These stories have actors, actresses or other performers, from movies or the stage. The focus could be more on the production of a movie or play, or they might be away from their profession for a while.
Short Stories About Acting
“Benefit Performance” by Bernard Malamud
Maurice Rosenfeld, an actor, returns to his small apartment where he lives with his wife and grown daughter. His wife is out working, so he fixes himself something to eat. His daughter’s boyfriend, Ephraim, a plumber, is coming over.
This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Stories. (40% in)
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” by James Patrick Kelley
Jennifer finds out her father, Peter Fancy, is still alive and living at Strawberry Fields. He was an actor who played several Shakespearean roles. He left the family when Jennifer was young. Her mother didn’t have bad feeling towards him, and always encouraged her to find him again. The door is answered by a little girl with an unusually mature voice. Jennifer realizes she’s a bot.
This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Robots. (26% into preview)
“Boxing Unclever” by Robert Barnard
Sir Adrian Tremayne, a former stage actor, relates to the dinner table a story of Christmas reconciliation from ten years ago. He was visited by Angela, an actress, and Daniel, a critic, who had both wronged him. There were also other actors and people in the business invited. To defuse suspicion, Tremayne also invited some “outsiders”, those not in the business.
This story can be read in the preview of The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. (61% in)
“Not a Laughing Matter” by Evan Hunter
Blair hates his manager, Mr. Atkins, the most. Blair used to be a successful actor and now he’s been reduced to this. Atkins calls him Nick out of disrespect and revels in his fall from grace. Blair’s at his breaking point.
This story can be read in the preview of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense. (71% in)
“The Most Beautiful Woman” by Jennifer Ellis
Hedy Lamarr, the famous Hollywood actress, invented a guidance system for torpedoes, along with her ex-husband. She wanted to develop it for the war effort, but was told she should use her celebrity to sell war bonds instead. She has done this, but now she has a meeting with Commodore McCandless about doing more.
This story can be read in the preview of Alt. History 102. (25% in)
“Pastoralia” by George Saunders
The narrator isn’t feeling his best. He’s in his work area, sitting on his haunches, waiting in case someone looks in. No one has looked in for almost two weeks. His coworker, Janet, has been talking English more and more, which is against policy. There’s a fresh goat provided for them in the Big Slot each morning along with matches. Others have it harder. He skins it with a flint and Janet makes a fire to cook it. Back when they got more visitors they would throw themselves into their roles more, grunting and tossing dirt. One morning, there’s no goat in the Big Slot.
Some of this longer story can be read in the preview of Pastoralia. (20% in)
“The Pheasant” by Raymond Carver
Gerald and Shirley are on the long night drive to her summer house. She’s given up on him. They’ve come from Hollywood where Gerald’s a minor actor and Shirley has money and connections. Out of the corner of his eye, Gerald sees a pheasant flying low and fast toward the car.
“Who Am I This Time?” by Kurt Vonnegut
A member of a theatrical society is named director for an upcoming play. He takes the job on the condition that he can cast Henry Nash, a shy but great actor, as Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire.
“Miss Temptation” by Kurt Vonnegut
Susanna rents a room over the firehouse during the summer. She’s an actress in the theatre near the village. The residents have never gotten used to her; she’s beautiful and her clothing draws attention. Everyday, she walks to the drugstore to get the New York papers. The men admire her along the way, but the only one who speaks to her is the seventy-two year old pharmacist. One day, Norman Fuller returns home after eighteen months on duty in Korea. He’s never seen Susanna before and there’s an incident.
“The Affair at the Bungalow” by Agatha Christie
Jane Helier is on an acting tour when she is called to the police station. There’s been a burglary at a bungalow, and a man named Leslie has been arrested. He claims that Jane read one of his plays and invited him to the bungalow to discuss it. He was shown in, met Jane, had a drink, and the last thing he remembers is waking up disoriented on the roadside. When Jane arrives at the station, neither she nor he recognizes the other.
“The Fourth Alarm” by John Cheever
A man sits drinking gin on a Sunday morning. He doesn’t have much to do. His wife, Bertha, a good-looking young woman, will arrive tomorrow just for a day. She used to be a teacher, but now she lives near the theatre where she performs. She was cast in Ozamanides II, a scandalous show that made her husband want to seek a divorce.
“Lilacs” by Kate Chopin
Mme. Adrienne Farival returns to the convent as she does each spring. She lived here as a girl; now she’s an actress and performer in Paris. There’s much excitement as she approaches, and Sister Agathe runs out to meet her. Adrienne has a very dignified reunion with the Mother Superior. She presents the gift she has brought—an embroidered linen altar cloth of exceptional quality. Adrienne is assigned to room with Agathe during her stay.
“Women in their Beds” by Gina Berriault
Angela Anson, an aspiring actress, works in a hospital telling elderly and infirm women where they will be sent next. She feels the women in her ward represent all women in a way, and isn’t sure if she can keep the job.
“What Do You Do With Your Old Coffee Grounds?” by Howard Lindsay
A newly married man introduces his wife to his mother. His wife is an actress and they live comfortably. His mother grew up poor and is very frugal.
“The Man Who Did Not Smile” by Yasunari Kawabata
The author of a screenplay has been watching the filming of his movie for a week. He is inspired to rewrite the last scene, having smiling masks appear all over the screen. The movie is set in a mental hospital, so he thinks he must add a happy ending.
“Moving Pictures” by Charles Johnson
A man is in a movie theater waiting for the show to start. He thinks about the power of movies, and the status of filmmakers compared to novelists. We learn of the man’s background, including a failed marriage and financial issues.
“Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird” by Toni Cade Bambara
Some children are playing in the front yard with the two neighbor children while their grandmother works in the back. Two men are in the field nearby with a movie camera. They say they are making a film about food stamps. The grandmother has asked them to stop, but they simply moved farther away.
“The Desire to Be a Man” by Auguste Villiers de I’Isle-Adam
It’s midnight in Paris in October. Everything is closing to meet the curfew—martial law is in effect. While the crowd rushes off, one man—tall, sad-looking, and oblivious—arrives and stands before a café mirror. He suddenly looks older. He knows he’ll have to retire from acting.
“Head and Shoulders” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Horace Tarbox is a seventeen-year-old Yale student interested only in reading and his studies. He meets a flirty young woman, Marcia, who invites him to watch her perform at the theatre. Horace begins thinking of Marcia often.
“Miss Hinch” by Henry Sydnor Harrison
An old woman and a clergyman on the subway talk about the latest sensational story—Miss Hinch, an actress and expert impersonator, killed John Catherwood with a sword. She was seen minutes after the killing, but then seemingly disappeared for the next ten days. With her uncanny ability to become someone else, the police—and a famous detective, Jessie Dark—are stumped.