Chapter 3: From Doctor to Broadway Director - Her beginning.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 331

Chapter 3

As he peered out the window at the endless stretch of desert that lay beyond the road stop café, he thought how distant the Bahamas seemed now.  “Had it been ten years?” he thought to himself.  It seemed like yesterday when he returned from the islands and within a month was sitting in his small cramped hospital office at St. Luke, reading the January 23, 1998 banner head of THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN NEURO-MEDICINE. “Dr. Maxwell Quinlan takes early retirement to pursue other interests…” The article had gone on to compliment him on becoming a member of that elite society of Psychiatrists and Neuro-Surgeons at 41, and “… now at age 47, Dr. Quinlan is leaving it all behind to return to his first love, the theatre.  It is not without much consideration that this highly respected bachelor from Hell’s Kitchen is leaving it all behind. 

Out the window, a gust of wind sent dust swirling, reminding him further of how the article had told of him being “the most likely to succeed” graduate from PS 43.  How he had gone on to Columbia University to garner degrees in Communications, Psychology and Criminology before he was 25.  How he had risen to the upper ranks of his class in medical school and upon graduation had been given a large Rockefeller Research Grant that first brought him to St. Luke’s Hospital. 

The old memories came cascading in. The announcement in the journal had followed a painful day when he announced his decision to his colleague and dear friend, Dr. Lawrence Tiff, St. Luke’s Administrator.  It was compounded by the closeness he felt with the staff and personnel.  For many years, the hospital had been home; the only home he knew.  His compulsive dedication to the behavioral sciences left room for little else. Now he was leaving the hospital for equally strong reasons.  Even Larry knew the ten years that Max had been Head of Neuro Medicine had taken its toll.  A bit of guarded jealousy was perhaps all that separated Larry from Max’s adventuresome spirit. 

“I need to resign this post before all the life I so preciously guard is sucked out of me.”  Max saw Larry’s stifled laugh when he told him, “I have to get back to help keep the ship from sinking, Larry.  Believe it or not, there’s an art out there dying and I feel no less inclined to help that troubled life than that behind these walls.”

“I know,” muttered Larry, “I’ve heard it ad nauseam over the years, ‘Theatre was my first teacher and remains my mentor.  I owe it a lot.’  C’mon, Max, you can’t be serious?”

 

Good-byes followed without much fanfare.  Max felt good about how he handled it.  Now he worried about the new life.  He had a portfolio that guaranteed he could do just about anything he wished for the remainder of his life.  Would that life be as he anticipated?

 

His first stop was the lower Manhattan cold-water flat that had been his home while at Columbia.  The 3-floor walk-up above the knish bakery was presently rented out to a couple with an infant child.  Time had changed the old neighborhood.  The building now had hot water.  The removal of walls had made the studios into one-bedroom apartments.  All the structures on his old street were now upscale to compete with Tribeca and Soho rentals.  The sound of pushcart vendors calling out their “specials” had been replaced with the quiet hum of 324i’s and 350 SL’s.  Wall Street Baby Boomer traders had found their own “just-over-the-fence” upscale cultural resort for a paltry $6.00 cab ride.  It had become anything but the free-spirited creative environment he remembered.  The two-day search for something resembling the lower Manhattan he remembered turned out to be a big disappointment.  Finding a place big enough where he could tone up his teaching and director skills (a vocation he had enjoyed while attending The Columbia Graduate school) proved difficult.  Then…

The rental-ad had been for an old 90-seat theatre on 34th street and 3rd.The top floor loft provided small, albeit comfortable living quarters.  The theatre although intimate would serve his needs.

 

He now had some time to relax and allow his professional behavioral experience to apply itself to the art he so loved.  During that same time, Samantha, being a native Long Islander, found her way to his doorstep, via the ads in the Village Voice announcing the formation of a small company of actors to study and perform at the newly renovated 34th Street Theatre.

Their first meeting after the Bahamas was strained.  They met at an old favorite haunt of Max’s “THE CUP,” a coffeehouse in Tribeca.  Even though neither knew why these circumstances had been created to bring them together again, they both acknowledged the attraction they had for each other. 

“I’m very neurotic, you know,” Max blurted out during that first cup of espresso.  “You will probably go mad working with me.”

She grinned.  “I’m already mad, Max.”

He laughed.  “Certifiable?”

“Depends on who you talk to.”

He laughed again.

She remained straight-faced.

The waiter asked if they wanted any more coffee.

Samantha remained fixed on Max.  “I like it black and thick.  You?”

Max saw the Bahamian waters again; “Anyway you like.”

 

After two months of inquisitive exchanges over coffee and her auditing of his classes, he asked her to join his small group.  Her talent was not without its rough edges.  Long Island community theatre had served her need to express outside the walls of her repressive home, but she was hardly ready to meet the critics.  There was a lot of work ahead.

 

Over the next year, the enigmatic fixation for each other continued.  It was obsessive on his part.  He readily admitted it.  His love for the discovery process during workshop was equally obsessive and it was not unusual on the first day of new workshops to hear him saying, “If I appear to be paying a lot of attention to Ms. Turner, I’m afraid you’ll have to live with it.  I am.  I will.  She knows it.  I know it.  I learn from her and you will too.  Shall we begin?”

She was an exciting talent.

He was charming, quietly confident and of a background that made Samantha feel secure and safe with herself, regardless of who she felt like being any hour, any day—on  or off the stage.  She was beginning to accept her talent as unusual.  She knew her personality was different and she was still having trouble merging the two. 

Max the retired doctor knew the talent and the personality was something more than unusual and different.  Max the theatre teacher and director knew it was okay to freely express his emotions and not worry about being the doctor… but could he afford to?

During that first year, Max took his small group of actors and began to prepare their first production, a favorite of his, Elmer Rice’s “Adding Machine.”He was now fulfilling his dream.  He was becoming part of the vanishing community of serious play producers who wanted to keep the boat from sinking. The Professional turned theatre director had exactly what he wanted, exactly where he wanted it, and now needed to work on who he wanted.

 

She was cast as a “lady of the night.”  For Samantha, this was a perfect kind of role.  During improvisation rehearsals, she had the opportunity to try all kinds of different

character choices.  Max was mesmerized by her ability to slip in and out of different personalities.  They worked.  They talked.  They even tried her characters out on the subway platforms, the chic bars around town, even going so far as convincing a patrol car officer that her “john” was going to create mayhem on several of the girls that night for steeling from him.  She was very persuasive.  She and Max watched the officer drive around the block half the night, waiting for the event that never happened.

He enjoyed nurturing talent. 

She wanted to act.

He wanted to discover. 

She wanted it all, and she got it.

 

The “Adding Machine” led to a series of plays that took Max to new heights.  Samantha’s “lady of the night” launched a career of stage and screen accomplishments that wouldn’t stop—a career that was still going strong ten years later as she stepped from the “Senorita’s” room as…


Submitted: November 15, 2006

© Copyright 2021 Odin Roark. All rights reserved.

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