City of Dreams

Los Angeles is never more beautiful than it is after the rain falls. Then, when the air is clear, and the clouds are gone completely, the sun shines magnificently across the Santa Ana Mountains. The Hollywood Sign shimmers in the hills, a constant reminder to all that the City of Angels is also the City of Dreams.

It’s a magical place, unless you’re stuck in rush hour traffic on the 405 Freeway with no air conditioning in your car. Anthony Carto had a lot of things going for him, but a nice set of wheels wasn’t one of them.

He was young and handsome, in his early twenties, with sandy brown hair and striking blue eyes complimenting a lanky swimmer’s type body that most women love.

Anthony was better looking than he knew, yet a lack of confidence kept him from realizing his full potential. He wasn’t sure of exactly what, but something was missing. An integral piece of a young man’s arsenal wasn’t there. Anthony was searching for that missing piece; he just didn’t know it yet.

Inside his beaten-up little hooptie, sweat trickles down Anthony’s forehead. He eyes the clock on the dashboard, knowing he’s late. Through the windshield, cars are at a standstill, five lanes across. The rearview is an endless parking lot, from The Getty to Ventura Boulevard.

The shoulder of the road is empty. It’s tempting. He yanks the steering wheel, pulls onto the shoulder and hits the gas. There’s a clear path to his exit.

He glides past the traffic effortlessly, until he is spotted by a California Highway Patrol Officer four lanes over. The CHP Officer flips on his overhead lights and siren, but rows of cars block his path. Anthony sees him and accelerates toward the exit.

The CHP Officer motions frantically at the carsthat are blocking his path to get out of his way. He squeezes his patrol vehicle between two European sedans and gives chase. Anthony hits the off ramp with the patrol car playing catch-up.

He zooms to the bottom of the ramp, catches a green light and blows through the intersection. The cop races after him with lights flashing and siren blaring, but is forced to slam on the brakes when a car in front of him stops suddenly to give money to a homeless veteran at the bottom of the exit.

The Veteran holds a cardboard sign that reads:

The CHP Officer screams at him.

“Out of the way, junkie! You’re interfering with official police business!!”

The Vet takes a dollar from the driver and thanks her, then looks back at the cop, confused and a little stoned.

“Hey man, I was fighting ragheads in Iraq when you were still in diapers! Show a little respect, junior!!”

The Vet wanders on his way mumbling angrily to himself, but the car in front of the patrol car is now stopped at a red light and traffic floods the intersection. The patrol car is stuck. Anthony is gone. The Officer pounds the dashboard with his fists.

Anthony screeches around a corner, his eyes darting from mirror to mirror. He slips into a crowded parking lot stealthily, parks and kills the engine.

The Actor’s Playhouse is an ornate old structure on Theater Row on Santa Monica Boulevard, just off Western. Inside, the building is a multiplex of two large theaters, several smaller stages and a few rehearsal spaces.

For the last decade, the building has been owned and operated by the legendary acting coach and ‘The Grande Dame of All Hollywood Acting Teachers’, the one and only, Maria

Maria Minsk, who bears a striking resemblance to the fading queen from Snow White, emigrated from Russia to the United States as a young girl with her mother in the 1960s. Her mother had studied the Stanislavski method in the Soviet Union and then in New York at The Actor’s Studio, under teaching legend Lee Strasberg and later, with Stella Adler at her Conservatory. Maria grew up as a theater brat, and moved to Hollywood with her mother as a teenager. Acting was in her DNA.

In the main theater, Maria oversees a master acting class, which is in session. Onstage, a troupe of actors does yoga-like relaxation exercises. They are in a trance, mouths agape, moaning primal guttural sounds. Maria walks from student to student, giving abstract, important-sounding instructions.

She stops at Steph, a wholesomely pretty ingenue in her twenties. Steph is completely relaxed. Maria lifts her limp arm, holds it for a second, then releases. It drops like a wet noodle. Maria praises Steph’s technique.

“Veddy goood, Steph, veddy good! Deep, inner relaxation is the key to the Stanislavski method.”

Seated next to Steph is Jessica, a wickedly tempting blonde bombshell in her thirties. Jessica thought she’d be a huge star by now. She was sexier, smarter and more talented than all of the other actresses in Hollywood combined. She was also more than willing to do whatever it takes to make it in Tinseltown.

But now, as the wrinkles multiply, and her once perfect breasts succumb to gravity, the clock ticks loudly. There’s little time left to make it big. Once she hits forty, it’s virtually over for her in show biz. Which is one of the main reasons she loathes the young, fresh-faced, wrinkle-free ingénue seated next to her.

She whispers loud enough for Steph to hear.

“Little Miss Perfect. Bitch!”

Steph ignores her.

Maria moves like a cat over to Manny, a young Mexican American. She lifts Manny’s stiff arm.

“Manny, you are not relaxed enough! Get down, right now, and transform yourself into a dog!!”

Manny does as commanded. He gets on all fours and barks like a dog, then starts sniffing the floor of the stage and lifts his leg to pee.

Maria then moves to Ricky, a hauntingly beautiful gay man. Ricky senses her. He opens one eye to peek, and she nabs him!

“You too, Ricky! No inner relaxation! Do the chicken! NOW!!”

Ricky starts to move and act like a chicken, jerking his neck back and forth, flapping his wings, and making ‘bok-bok’ sounds.

Maria scolds the class.

“How many times must I say dat relaxation is the essential ingredient to great acting? Wizzout it, you have nussing!”

Pontificating is also in Maria’s DNA.

Manny continues barking like a dog, Ricky clucks like a chicken, and the rest of the students moan relaxation sounds. The stage looks like an insane asylum as Anthony enters the theater.

Maria spots him.

“Stop! Everyone stop, immediately!”

The theater goes silent. All eyes are on Anthony.

“Anthony, you are late! How can you be the lead in the Showcase if you cannot even make it to rehearsal on time? You must respect zee theater!”

Anthony is caught off guard.

“I’m very sorry Ma’am, but the freeway was jammed, so I had to take an alternate route.”

She eyes him suspiciously.

“Make sure it is the last time. Now, onstage! Let’s review zee soliloquy.”

Anthony hops on stage. Steph smiles at him, but he looks past her to Jessica.


CONTACT US | Copyright 2023 | All Rights Reserved