A Star Is Born--Nakedbyorie©
My dream was finally coming true, only now it seemed more like a nightmare.
For years I labored trying to get a break in the theater. I worked dinner theater, summer stock in godforsaken places, small community theatres and even off-off-off Broadway. I eked out a living doing the usual waitressing and temp jobs. Sharing a rat-hole apartment in New York with three other struggling actors, I was the guest at more pity-on-me dinner parties than I could count. My small circle of friends tried to make sure I wouldn't starve. One thing helped me maintain my sanity—my ability to talk with my best friend, Max.
My plight began when my excuse of an agent called about a major role in a real off-Broadway production. It was a new play by a Tony award-winning playwright. The producer was a top Hollywood star who, according to him, wanted to assure the world or herself that she was a true talent. This same woman would be playing the lead. My agent was sketchy on details, I think his feeble mind stopped working when he heard about the director and producer/star— and that he might actually make some money off me. He told me to show up at the theater at 10 for an initial read.
I asked him if this was going to be a cattle call. He laughed and said, "No, sweetie, the part is yours if the read goes well."
I screamed and just about wet my panties. I was going to be on Broadway—well, Ok, off-Broadway—but still freakin' good. I was also going to get Equity pay and I might actually be able to buy something to wear and have food in the cupboard. God, if the play had a good run, I might get out of the hellhole I lived in.
"Slow down," I told myself, "this is only a reading. You probably will screw it up and not get anything."
I pressed my agent on what the storyline was, but he just mumbled something about a love triangle. "You'll be great, sweetie. You'll kill 'em."
I asked how they chose me.
"Not sure, sweetie," he said and I knew he was puffing on his ever present stinky, cheap cigar. "The production manager called and said Miss Big Fucking Star wanted you. Maybe she caught you in one of your summer stock things."
I should have realized that my so-called agent wouldn't have busted his ass trying get me work. I recall reading that the producer/star lived in Connecticut and I did do a couple shows there last summer, so...
I didn't sleep a wink and the next day was showered and dressed in my best clothes, which I and everyone else knew were crap, and headed to the subway for the ride to mid-town. Arriving at the theater over an hour ahead of time I splurged my last ten dollars on a latte and a scone at Starbucks. "If I get this role, I can have this every day."
I entered the open lobby door and made my way down to the stage where a small group was casually standing and talking.
As I neared, I saw her, Abbie Evans. She looked so small and normal. Next to her was Rice Peters the writer. He looked like a playwright, with a black turtleneck, black pants, black-rimmed glasses and his trademarked shaved head. A couple others were there.
Abbie Evans turned and saw me, breaking into her universally recognized smile.
"Chloe, come here and meet your team."
I tried not to trip down the aisle and reached out to accept Abbie's extended hand. She introduced me to Rice, the director, the stage manager and production manager, all of whose names I immediately forgot. I was still stuck on "Abbie Evans knows my name."
Abbie then looked over my shoulder and smiled again.
"Ah, our leading man arriveth."
I turned to see Joe Quinn, the current star of one of TV's top cop shows, making his way to us. I felt weak in the knees. These were all A-listers and I felt like the skunk that wandered into the garden party. What the hell was I doing here?
Joe shook my hand and Abbie urged us onto the stage. We sat around a long rectangular table and the stage manager passed out scripts.
"So, Chloe, what do you know about 'The Pose'?"
I should have said something that might cover my total ignorance, but my mind was a blank.
"Not a frigging thing," I gushed.
They all laughed.
"Ok," Abbie said, "here's the Reader's Digest version. Joe is major artist. He's had mega shows at all the top galleries and his work hangs in all the right penthouses in Manhattan, plus some decent museums. His last show was, however, less than spectacular and the critics were getting their claws out and speculating he may have lost his edge. I am his wife, a bit older, obviously, and long-suffering, of course. I used to be his muse, but after we married the muse part slipped away and my ability to earn a paycheck as a successful art agent took its place. When I stopped modeling, he also began his slow spiral. So, he finds an ingénue, the lovely Chloe, who will be his model, his muse and the centerpiece of his new exhibition."
Abbie paused for effect. She knew how to hold an audience.
