Brian Tames The Lion
Brian was glad to be away from the Blood Basket, the violence and the less than perfect living arrangements. But he was also glad to have learned the lessons in managing a theatre, dealing with actors and the intracies of power and the use of it taught to him by the gang. His new apartment suited him and he liked being in charge of a good professional theatre
He was now sitting behind his desk as the new general manager and artistic director of The West Coast Stage Company. There was vibrancy and an exciting future in the air around the place. A new grant had been awarded to it from the state and a matching grant from Albany Shipping. At the annual meeting a week ago he had been unanimously endorsed by the new Board of Directors who had approved of his ideas for the season and for his desire to include students from the local schools in the plans for expansion. The retiring board had wished him great fortune and said any of them would be available for a chat at any time. Cobwebs were being blown away and old ideas were being replaced by new ones.
He was going over the schedule when he heard a woman’s voice say “I don’t need one, thank you.” As she spoke the door to his office opened and a beautiful middle aged woman came in. She closed the door behind her and said “Brian Sim?”
“Yes” he replied. “It’s Sims.
“Come over here and bring your papers. I’m Sylvia DeLanne.”
“Pleased to meet you” he said.
She moved over to the sofa and sat down without looking at him.
Brian got up from his desk, moved over and sat.
Sylvia, without looking up, said “ I’m going to make some changes in this schedule of plays.”
“Of course. What is A Pinch In Time?”
“It’s a farce”.
“Oh, really. Mr. Sim" she continued matter of factly, "perhaps they didn’t tell you. This is a serious, professional theatre company. We do classics and traditional plays and the very best of modern plays. We do not do farces.”
“We will this year.”
Sylvia finally looked at him with a grim expression on her face and said “Absolutely not. Now if we do a comedy I suggest Noel Coward. Perhaps Present Laughter. Yes, that would be a good one.”
Brian was silent, but he was thinking: This is going to be fun.
“And we won’t be doing Harvey. It’s a silly play. It has no substance to it.”
“It’s on the schedule. Our designer is working on it.”
“I don’t care. Have him do something else. Who is it, Jeffry?”
“No. Jeffry is no longer here,”
“Why not. I hope they didn‘t fire him. He was one of the best designers we had.”
“No Miss DeLanne, he took a job in Las Vegas. More money.”
“He said he might come back to design the musical.”
“Musical?” Sylvia was visibly shocked. “WHAT MUSICAL? We don’t do musicals. What musical? I don’t see one listed here.”
“It’s under To Be Announced.”
“I see. Well, I’ll pick another play. We don’t do musicals.”
“It’s probably going to be Kiss Me Kate’” said Brian with an innocent looking grin.
“It will probably be not!” she snapped back.
Brian was enjoying this. If he could face up to a knife wielding Samuel, he could easily face Miss Bitch.
“Now about casting. I will take Linda Loman, the role in Present Laughter, whoever she is, and Madame Arkadina. Then perhaps something else later in the season when I decide what we’re doing. The Seagull is our first production so you must get to work on it right away.
“I agree” said Brian. “It’s pretty much cast already. I have someone in mind for Madame Arkadina.” There was a long pause, and then he put in the nail. “But you’re welcome to read for it if you want to.”
Up to that moment Sylvia DeLanne had been merely egotistical and demanding. Now there was fire in her eyes. The fight was on and Brian was enjoying it.
“I do not read for roles, Mr. Sim….”
“I play them. This is my theatre. I began it. Years ago in the basement of a coffee shop, I and Jeffry and the others. Those were hard times. Mr. Sim. But we survived. I am the leading actress of this theatre and you better get used to it.”
‘Yes, Ms. DeLanne, your work over the years has been splendid. I’ve read some of the reviews.”
“Quite. Now I won’t hear any more about someone you have in mind. I play the roles I wish to play and the Board of Directors will back me up on that.”
“I don’t think you know them.”
“The Board of Directors.”
“Don’t be stupid. Of course I know them. I’ve known them for years. I picked them.”
“Didn’t you get a notice about the annual meeting?”
“Oh yes” she sighed heavily. “But I never go to those, they’re just a boring waste of time.”
“You probably should have been at this one.”
“There’s a new Board.”
“WHAT?” Sylvia was almost screaming. “Who are they?” She grabbed the papers she had and turned them over looking for the list of the Board.
“All good people.”
“All good people? Mr. Sim what have you done to this theatre?”
“I’m not letting this go down. Who the hell do you think you are? You have no right to come in here and rearrange everything. Fire the Board of Directors behind my back. Let Jeffry go. Pick you own stupid juvenile choice of plays and start auditioning strangers.”
“I’m the Artistic Director.”
“Artistic Director my ass. You’re a rude kid fresh out of college who thinks he knows something. Well, let me quickly inform you Mr. Simple Sim, Dim, Dimwit or whatever your name is, I’m going to see you out of here in a big hurry. There's the door. Go through it.”
“It’s Mr. Sims and it’s too late. I have a contract.”
“Contracts can be broken.”
“If you try to do that we will both spend a lot of time in court, because I will defend it, and neither of us will get any theatre done.” There was a pause. “It’s a good solid contract.”
