ShadowCast 005 Stage Fright

ShadowCast Episode 005

Stage Fright

By Pete Malicki

Read by Jason Warden

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‘I… I really don’t know. At the time I didn’t know what’d really happened, you know? I think everyone just thought it was supposed to happen like that. Who would have suspected…’
‘We’ll ascertain for ourselves what everyone else was thinking. Why do you think he chose to bring you out?’
‘Why’d he choose me? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe he picked me at random, maybe it was the seat I was in. He could’ve picked who he’d call up by where we were sitting, you know. I was directly behind and a little to the left of the girl. I don’t know if he thought it’d look more realistic if he got people close to one another, or if he just liked the look of her and pulled me out ’cause of where I was.’
‘Was anyone else with her? Did she come in with anyone?’
‘Dunno. I mean, it didn’t look like it. I wasn’t paying her too much attention ’cause she was just one of the crowd but I didn’t see her talking to the people around her or holding anyone’s hand or nothing. If I had to guess I’d say she was alone.’
‘Do you think she was an attractive girl?’
‘Why are you asking me that?’
‘Just answer the question.’
‘That was an answer.’
‘Look, no one’s trying to frame or incriminate you. It’s a simple, straightforward question.’
‘Alright. Yeah, she was pretty cute. Didn’t really see her ’til she was up in front of everyone, but yeah, I reckon she was pretty cute. She… certainly didn’t look scared or nothing. I really… really don’t think she had any idea what was coming for her.’