"So, I am jealous of you and pissed at Joe. I come to his atelier and find that you are not some succubus, but an innocent, engaging and beautiful young woman. I am drawn to you--your personality and your appearance. Joe, as men are want to do, also has desires on you. The rest is a tug-of-war to see who will win you, if Joe can complete his work and regain his status, if he and I will reconcile. And, if you will remain the unsullied maiden. All very 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff meets A Star is Born' between Joe and me with a bit of sex to juice things up."
I nodded all through her recitation. And smiled when she smiled. In my mind I'm thinking, "Holy Shit, this is a three person play and I'm going to be sharing most of the audience time with two of the biggest stars in the business. I see my own Obie waiting for me in the wings."
My bubble burst with Abbie's next statement.
"I'm so glad you don't have a problem with the nudity or the love scene. You're a brave girl."
The Obie just fell off the table and smashed into a million pieces.
"Nudity? Love scene?" I couldn't even make a sentence.
"You mean your agent didn't tell you?"
I shook my head.
"Oh, Chloe, sorry. I would have told you differently if I had known. But, you must know that you play Joe's model and will be totally nude for a good part of your time on stage. And, you will have a rather explicit love scene at the end of act one."
Now, I am not a prude, well, Ok, I am a bit of a prude. Shit, make that a major prude. But, I recognize that actors sometimes have to make sacrifices for their craft, and to get a role. I thought about standing naked in front of theater full of people and my insides started to turn to Jell-o. I imagined my parents in the audience. Yikes! I thought about my favorite teacher being there, Sr. Mary Ann, who encouraged my acting and tried to see every play I was in. Double yikes!
I nodded slowly, pretending that I was comprehending what I had to do.
"So, you can do this, Chloe? You can handle the nudity?"
I again nodded, but didn't think it was my most convincing performance.
I said, "Sure." I giggled and said trying to be as lighthearted as possible, "But, I don't know about the love scene with Joe. That could be a challenge."
Abbie laughed. "Oh, don't worry about that. You don't have a love scene with Joe."
She paused and I looked confused.
Smiling she continued, "You have it with me."
I am not sure if there is really such a thing as a brain meltdown, but I think I had one at that moment.
"And, Chloe, just to ease your mind about being nude, I will be nude, too."
Yep, total meltdown. I thought I felt my brains oozing out of my ears and fought the temptation to stick my fingers there to prevent them from dripping onto the table.
The rest of the meeting occurred in a blur. We did a read-through, I think. Breaking around four we agreed to meet again in the morning for a discussion about the staging and another read-through. The director asked us to go through the play and make notes and questions.
Abbie walked me out of the theatre.
"Chloe, don't worry, you're going to be great. I saw you last summer and you've got the chops to carry this off. I'll be right here with you all the way. Call me if you want to talk." She handed me a card with her name and cell phone number.
I thanked her and wandered in the general direction of the subway stop as she stepped into the back of her huge Mercedes with a liveried driver holding the door.
My head was reeling. I needed to talk to someone. I had to see Max. I knew by the time I navigated rush hour and got to his place, he'd be home.
Max and I grew up in the same town in New Hampshire. He's years older than I am, and we had a low-key connection from being in the theater group in high school. He was a senior when I was a freshman. We both worked at the same ice cream place in the summers. That's when we hit it off and found we could easily talk with each other.
Now being in the city at the same time, we reconnected and became friends. We still had the ability to just talk. He really listened, a quality I was finding rare in the guys I met in the city and especially among fellow actors. Most of the actors were totally psychotic and wanted only to talk about themselves, the roles they had, the roles they almost had and mostly about the roles they should have had.
Max was doing pretty well, working for the public radio station as head of fundraising. He had a small, but decent, apartment on the West side. The doorman knew me and let me go up to Max's, saying he'd call up to let him know I was on my way.
He answered and welcomed me in. I rushed past him, flew to his fridge and pulled out a beer.
"I am totally fucked," I announced as I downed half the can.
"Well, nice to see you, too, Chloe."
I smiled and went to give him a hug.
"Sorry, I'm a bit worked up."
"So, I noticed. Want to share?"
"Share! God, you need to get out of non-profit and into the real world."
