Would you act like that at the Peabody Theatre?

Lady Witherspoon in costume, in character, regarded her calm face in her mirror. Yes, she looked exactly as she should: determined, quiet, genteel… perhaps a quirked eyebrow would contribute emphasis?

A discreet knock on the door. “Curtain up in ten minutes!”

She didn’t deign to answer, staying in character.

Another knock. “Curtain up in five minutes! And flowers for you, Sallie Mae.” The door to her dressing room was opened slightly and she took the vase.

The erstwhile Lady Witherspoon curled her patrician lip. Really, this was so – demeaning. It was so very common, to have stage-door Johnnies sending one enticements and surprises. She took the small envelope from among the roses.

Opening the envelope, she read, “Would you act like that at the Peabody Theatre?” She turned the card over. On the back, it read, “We’re inviting actresses to perform for special productions every week. Interested? Come to our location as promptly as you can.”

The Peabody Theatre? The name wasn’t familiar. She tossed the card on her dressing table and rushed to get positioned behind the curtain in time for her cue.

After the play was over, Sallie Mae got out of her costume and removed her heavy stage make-up.

But the taxi driver wouldn’t take her to the theatre at night – “It’s deserted, lady. Ain’t nothin’ there but a bunch of crumblin’ brick an’ old beer bottles.”

Instead, he drove her home and as she got out of the cab, refused payment for the ride and told her to go the next day and see that he was telling her the truth.

The next day, Sallie Mae took the bus to the theatre and sure enough, it was a crumbling heap. But as she stared at it, it started to glimmer and seemed to grow hazy. Oddly, something moved in an upstairs window. She stepped back to see what was going on, paying no attention to the sudden screech of brakes.

Then the whole theatre building appeared, magnificent, beautiful; its architecture impressive, the posted playbills new and crisp, the ornate double doors polished and glass gleaming. She went inside and met a very nice woman in an 1880’s ball gown who greeted her effusively. “Sallie Mae! Welcome, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here!”

“What? But what happened?”

“You got your wish – all of them really. Soon you’ll meet Will, and –”

“Will who?”

“Why, William Shakespeare, of course. He allows all of us to call him just plain Will. And you can indeed study under Sarah Bernhardt, just as you used to imagine.”

“Wait – where am I?”

“At the Peabody, of course. You got our invitation, didn’t you?  And then you got transported here. Didn’t you hear the van that hit you, with its brakes shrieking as the driver tried to avoid hitting you? You stepped back off the curb in front of him. Here comes Will now. Let’s see what your first part is going to be.”