On Broadway

A Novella

By Lee Rector



There could never be another woman like Sylvia.

            In every sense she was a queen, a dream, but a tangible…someone I lived with, but never knew …someone I love with, but never held…someone I loved, but never listened.

            Sylvia, a passing day, a fantasy, an anachronism to human existence.

            It was an accident that we met. Seems most good and bad comes from accidents.

            At a critical moment in rehearsal she captured my attention in the back of the theatre.

            She was leaning against the theatre door in a long navy blue raincoat with a cellophane rain bonnet covering her head. I was perturbed that she had captured my attention. I had been working the scene over and over and was about to get the result I wanted when I heard the door slam from behind and turned to see her. She looked as though she was hiding from someone.


            The actors broke character and relaxed.

            “How many times do we have to go over this?

            “Susan! It is ‘HOW much longer’ not ‘How much LONGER’ … “HOW much longer.’ Accent the right sil-LAB-le, would you? Very important damn it…get it right next time.

            “Linda, dear. When are you going to get this right? We are going to stay until it is done. OK? Now take it from the top. Korskiv! You’re onstage!”


Scene II


I walked to the back of the auditorium. The play was now behind me. I was focused on the lady in the doorway. As I walked toward her, I began to feel cold. Her dark eyes were examining me in a meekish way. I thought she might turn and run.

            “What is it?”

            “It’s nothing,” she replied. “I was just …”

            “You look wet. Sit down.”

            She took a seat on the last row.”

            “If you have come for an audition, I’m sorry, but the cast has already been chosen.”

            “No…no,” she said, “I just wanted to get out of the rain.”

            “Is someone chasing you?”

            “No. No? Why?”

            “You just looked…ah…frightened.”

            “Oh, no.”

            “You didn’t come for an audition now, did you?”

            “Well, yes…I guess I did…but I will be leaving soon.”

            The woman intrigues me…she had captured my imagination and I did not want her to go.

            “If you will hold on until this scene is over, I will let you read if you like.”

            “Oh, no. I’ll be on my way…” she was very shy.

            “No. You must at least stay until the rain lets up, and besides, if you do well there may be a spot open. WE haven’t closed the cast of extras yet completely.”

            I felt disoriented having left the rehearsal and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on in my mind. I turned my attention back to the stage. The scene was going worse than before. I walked to the center of the auditorium.

            “Cut! Take ten. No, damn it! You’re all just walking through this scene. We’re going to break for the day.

            “Susan! You go home and learn your lines. Don’t come in here tomorrow and stumble through your part like that.

            “Gloria. Sharpen up.

            “It’s not too late to replace any of you. Now get out of here. This scene had better be there tomorrow. We’ve wasted too much time already.

            “Susan, practice your inflection, damn it. There’s no excuse for these crazy mistakes.

            “Come on. Clear out of here!”

            I turned around to start up the aisle, but she was gone. I walked to the theatre entrance and looked out into the street. She wasn’t there.

            “That’s strange,” I said to myself. “She vanished.”

            That night as I was going over some blocking in my apartment the image of the girl in the raincoat kept holding my mind. Finally I got out of bed and pulled my pants on. I thought I’d head down the street for a sandwich.

            It was still raining. The sensation of walking in the rain is phenomenal. It cleans the sidewalks and makes everything shine. It opens the street and makes small rivers in the gutters to flirt with the imagination. I stopped and leaned against a building under the awning and lit a cigarette.

            “I wonder if she’ll come back tomorrow,” I thought.

            I couldn’t concentrate on rehearsal that day. It went good in the eyes of the actors. I wasn’t up there yelling out directions. Susan’s inflection had improved some; still I managed to utter a great speech of disgust at the end of the day.

            “If the play hasn’t improved by 100% by the time you all start in the morning, I am going to open auditions for a couple of parts. You can wonder whose these are…and you can wonder if you want as to whether I’m bluffing about this, but if you think I am joking, try me.

            “Now I don’t have the reputation of a tyrant, but I do get results…I do get what I want out of my crews, and if any of you think that you can create your role with greater expertise than I, you are welcome to talk to the producers and see if they want to replace directors.

            “I intend to start at the top tomorrow and run through the play without interruption…and without scripts. I expect it to be perfect. We will discuss it before lunch and then run through it again after we break, and we will do it perfectly again. That is as clean as I can make it. Now go home and study.

            “Hey, Lucas? How does it go here… when she was finished examining the letter?

            “OK. Susan. Here you cross two steps down center stage…you are about to be detected. Swanson…give us some sense of panic. You’re too cool! We need more fear out of Edward at this point. And, for God’s sake, Swanson, don’t accent the first word of every sentence. Give us some variety!

            “John, you look awful today. It can’t be that bad.”

            “Well it is…I didn’t’ get too much sleep last night. I was busy checking the blocking. Then went out and walked most of the night.”

            “Why don’t you come over for supper with us.”

            “Now Jeanine, you know my policy. I’m a son-of-a-bitch until after opening.” I can’t start breaking long-standing rules at this stage of the game.”

            “OK. Well then get some rest before tomorrow. You were…pardon the expression, ‘spaced out’ today.”

            “Jeanine, you’ve got to cut this out. You’ll have me playing favorites and the cast wouldn’t like it.”


