Stepping on the creaky boards, a million memories came flooding back. The space has barely changed in twenty years. She noticed the new paint in places. The stage was in a halfway state, vaguely resembling the set from the prior set. She had acted the words of a dozen notable playwrights on this stage from Shakespeare to Ibsen to Brecht. She had played everything from Lucy in Cosi to a gender-swapped Hamlet. That was many years ago though. The face of a younger woman adorned the posters that hung all around the foyer. Her hair had begun to grey, and wrinkles had formed at the corners of her eye. Whereas she had once played the role of ingenue Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, she now feared that the role of Lady Bracknell was not far off.
‘Hasn’t changed a bit, has it?’ a voice came from backstage.
She recognised the voice instantly, though the years had aged it.
‘Is that my Ophelia?’ she asked, speaking as if she was speaking her lines.
Jane appeared from one of the narrow entrances to the stage. In her youth, Jane had worn her frazzled red hair out and wandered around in a black singlet. Her hair was tied in a bun these days. Her black singlet replaced with a silky blue jacket, brooch and all.
‘I’m more known for my Lady Bracknell these days,’ she confessed.
Gods, the stage was surely not that unkind. Jane was a few years younger than herself. She must have expressed this horror on her face as Jane responded to her thoughts.
‘Tragic, but true. There is a diminishing return for women of a certain age. As the princess would say Once you’re past forty, you’re cooked,’
They both had a slight chuckle at that. Both of them had idolised Carrie Fisher when they were young amateurs treading the boards. As they grew older, so did she. Her fiery indignation at the injustices of show business were a rallying cry. Unfortunately, the tortured male geniuses who had a stranglehold on the writing business were only interested in writing their tortured self-inserts and the naïve muses who loved them despite it all.
‘It’s good to have you back, Elizabeth,’ Jane commented between chuckles.
‘It’s good to be back. It was hard being away from my first love for so long,’ Elizabeth said.
‘Do you mean me or the stage?’ Jane asked.
Elizabeth stared at her bluntly.
‘Can’t it be both?’ she returned.
The eighties had not been kind to either of them. Rumours abounded about this person and that, but not everyone was out. Jane and Elizabeth had used their stage life to begin a secret tryst. At least if they were discovered there, the fallout wouldn’t be as large. However, as the years piled on and the vain stage grew cruel, Elizabeth had the good sense to escape. Jane did not and found herself shackled to the cruel stage and its stagnating audiences. Neither were actresses by profession and Elizabeth’s path as an artist drew her to different locales. Jane was not so fortunate.
As Elizabeth traced this sordid line of thinking, one of their fellow actors sauntered in with his script firmly in hand.
‘Evening ladies,’ he proclaimed.
‘Evening Alan,’ Jane said, politely.
Jane turned to Alan and struck up a conversation with him. Elizabeth looked out at the empty seats and mourned the loss of a former ally on the cruel stage. She would find her joy in performing once again, she hoped.