“I don't care. You're a punk kid and you're not going to have the final word on everything.”
“I should hope not.”
“Good. Now about this schedule....”
“Most of those things have been decided upon before you came and are already in the works.”
“And just what genius decided on them, you I suppose?”
“I did, with the help and blessings of the Board.”
“The new Board, of your handpicked cronies.”
“No Ms. DeLanne. The old Board.” Brian couldn’t resist. “Of your handpicked cronies.” He smiled a friendly smile.
"I don't believe you."
"That doesn't matter, does it?"
"Why don't you call one of your friends and ask them?"
"Don't worry, I will."
"Good. And when you do you also might ask if they have given me the freedom to hire new actors and crew if I want to."
"Well, it's a nice little empire you have for yourself here, isn't it, Mr. Sim?" Sylvia said sarcastically.
"The Board has also given me the right to let anyone go who doesn't fit in to our new plans and designs." Brian was taking a big chance but he was remembering an episode with his father and a certain Wexler Mayhew at a summer camp. ["Sometimes life’s lessons come after life’s tests.”]
"Meaning me, I suppose? You wouldn't dare."
"I would, but I don't want to."
"Well, don't even think about it. If you tried to fire me other members of this company would scream so loud you will find yourself with your 'empire' out on the sidewalk."
"Ms DeLanne I see from your resume that you also teach a dance class"
"Yes, I have a ballet studio. What about it? Stay away from that."
"It means that you're a dancer as well as being an actor."
"What's your game, Mr. Sim?"
"Before I met you, Ms DeLanne, I was hoping that you would be helpful and bring ideas to me instead of trying to disrupt everything I've done so far."
"The Board told me how knowledgeable and important you were to the theatre. And they did give me some background about the early days in the coffee shop. I heard about the night the lights went out all over the area and you had to play with candles and flashlights."
"Yes, se did."
"They told me about strangers wandering onto the stage while the performance was going on."
Sylvia chuckled "I forgot about that. From the alley."
"They said you all got arrested one night?"
"No the police came, but they couldn't find anything to arrest us for."
"Some fool of a neighbor reported us for something." Sylvia laughed at the memory.
Brian laughed, then said "The Board had nothing but high praise for your work both artistic and administrative."
"Well, good. Does that mean you're not going to try to fire me Sim?"
"If I have to. But as a matter of fact I had something else in mind."
"Oh, really." It was not a question.
"The season has been chosen and agreed upon. Work has begun in several areas and casting choices have been made."
"Does that mean you are committed to the musical, and Harvey and a silly farce?”
“Yes, but….” he paused
“Well actually there are a couple of slots that haven't been filled yet. I've been reading some new plays, submitted for our consideration.”
"Most new plays are awful" she said.
"Yes, but one of them isn't bad. I'll let you read it."
"That's most kind of you." The sarcasm was still in the air.
"But as for the other slot I was thinking of putting in a Shaw play."
“A Shaw play?” her eyes widened.
”Androcles and the Lion.”
She laughed scornfully. “Why that one?”
“Because it’s a good play with a good message and it's seldom done.”
“Have you ever done that play before, Mr. Sim?”
“Sims. No I haven’t.”
“Oh. I thought maybe it was something you brought with you from college. If you did, you're making a big mistake. New graduates are always showing up with some production they did in college that everyone thought was so great and they think it's going to work in a professional theatre. They just want to repeat their so-called triumph. It never works."
“No, I’ve never done it.”
“Well, it’s a possibility. There isn’t really a good part for me though, is there?”.
“As a matter of fact there is one.”
Brian paused to give them both a chance to breathe nad then said “The Lion."
Sylvia stared at Brian for a moment and then, in a voice loaded with quiet threat said "Is this a joke Mr. Sim, because if it is it isn't funny."
"It's no joke, Ms DeLanne. The Lion is a big role and an important one. It isn't a children's show lion. It takes real acting ability. You're a dancer. The Lion's role is delivered completely by movement. But it has to be a very special, choreographed movment. A particular kind of mime. It requires a truly creative artist to perform it. You would bring so much to that role, Ms DeLanne. And quite frankly there is no one else in the company who could play it.
Sylvia was now staring into space. After a considerable pause she shook her head and said "I don't think so Mr. Sim. I've played a lot of strange characters in my day but I've never played an animal."
Brian chuckled and said "It's a challenge, that's for sure."
"Yes, I know, but...(sigh). I don't know."
"Well, I'm going to go with this other actress for The Seagull. You will be splendid as Linda Loman, I know it, and in the other roles as they come along. Who knows, you might even like A Pinch In Time. It's very funny."
"I doubt it."
"Well, Androcles will be coming up soon and I would like to get it cast. I hate to go outside the company to find another good Lion.
"I'll thin about this Mr. Sim."
"Great. Please pick up a script from Alice on your way out. And when you've read it I would welcome a suggestion as to who you think would be the best actor to play opposite you as Androcles."
"Well All right Mr. Sim."
"Pleasure Mr. Sims." Without another word Sylvia left, closing the door behind her.
Brian went back to his desk, took out his pen and with a smile of triumph checked off "Lion" on his clip board.