            Scene III


            I sat in the theatre for a while watching the janitor sweep off the stage. It was amazing how smooth his motions were. So uninhibited, so un-self-centered, such absorbing mime. I guess the old guy went with the building. He seemed like the ropes, and sand bags, and curtains, and catwalks, and orchestra pit, to be just a part of the great old hall. It was almost an inspiration to watch him push his broom across the stage. If I didn’t know better I would expect him to sweep the light off of the floor and store it away for tomorrow.

            I was beginning to become disgusted with myself, constantly seeing someone and beginning to fantasize about them, laughing with them, having them in my presence. I could do nothing but laugh at the absurdity of life, of the trap of my situation.

            I closed the prompt book and started to walk up the aisle to leave the theatre.

            “Mr. Lucas?”


            “Are you through here for the day?”


            “Then I’ll lock up when I leave.”

            “Right Alfred. Goodnight.

            “Goodnight, Mr. Lucas.”

            It was cold outside, gray this afternoon. My breath was the color of my emotions. The day after a winter rain is always depressing to me. Not near as much as the rain itself. It intrigues me, makes me thoughtful, makes the bed cold and fun to crawl into and get warm in.

            And there she was.

            Standing by the side of the theatre.

            I knew she would be there before I left.

            That’s why I waited.

            I think I knew anyway.



            “You left yesterday before I could audition you.”

            “I know.”

            “It seemed like you just disappeared. I mean one minute you were there. I glanced away. And when I looked back, you were gone.”

            “I know.”

            “I looked for you, but couldn’t find you.”

            We stood and smiled at each other for a splendid moment.

            “Let’s go down to the corner for coffee. You look cold.”

            She took my arm.

            “Who are you?”


            “Where are you from?”

            “Here.” Here accent belied that. She was not a New Yorker by any stretch of the imagination. Her speech was western. Northern California.

            “Did you want to audition for the show?”

            “No. I got what I wanted.”

            It was just like the first time I saw her. I know she was playing with the way I frowned.

            “You try too hard to figure things out…that aren’t worth figuring out,” she smiled. Her eyes sucked me into her head and inside; it was gray and foggy as the atmosphere outside.

            “I guess you’re right about that,” I paused. “Why don’t we eat instead of coffee. There’s a wonderful little place around the corner.”


            We walked in silence. For some reason I felt comfortable with her in silence and she with me. It was as though we had known each other, had been lovers, had been separated in another life and for one moment in time, again we meet.

            Inside Chino’s it was warm like a Christmas weekend way back home. We sat at a table and she kicked her shoes off and slipped her feet under my cuffs. I was having a difficult time concentrating on the menu. I had it memorized, anyway. I didn’t even know why I was looking.


            “Chino!” I said in a fake Italian accent.

            “Wha ‘cha wanta?”

            “I wanta your especiala.”

            “Ts’ a’ right’a’.”

            “Is that OK with you?” I asked Sylvia. “I highly recommend it.”

            “Yeah…looks good!”

            “Tis’a gooda. Lots’a reda’ sausa’,” Chino smiled.

            She smiled back at Chino and Chino winked at me. I guess he thought I was hitting up on one of the cast. I most always dined alone.

            “You eat here often?”

            “Yeah, four or five times a week, I guess. I live just down the street above here.

            “Oh, Chino?”

            “What ‘cha wanta?”


            “Bella, bella.”

            “It’s nice in here.”

            “Yes it is, Sylvia. It’s kid of home to me.”

            “Um hum.”

            “So, what’s happening here? Would you tell me?”

            “Quit trying to figure things out. Relax. Enjoy.”

            “Well, I’ll give it a try, but it’s against my nature, you now.

            “So, who are you…an actress? A reporter?”

            “There you go again. There’s no need to ask questions. I’m a girl…I’m here…that’s all you need to know.”

            “OK…you know what?”         


            “You got cold feet!”

            I have always been the secretive type, myself. Secretism keeps people thinking about you and trying to figure you out. I always created fantasies about myself for other people to see, but now someone was doing the same with me…playing my game. I was very good at it, and wasn’t used to sitting in the audience for such a performance. She took control and it felt very comfortable. I did relax. I did enjoy.

            We left Chino’s and walked down the street. She was laughing and holding onto my arm. I was again at a loss for what to say. She made me want to say exactly what I felt, and she made me fear it. For some reason it seemed abrupt to me, but already I needed her. I had needed her for a long time. Long before I ever met her. I needed her.

            “Let’s not play games with each other, OK?”

            “You just started.”

            “You’re right, are we going to my place?”

            “We’re on our way, aren’t we?”

            “Turn right. Here we are.”

            “That’s a silly thing to say, you know. For who you are, you sure seem self-conscious.

“OK, now. Let’s make it clear in our arrangement that we don’t start out with verbal beatings. ”

            “Oh, come on! I won’t be able to take an arrangement where I am verbally beaten. You don’t know me yet,” her eyes glistened intensely, humorously.

            “You do know me?”

            “You’ll hold your own.”

            “Well now, if ‘Here we are,’ won’t do you, let’s try to start over…would you like to come in?”

            “Thank you. I will,” I opened the door and she scooted in ahead of me.

            “This is my apartment. May I show you around?”

            “If you would, please!”

            “That is the living room, bed room, dining, room and den. The closet. The kitchen. The john,” I gestured to the areas of my studio.

            “How nice.”

            “May I fix you a drink?”




            “Or scotch.”


            “Please be seated.”

            “I shall.”

            “Ice? Water?”

            “Thank you. Very cozy.”

            “Adequate, and cheap.”


More to come …






Last Edited: 7/31/2001 5:51 PM


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