The theater doors were still locked when she arrived, about twenty minutes before six. It wasn’t a great neighborhood, this end of Sunset. The industrial side of the film industry was on display; prop houses and post-production facilities were nestled alongside storefront liquor stores and shabby doughnut shops. There was a wooden bench beside the theater doors, but the closer she got to it, the more it smelled like old urine, so she stood in the speckled shade of a tree by the curb and waited.
A blonde woman, middle-aged and leathery, propped open the front door of the theater with a cinder block. She shielded her eyes against the sun with her hand and squinted at Charlotte. She frowned. “Here for the auditions?” she asked. A purple velvet halter top barely confined her extravagant bosom; her feet were bare, and her toenails sparkled with purple glitter. “You’re early.”
“I can wait outside until you’re ready,” Charlotte said.
“No, whatever, come in. You can’t audition until the director gets here.”
Charlotte followed her into the theater lobby. Faded green carpet, chairs with ripped vinyl seats, a display case featuring faded handbills. Smelled like fresh paint and dry rot.
She took a seat on one of the vinyl chairs. A moment later, two girls entered. They were maybe still in their teens, sleek and lithe with glossy manes of hair. More aspiring hopefuls arrived, maybe a few dozen in total. She scoped out the crowd. Young. Very young. A bunch of nervous kids. Male-to-female ratio of about one to four. Pretty typical.
Had this process ever been fun? Maybe a little, back when she was a kid auditioning for local plays in Idaho.
The blonde woman reemerged, hands full. “Hi, gang. Nice turnout,” she said. “Welcome to Hollycould Players. I’m Holly.” Charlotte’s stomach churned a bit. “We’re about ready to get started, if you all could sign in on the clipboard. If you’ve got your headshots with you—which you all really, really should—have them ready to hand to the director when it’s your turn. And you need to fill these out as well.”
She held up a stack of stiff white cards, then set them beside the sign-in sheet on a table near the entrance. The table was instantly mobbed. Charlotte hung back. They’d audition in the order they signed in, and while it would be nice to get this over with, there was no benefit to going first.
She picked up one of the cards. It asked for her name, her contact information, her rehearsal availability. It also asked whether she had a reliable form of transportation. She had good walking shoes and a working knowledge of the bus system, so she responded in the affirmative. It was a lie, sort of, but her lack of a car would be a big mark against her. It might even knock her out of consideration.
Holly had put out the sides, too, in small stacks arranged by character. Charlotte picked up Annemarie’s scene and glanced through it.
“Crud. How late am I?” Charlotte looked up at a new arrival. A woman, late thirties, tall and fair and willowy, wearing a floral wrap dress in wispy crepe.
“Don’t worry. We’re still signing in,” Charlotte said.
“Good. I haven’t blown it. Have they collected headshots?”
“We’re supposed to hand them over when we go in.”
The woman looked so familiar, sounded so familiar… Charlotte glanced over her shoulder while she signed in and snuck a peek at her name.
Erica Fallow. Of course. When the woman looked up at her, Charlotte blushed.
“I’m sorry. I thought that was you. I just wanted to make sure.”
“Yeah, it’s me.” Erica smiled, embarrassed and pleased and wary all at once, the instinctual reaction of the famous when confronted with the public.
“Sorry. I don’t want to bother you. I just really liked Mad World, that’s all. I was addicted to it in college.”
“Thanks. That’s nice to hear.” Erica’s smile deepened, turned a bit more genuine, as though she had sussed Charlotte out and deemed her harmless.
They were still standing at the table in the middle of the room. Charlotte wished they were somewhere else, so she wouldn’t look like a star-struck fangirl in front of all these other actors. “I stopped watching after the third season. It wasn’t the same after you left.”
Erica laughed. “That’s what I think, too, but I’m biased.” She picked up one of the information cards. “Are we supposed to fill these out?”
When struggling actress Charlotte Dent is cast as a leggy killer robot in a big, brainless summer blockbuster, the subsequent hiccup of fame sends a shock wave through her life. The perks of entry-level celebrity are balanced by the drawbacks: destructive filmmakers, online ridicule, entitled costars, and an awkward, unsatisfying relationship with the film’s fragile leading man. Self-aware to a fault, Charlotte fights to carve out a unique identity in an industry determined to categorize her as just another starlet, disposable and replaceable. But unless she can find a way to turn her small burst of good fortune into a durable career, she’s destined to sink back into obscurity.
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Genre - General Fiction, Chick Lit
Rating - PG
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