"The Lady in Red"
Believe it or not, I actually went to college for acting.
Syracuse University. Woo-hoo.
Our acting classes were held in a building down the hill from the main campus. This building housed the university theater (The Storch) as well as a professional regional theater called Syracuse Stage.
I first heard about the Lady in Red when I was working at the box office for Syracuse Stage. One of my co-workers told me that the theater was haunted by a woman, an actress, wearing a red dress. Supposedly, this woman didn't like being upstaged. She would grow jealous of anyone else who wore red on Syracuse Stage. There were countless stories of strange mishaps when one of the actors was costumed in red.
My co-worker told me her story: she'd been working late in the box office and was about to leave, when she found the door locked. From the outside. The problem was, the door didn't lock from the outside. She was alone in the theater and had to call her partner to help get her out. But when help arrived, the door wasn't locked anymore. Weird...
Okay... but here's what happened to me when I was in a show with someone who wore red.
It was my junior year, and I'd been cast in Syracuse Stage's production of Three Tall Women, by Edward Albee. I played the non-speaking role of The Boy. Basically, the three tall women were my mother... (surreal, I know). My role was to come onstage in the second act, sit by my dying mother, and weep. Very difficult to do night after night, with any authenticity. I'm pretty sure I used all my tears up during rehearsals.
One of the three tall women was made to wear a 1960's style red chiffon dress in the second act. Right from the start, this dress gave our actress problems. The first time she even tried it on, her shoe heel caught on the hem and tore a huge hole at the bottom. By the time the show was up and running, our actress couldn't get out of that dress fast enough, and began undressing in the hallway before she ever made it to her dressing room.
Anyway, I spent most of the show in my own dressing room, listening to the dialogue piped in through speakers. Opening night, a friend of mine gave me a single red rose in a small vase. I had placed the vase on the counter next to my dressing room mirror. As I sat listening to the play, untouched, the vase tipped toward me and spilled the rose's water all over the floor. Unnerved, I scrambled to wipe up the mess. I couldn't think of how the vase had tipped over by itself. I felt like it was the Lady in Red wishing me luck...
Like I said, it was difficult eventually to come up with tears on stage, but when I did, they flowed. After one performance when the boo-hooing was authentic, I rushed offstage after my scene and heard someone call my name from a storage room. Clear as day, a woman said, "Dan!"
Thinking it was one of my stage-hand friends, I looked all around that side of the stage for the person who called my name. But no one was around. No was had been near enough to say my name that loud, enough for me to believe they were within poking distance...
When I realized I was completely alone in the dark backstage, I hurried downstairs toward the light and the possibility of company.
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