‘Would you say that the two knew each other?’
‘Nah, I’m pretty sure she didn’t know him. He asked her to come and join him, right, then she got up and walked over and he asked her if she knew who he was. She said she didn’t, but we all thought she was just another actor. We all thought she was pretending not to know him.’
‘What did he say to her when she was on the stage?’
‘He asked her if she was into the message he was trying to tell.’
How does the play sit with you so far? Do you agree with my sentiment?
‘How did she respond?’
‘She said, “Not really.” Probably one of those diehard theatre fans or something. I’m not so big on it myself, you know. Don’t really go that often. I usually prefer the movies ’cause there’s more action and excitement. I… but I guess tonight was different…’
‘Hmpf. Do you think it’s possible he killed her because she didn’t like his play?’
‘I don’t know why he did it! Do… do you think someone would really do that? I can’t imagine you’d actually go and murder someone just because they don’t like your stupid little play. I reckon he was just a psycho and he wanted to take the opportunity to top someone in public without anyone knowing he was really topping them. The ultimate power trip, you know?’
‘Okay, let’s back up a little here. I want you to tell me more about the play itself. What was it about?’
‘It was one of those soliloquies. He wrote it himself; at least I think that’s what the brochure said. The whole time he was just slamming people and slamming theatre, you know.’
Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and general riff-raff to my play. Let me start by telling you that the show you are about to see is far from the stereotypical one. You may not know it, but you have actually come to watch me tear apart the world that – by virtue of your presence – you clearly all love. I will be pulling at the fabric of theatre until it rips apart and the reality beneath is revealed for all to see. Let me start with you, my dear audience. I hope at least some of you came prepared to be challenged and confronted.
‘What exactly do you mean by that? Give me some examples.’
You, the audience, are so thirsty to emote that you are already laughing and crying inside your heads. Have you ever noticed how strongly people react to the stage? I could impersonate a monkey and half of you would be rolling around unable to control yourselves.
‘He was really strange, you know? He started by telling us how when we see something in the theatre, it becomes twice as interesting as in reality. Like, he did this monkey impression, running around the stage and making funny noises and stuff, and everyone was enjoying it, then he stopped dead and gave us all the evil eye.’
Thank you for proving my point. What I was just doing wasn’t funny. You’re only laughing because it was done in the context of theatre. I mean, ask yourselves this honestly, would you laugh if you saw someone doing that in the office?
‘I didn’t like it. He was being really preachy and insulting. I don’t think people go to the theatre to watch some jerk paying them out. But then again, there was a ring of truth to some of the things he was saying. Like, people do go pretty bananas when they’re watching a comedy. They’ll laugh at anything.’
But let’s move away from you for a while. If we want to be insulting we could just as easily look towards centre-stage. Here I am trying to get a message across, and I’m doing it by being a total arse to the people who I’m supposed to be influencing!
‘Yeah, I’d be hesitant to actually call it a “play.” It was more like a public whinge; a gripe against his pet hate.’
I haven’t been an active member of the theatre world for very long. This is, in fact, my very first play as both an actor and a writer. I can only thank the organisers for letting me be a part of this night of ‘entertainment.’ Is it just me or is every single theatre director to grace the earth a complete and utter hack?
Why is theatre always so goddamn over-the-top? Do we deal with real life situations in such ridiculously exaggerated ways? ‘Oh, really!? My son is dead? Officer, please tell me this is all some kind of bad dream!’ ‘I’m sorry ma’am. The Police Force has no sense of humour.’ ‘ Nooooooooo!’
‘You mentioned earlier that he withdrew the murder weapon as part of his performance?’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the other plays you’ve all just seen. Unfortunately I missed those ones. I was busy sharpening my knife out back.
‘He pulled it out and ran it across his throat to imitate himself committing suicide. You know, like he was saying that the theatre was so bad he had to top himself because of it.’
‘How did people react when he did this?’
Oh come on! Am I really that bad? I pretend to kill myself and all you can do is laugh? I can’t blame you, I suppose. You’d never suspect I’d actually do something like that, would you? Can you really imagine me lying on stage in a pool of my own blood, kicking my feet out and gasping for breath?
‘I think this was his tactic. The more he talked about what he was about to do, the less people believed he would actually do it. I mean, who… who does that? What kind of a sick, twisted fuck would actually stab someone in a room full of people? We trusted him…’
But you all trust me, don’t you? I’m an actor, standing on a stage! I’m not going to go kill anyone, am I? Let alone myself.
This brings me to another one of my pet hates. Those plays which pretend to be real, but they’re really not. You’ve all seen them I’m sure. The show’s going as per normal, then all of a sudden someone falls over and pretends that they’ve had a heart attack and died, then the rest of the play is about the remainder of the cast all pretending that they’re dealing with this ‘real-life’ situation. At the end of it all – lo and behold! She’s okay! It was all just part of the show. I want a show of hands for anyone who’s actually been fooled by one of these stupid plays.
‘How long had the play been going before he asked you to come up on stage?’
‘I dunno exactly. They were so short, you know, with the fifteen minute time limit and all. At a guess it was about six minutes in. A little bit after the halfway point I guess.’
I’m going for a record here. I bet you I can do a better job than all those other hacks. Tonight we will start something called ‘reality theatre,’ and I am willing to make a bet with someone here, that my show will be the realest show you’ve ever seen. Do we have a gambler in the audience?
‘I didn’t know he’d pull me up there. I probably wouldn’t’ve put my hand up if I’d known. It’s not that I’m shy or nothing but I don’t like some twat making an idiot out of me in front of a bunch of strangers. It’s… fifty bucks is a good bit of cash for doing nothing though. I… I don’t know what I’d’ve done if I’d known he’d pick me.’