"Oh, acting is the real world? Interesting concept."
"Whatever," I shrugged. "Yeah, I need to 'Share', but first I need to pee."
I finished my beer and asked if Max would get me another and made my way to his bathroom. I rushed in and plopped down on the toilet. As I relieved myself, I looked around and almost shit instead. On the floor was a girl's bra and panties in a pile, next to a pair of girl's shoes. Now I noticed the bathroom smelled of a recent shower and the scent of a woman.
I finished and bolted out. Picking up my coat, I headed for the door.
"Hey, what's up?" Max called. "Where're you going?"
"Max, sorry. I gotta' go. I didn't mean to barge in like this. I shoulda' called. I hope I didn't mess anything up."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I know you have a girl here. I saw her things in the bathroom. Sorry."
Max took my arm and led me back to the kitchen.
"Chloe, I opened a beer for you, and I definitely do not want to waste it. Besides, we haven't shared yet."
"But the girl..."
"Oh yeah, the girl. Well, I'd better go get her. I hope she's dressed by now."
I didn't know what to do, so I froze where I was and sipped the beer.
In a minute I heard a scream from Max's room. "Oh, Oh, this could be trouble," I thought.
The door flew open and out charged a tiny, beautiful blond, wearing a flimsy tank top and bikini panties. She rushed toward me, screamed and jumped in my arms.
"Sydney, what the hell are you doing here?" I yelled.
Sydney hugged me and then stood. "Just visiting my big brother and getting a taste of city life."
Syd is four years younger than I. She and I were close friends, despite the gap in our ages. I met her when Max and I got to know each other. The three of us hung together for most of our summers. Syd and I enjoyed the same music, movies and a taste for fried clams.
Another thing we had in common was we both looked up to Max. He was the best big brother in the world for her and for me, well, he was half big brother and half secret love. I knew he was never interested in me sexually, and just saw me as another little sister. I didn't care. I carried a big thing for him for a long time.
Even now as adults, I still had a well-buried crush on him, but had been able to overcome it and forge a really good friendship.
Max fetched beers for Syd and himself and led us into the small and neat living room. He furnished it in early IKEA, but it was comfortable. I sat in the oversized arm chair and the other two settled on the leather couch.
He suggested that Syd might want to get dressed. She looked at him as if he was from Mars. "Like the three of us never hung out at the lake in our bathing suits. I've got the good parts covered, so chill, Big Brother."
Laughing, he looked at me and asked, "So, what is the crisis de jour?"
I knew he was teasing and trying to relax me. I admit I tend to get over-dramatic. Actually, that's not a bad quality for an actress.
I told them about getting offered the part in the play and who the main actors were as well as the superstar writer.
They congratulated me and said they knew I was going to make it.
"Wow," exclaimed Max in mock amazement, "I'm going to be able to say I knew you when. Maybe you can take me out to dinner for a change."
"Don't pay attention to the asshole," said Syd. "This is fantastic. But, what has you freaked out? You must know you have the acting ability to be on the stage with those two."
I snorted, choking on my beer. "I am not so sure. I mean she is a freakin' two-time Oscar winner and he won an Emmy. The playwright has two Pulitzers. But the real reason I'm in full panic mode is simple."
Max and Syd hung on my next sentence.
"I have to be nude for almost the whole damn play."
Both my friends stared in silence.
Before they could even comment, I added, "And, I have to do a freakin' nude love scene with freakin' Abbie Evans. A love scene! Jesus, I am totally flipped on this."
Max and Syd sat in silence for a bit.
Finally Max softly said, "Wow."
I got up and grabbed another beer. I didn't think there was enough alcohol in the entire west side to help me relax.
"What am I doing to do? How can I have my parents come to see me? Screw that, how can I parade my sorry naked ass around a stage every night in front of hundreds of people? I have to turn this down."
"Are you out of your mind," asked Syd?
"This is the chance of a lifetime. So, if you have to shake your booty. Every critic on the East coast will be flocking to see this play. They will want to see the fabulous Abbie Evans in the nude and making out with a woman. You could not get better exposure."
"Exposure seems to be the right word," I said.
Syd and Max tried to reassure me. I listened but was not convinced. I tried to explain my anxiety.
