Clara! Yes, come in. I just made a fresh pot of coffee. May I offer you a cup?
"Please. Milk, no sugar. Do you have a few minutes to talk?"
Of course. About what?
Clara, we went over all this yesterday. How many times do we have to tell you it wasn't your fault? The investigator said that loose wire on the footlights obviously happened when they were being put in. In fact, the fire department was very complimentary of the way you had those old footlights installed in that fireproof tray. It was just a small electrical fire that could have happened anywhere. We didn't even suffer any smoke or water damage, thanks to you and your forethought. In fact, I was going to come down later to see if you had them working again.
"I know the fire wasn't my fault. At least, I know it now."
What do you mean?
"Jimmy and I spent all yesterday afternoon and most of the evening rewiring them and triple checking everything."
I know. I spent yesterday calling around canceling the first preview to make up for the lost day. So, what do you think? Will we be ready to start previews Saturday?
"That's not my problem. I'm ready to open now. What is my problem - our problem - is that those wires were tampered with. That fire wasn't an accident. Somebody who knew what they were doing pulled those wires deliberately."
"It could have been anyone. It would only have taken a few seconds. Whoever did it wouldn't even have needed any tools. One good hard yank in the right place would have done it. And it didn't happen when the footlights were being installed; those wires were inside the casing."
Have you told anyone else?
"And possibly tell the one who did it I know it was deliberate? I may be old, but I'm not a fool. You're the only one who knows other than Jimmy and me. And Jimmy won't tell anybody about it unless I okay it first. Or, in case something suspicious happens to me."
Aren't you being a little melodramatic?
"All I know is that I've seen things like this happen before. And none of them were the accidents people thought they were!"
"You know the rumors as well as I do. In fact, I hear you've got a lot of insurance on this production and on this theatre."
The bare legal minimum, actually, on both. We couldn't afford more than that. Trust me. I'm not about to burn down this theatre. I'd lose money, not make it.
"You're not even upset that I suggested it might have been you, are you?"
Why should I be? The idea is preposterous.
Clara, I'm really having a bit of trouble following your train of thought on all this.
"Well, if it's not you - and I really didn't expect it would be you - then something I saw Monday night now looks a lot stranger than I thought it did at the time."
"Robin was smiling."
What's strange in that?
"You know I was up in the light booth when the fire started."
"I had a clear view of the stage. The second the smoke and flames started, Drema ran to the stage manager's station to pull the fire alarm."
They tell me that's why we still have a theatre and a play to open in three days. Drema's fast reaction saved everything.
"Yes. But there was a few seconds - it seemed like full minutes at the time - before Drema came back and pulled Robin off the stage."
She evacuated the theatre.
"Yes. But in those few seconds Robin just stood there, not six feet from the fire, staring at it, watching it burn."
Lots of people are paralyzed in the first few seconds of an emergency.
"Robin was . . . she was smiling . . . it was scary, her smile . . . she was staring at the fire and smiling like she knew it would happen."
Are you sure about this?
"I wouldn't be telling you this if I wasn't. What do you know about Robin?"
I take it you're not referring to her resume?
"Are you aware that Robin has a history of mental illness?"
Drema never told me about that.
"I love Drema, but she's in complete denial about Robin's mental problems. When you force her to admit the girl has an illness, she makes jokes about it helping her to be a great actress like . . . like whoever that was in Gone With the Wind."
So you're saying Robin may have had something to do with the fire?
"Yes. No. I don't know. I don't know what I think. Now I'm sorry I said anything about it!"
Don't be. Thank you for telling me. I did need to know about this.
"The thing is . . . "
"There was a fire at the last theatre Robin was working at in London . . . just before she came over here to live with Drema . . . "
"It broke out opening night."
"More than 20 people died . . . "
In his day, the early '50s through the late '70s, theater critic Kenneth Tynan (1927 - 1980) was a prime mover. From his perch at The Observer in London, and later at the New Yorker, he championed a rising generation of angry young playwrights: John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, and their like. From his position in the '60s as the first literary manager of Great Britain's subsidized company, the National Theater, he worked with Laurence Olivier to break the conventional commercialism of the West End and its stultifying stranglehold on English-speaking theater. This collection of his letters, Kenneth Tynan: Letters, provides a fascinating glimpse into the life, work, and soul of one of the century's great critics.Kenneth Tynan: Letters
by Kenneth Tynan, Kathleen Tynan
List Price $30.00
Broadway Bound is written by Mike Reynolds