Well, that’s quite a lot of gamblers for one night! But for those of you who don’t have their hands up, what do you call paying twenty dollars to watch a bunch of unknown plays by unknown playwrights? Optimism, or gambling? You tell me.
Alrighty then. You sir. Near the aisle. Why don’t you come up here and join me in the spotlight? There could be fifty big ones in it for you.
‘People must’ve thought I was an actor. They all kinda mumbled as if to say, “Oh, he’s been sitting there in the audience the whole time. He must be an actor because the guy on stage is trying to fool us.”’
‘Tell me exactly what he said to you while you were on stage.’
Welcome to the stage, my good sir. It’s a nice view from here, isn’t it? Lights a little too bright for you?
‘I just nodded. I didn’t really know what to say, you know, ’cause I felt like I was intruding on some place I shouldn’t be.’
So you’re a gambling man then eh? I’m not afraid to have a bit of a punt myself. Would you like to take home fifty dollars with you?
‘I said, “Sure.” Of course I’d take the money.’
Of course you would. Now, because I am so confident with my little bet, I’m willing to give you ten to one odds. If I win, you give me five bucks. If I lose, I’ll give you fifty. Does that sound okay?
‘So I said, “Yeah, I guess so.”’
I bet you that I can make at least two members of the audience call the police. If they do, you owe me a fiver. If no one or if only one person calls the cops, I’ll give you fifty. Do we have a deal?
‘“Alright then. Sure, we have a deal.”’
Shake on it.
‘Then I… then I shook his…’
‘It’s okay. Take your time. Another smoke?’
‘Yeah.’
Let’s all thank our special guest. He graduated from the best acting school there is, my friends: the School of Life.
‘Are you okay to continue? I can give you five if you need it.’
‘Nah, I’m good. Let’s get it over and done with while it’s still fresh in my mind.’
‘Very good. I have a few more questions for you then. I know it’s not easy to talk about this, but I want you to go forward to when the girl went on stage. Tell me what happened.’
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m certainly getting sick of me being here. I wouldn’t mind collecting that fiver from my friend over there and grabbing myself a beer. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to pick someone else from the audience.
‘He looked around at all of us, then his eyes settled on her. He smiled at her. I remember that. It looked like he’d found someone he liked the look of, you know.’
You there, would you care to join me here in the limelight?
‘She looked hesitant at first, kinda like I was, but I think she was happy to get up there. He asked for her name.’
Pleased to meet you. Now, I want to confirm something for the audience. You don’t know who I am, do you? I want you to tell these wonderful people – in all honesty – if you’ve ever met me before.
‘Like I told you, she said that she didn’t know him. Even… even I thought she was part of the show. Like, I thought he’d got me up there to throw people, but… but I guess…’
‘Please try to continue. What did he say to her next?’
How does the play sit with you so far? Do you agree with my sentiment?
‘She said he made some fair points, but he was too close-minded. There was more to theatre than his play had made out.’
Well, that sure is true. What I’ve said in my little monologue is far from balanced, isn’t it? Not everything about theatre is overacting and clichés and poorly-disguised plot twists.
‘He asked the audience if they’d had enough of him. Did they think he would win his bet with me or not.’
Oh come on! I’m beginning to think my fifty isn’t safe any more. Look, here’s an idea: I’ll give you and you a dollar each if you call the cops for me. That’ll still leave me with enough of my winnings leftover to buy a beer.
‘And then what did he do? Is that when he withdrew his knife again?’
Don’t worry, kids, it’s only rubber. I wouldn’t hurt an old friend in front of you guys.
‘And then?’
‘He put his arm around her waist. It looked really rough, but… but everyone thought it was supposed to be that way. She was like, “Hey, that hurts,” and he started dragging her offstage.’
‘Was she struggling?’
Calm it, girl. You’ll scare the audience.
‘Yeah, like crazy. It looked like some brilliant acting from the stands.’
‘But we know now that she wasn’t acting, don’t we? Tell me what happened next?’
‘As soon as they were offstage, she started screaming. Really big screams. It… it really sounded like…’
‘Please continue.’
‘We couldn’t’ve known! We didn’t� know what was going on! We… we trusted him…’
‘He stabbed her eighteen times in the chest, face and arms. The forensics say she was most likely still alive when he came back to take his bow.’
Thank you! Thanks everyone. It’s gonna be a bitch getting this out of my shirt.
‘Is that when he gave you the fifty dollar bill?’
Where’s my pal in the audience? Looks like I bloody well owe him fifty bucks!
‘Yeah.’
‘At the time he approached you, did you suspect that he might have actually murdered the girl?’
‘No.’
‘Did he say anything when he handed you the money?’
You earned every cent of this, brother.
‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that?’
‘He said “congratulations” or something, okay? Give me a break will you! Jesus Christ, I’ve just seen a girl get killed in front of me.’
I’ll be seeing you.
‘Tell me one more thing, if you would. Did he say anything to you while you were onstage?’
‘I already told you what he said.’
‘But did he say anything to you? To you personally, after he thanked you.’
Let’s all thank our special guest. He graduated from the best acting school there is, my friends: the School of Life.
‘… I… I don’t think so.’
Thanks for helping out, buddy. I don’t think this would’ve worked without a stooge.
‘Other people who were there seem to remember differently.’
This chat will make it look like we’re old friends having a quick catch-up, but you know as well as I do that we’re not.
‘He wanted to make it look like I was an actor by talking to me as if we were familiar with each other.’
Now, I’m going to tell you a quick secret.
‘Was that it?’
I am going to pick a girl from the audience and I’m going to take her backstage. It will look like it’s part of the play, but it isn’t.
‘He…’
I going to cut the little bitch into a hundred pieces. I’ll slice her and stab her until she’s nothing but a bloody, gory mess.
‘He said… something like…’
You’re the only one who knows this and you’re the only one who can do anything about it. All you have to do is stop me.
‘A girl has been brutally stabbed to death in earshot of more than one hundred people and the murderer has escaped! I want you to answer me right now: did he say anything else to you?’
Thanks again, pal. Don’t forget, you can save her.
‘He told me to enjoy the show.’
It’s going to be one hell of a show.

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