"Ok, here's the thing. I am shy. I mean really shy. I hated gym class. I was always the last one out so I didn't have to change in front of the other girls. I don't have much of a love life. No, let's make that truthful. I have no love life these days. My last boyfriend never really saw me nude, I always insisted on the lights off, did the deed and then pulled on a t-shirt. And, I can't believe I am even talking about my love life in front of you guys."
Max grabbed his chest. "My god, you're not a virgin? What is this world coming to?"
I flipped him the bird and continued.
"So, I think you understand that being nude will be a big deal, a really big deal. And, despite this being the age of blended sexual identities, I have never done anything with a girl. Hell, I just about understand my own anatomy, let alone finding my way around another woman. I don't think I'm that good an actor to be realistic in a love scene. Fuck, a love scene with Abbie Fucking Evans! I am so not going to be able to do this."
Syd said, "Chloe, you cannot pass this up. All you need is to rehearse and get used to it."
"How am I going to rehearse, Syd? I can't ask Abbie for private make-out lessons."
Syd blushed a little and said, "You don't have to ask Abbie."
"Then who," I whined.
"Me," she said in a soft voice.
The silence in the room was deafening.
"You?" I said.
"Yeah. Look I am a normal, healthy, well-balanced college girl. In other words, I've had my share of walking on the other side. You know, playing for the other team. Vacationing on the island of Lesbos. Enjoying Sapphic delights. Getting the picture."
"So, you and I will..."
"Rehearse, Chloe, just rehearse. I can give you a couple tips and mostly just let you get over your fears. It's no big deal. We're best pals and it probably will be a lot of laughs."
I thought about it. It seemed so bizarre thinking about doing anything sexual with Syd. I mean she is really cute. She has a trim and fit figure, so it's not like she's repulsive. But, actually kissing her, touching her, that's plain weird.
"I don't know, Syd."
"Chloe, where else will you get any practice. This will be the least threatening way to break through."
I looked at Max, who had a bemused expression. "What do you think?"
He laughed. "No way are you getting me to weigh in on this. I am still processing that my sis is into girls."
"Not exclusively, Bro. I still dig guys a lot. But, I do like a pretty girl now and then."
He nodded and added, "Well, besides my sister's sexual openness, I am not going to comment on the two of you practice having sex."
He smiled at me, and continued.
"The only thing I'll say, is that if you really want this part, Chloe, then maybe Syd has a point. You guys can practice, or whatever you want to call it, here during the day."
Syd grinned and asked, "You don't want to watch?"
He stared her down and said, "Behave, Syd."
While Syd and I discussed the logistics of how to move forward, Max ordered out for Chinese. When the order arrived, we put aside the thoughts of naked bodies, girls kissing girls and total humiliation to enjoy our friendship along with sesame chicken.
The next day at the theater, we did a couple read throughs and found a number of spots where the dialogue didn't seem to work. Rice took the comments well and adjusted some things on the spot and promised us new dialogue for tomorrow. Abbie started a discussion and then we all agreed that there was a big plot problem toward the end of the first act and the ending was too abrupt. Rice admitted he struggled with both. We all tossed ideas around and they even liked one of my suggestions. Rice said he'd work on the problems.
We broke around 1:30 and had lunch that was brought in. Afterwards, the production manager said I should meet with wardrobe.
I chuckled to myself thinking this could be the shortest wardrobe session in history.
The wardrobe mistress, Marge, was a Broadway veteran, probably in her 50's. She acknowledged that there were not a lot of costume changes. She explained she needed my sizes, including underwear. I did have to undress on stage in the first act. She said she needed to get about 10 of everything. Marge said she would get front closing bras.
"I don't want you fumbling for a couple minutes trying to get your bra off. I think we'll just go with bikini panties, nothing too sexy like a thong. Actually, I might even go with some granny-panties. I like the contrast between modest undies and your naked body. Jeans, a cotton pullover and flip-flops will complete the ensemble. Very easy to deal with. I'll pick up a bunch of short robes that you will wear at times. Also, you can put one on during, if you don't mind the pun, 'dress rehearsals' so you don't have to be showing everything all the time."
"Marge, do you think I'm crazy doing this?"