Short Stories About Acting, Actors or Performers: Movies or Theater

These stories have actors, actresses or other performers, both in movies and on the stage. Sometimes the focus is more on the production of a movie or play.

“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)

“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.

“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.

“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.

Read “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird”

“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.

Read “The Desire to Be a Man”

“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.

Read “Head and Shoulders”

“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.

Read “Miss Hinch”