted to work with them, but the money was usually very good for those who did. How else could they get a cast?
Working with Leigh and Josh was a good way for someone new to the business to get noticed. The media was sure of interesting copy with those two squabbling. The public likes their work, too, well until recently. The constant fighting is beginning to show in the final production. Their fans are tiring of the bickering. But, the janitor enjoys the fighting more than the acting. From years in the Theatre, he has the two of them sized up.
Josh is beautiful, movie-magazine beautiful. Yes, beyond handsome. He is in late twenties or early thirties, it is hard to tell with his youthful face and dancing dark eyes. He is self absorbed and arrogant – even more than most actors.
Leigh, on the other hand looks every bit of forty-five, and more. She is beautiful, too, but the stress of the years of long hours, on and off the stage, is obvious. She is a talented actress, no one can deny her range of character or her dedication to the craft. The back-to-back movie contracts have run their course and she is currently acting in a small community Theatre in a play by an unknown author. It’s a sad commentary for someone with such talent. And it doesn’t help that she drinks too much.
The play they are working on isn’t a very good play. At the rate things are going, Leigh won’t manage to learn her lines before the play closes – without ever opening. Frankly, this may be the end of the little community Theatre, too. There is not enough money to keep it going.
'Community Theatre' doesn’t exactly convey the essence of this Theatre. The building is nearly a hundred years old. It is nestled in an old and dying neighborhood that once was the heart of a thriving community. It was built with the craftsmanship of the pre-electronic age. The acoustics are so lively that the slightest utterances on stage can be heard in the third balcony – clearly.
These days there are very few patrons. The Theatre is in serious financial difficulty and not likely to survive if this play fails. Part of the problem is that the Theatre is in disrepair. The years of neglect show in its interior. The plaster and lath walls are full of cracks, though not structurally serious, they are a distraction to the ambiance of the once elegant Theatre.
"All right, Josh, let’s call it a day," Leigh said in submission to fatigue and Josh’s whining. "We will resume in the morning, the same time." Leigh picked up her sweater from the stage floor where she had discarded it hours ago.
"No can do, Leigh-darling, I have an audition for a movie tomorrow." Josh said with a tone of arrogance. He was making it plain that he didn’t need her any longer.
"Go then, damn you," Leigh screamed.
Josh threw his script across the stage, nearly hitting Leigh. The janitor had seen this scene several times over the last few weeks, though it was not in the script. The old guy chuckled to himself and shuffled out of sight. The old girl deserves it, he thought. "Her career is about in the same shape as this Theatre," he muttered to himself. He picked up a trash can and went to empty it. There wasn’t any reason to hurry. He could go about his duties at his leisure. Nothing else was booked in the Theatre, nothing at all. This will undoubtably be the last play scheduled here.
The Theatre board of directors only met to pay the utility bills, which took about twenty minutes a month. They have tried fund-raising projects, grants, and a variety of bookings – nothing brought in the revenue they needed. When the last bit of money ran out, which was any day now, the utilities would be shut off and the doors locked. No doubt in the end, the building would be sold for taxes and someone would tear it down. It was about to see its final curtain call. His feet shuffled with a scuffing sound as he tended to his janitorial duties, muttering to himself.
Leigh was an intelligent and talented woman; but there was a sadness about her that she was unable to hide. She seemed lonely even when she was surrounded by the media or at the usual Hollywood parties. Though lately invitations to parties were few and far between. It may be due in part to her consistent, cranky mood and sudden outbursts of anger. She shook her head as she shrugged off her thoughts.
Leigh pulled a chair across the stage and sat there looking out at the dark house for the longest time. Maybe she was imagining a standing ovation of the past, or maybe she was seeing the empty house. It was hard to tell from her far-away expression. Finally, her shoulders slumped and her glance dropped to the tape marker on the floor in front of her. Leigh took a breath, stood up, threw her shoulders back, held her head high, and took a bow. In some ways, she had a strength about her, but it was a sad strength.
A slice of the afternoon sun lit the stage briefly as Leigh went out the side stage door. It slammed shut with the sound of finality.