A work of modern gothic fiction, The Wharton Playhouse is set in a sleepy yet prosperous midwestern college town. On the main street is a building with a history all its own. When a young, budding theatre company purchases the building in the hopes of adding their success to their building's legacy, strange things start to occur. As they race towards opening night, and uncover the secret past of the building and its previous owners darker sides of humanity emerge and, the lives of these young people are changed forever.
Julian stepped into the room, old wooden boards creaking under him, causing Anne to look up from the bit of stage floor she was scrubbing. They smiled at one another. Things were going well; the restoration was on target in terms of time and not yet over-budget, and it was their anniversary that day. Julian was about to complement his wife on the way she looked, when he was knocked over from behind.
“Ah! Shit! Sorry!” one of the younger stage hands exclaimed.
“Don’t drop it!” another voice shouted.
Julian looked up. He’d been knocked over by two stage hands carrying a very large, and heavy wooden prop box for the backstage area. Noticing they were about to drop it, he quickly rolled out of the way. The two stage hands regained their grip and continued on, looking sheepish.
“It is quite the zoo in here,” Anne chuckled. “Are you alright, darling?”
“Yeah, just fine. A little dust... a little bruising... but hey, that’s life in the theatre for you! Now all we need is a little backstage in-fighting, an affair, and someone with an alcohol – wait! Naw, now-a-days it would be drugs – someone with a drug problem,” Julian said, laughing.
“I can take up black tar heroin,” Connor, one of the male actors who was at that moment painting a beam joked, overhearing their conversation. “Or we could start a whole little Awfully Big Adventure affair for your amusement. Of course, I’d rather not be directly linked to anything incestuous...”
“Shh! Don’t go jinxing us,” Anne replied, moving closer to help him up. “The stage hands are already acting like twelve-year old children with flashlights in some tent in the woods; telling ghost stories to frighten one another.”
“It adds ambience,” Julian suggested with a shrug of the shoulders.
“Yes, because we need a terrifying ambience. Do you realise the logistics of hiring new staff to work in a theatre that the existing staff purport to be haunted. We should have no coat check attendants, but plenty of those strange paranormal occurrence folks knocking on our door,” Anne replied, going back to scrubbing the floor.
“Terrifying ambience would probably help promote the show,” Connor replied over his shoulder.
“What do you mean?” Anne asked, somewhat angrily. She was in no mood to have her authority questioned.
“Haven’t you guys been talking to Naomi this last week?” Connor replied.
“What is the fabulous, flamboyant Miss Strauss up to?” Julian asked, a smile on his face.
“Well... word is she’s annoying the hell out of Debs...”
“That’s normal,” Anne replied, not looking up from the floor.
“And that the play she’s writing for us is about the history of the theatre... as in, the haunted history of the theatre. She’s been super interested in talking to all the stage-handies about the ghost stories and stuff they’ve heard... I think she thinks there’s substance to them,” Connor elaborated casually.
“That woman!” Anne exclaimed throwing her rag down to emphasize the point.
“Oh, sweetie... calm down. It’s going to be fun. Everything is fine,” Julian assured her. “I have total faith in Naomi and so should you. We’re lucky to have her on our team... So few companies employ their own in house writers anymore.”
“Don’t you dare let me catch you taking her side on this, Julian. I am your wife,” Anne raged.
Connor turned his head away out of courtesy.
“Honey, not here,” Julian suggested, noticed that his wife was exceptionally upset.
“Fine, back door,” Anne agreed, storming ahead of Julian.
Once safely tucked in the dark corner backstage by the service door, Julian and Anne resumed their squabbling.
“What’s the matter?” Julian asked, looking his wife in the eyes.
“I don’t appreciate everyone continuing on with this whole ghost mythology, alright. It’s bad for business to be haunted, particularly after the novelty has worn off. Eventually haunting only haunt profits and the bottom line... I understand your need for folly and whimsy and the like – it’s one of the chief reasons I fell for you – but someone here needs to be a grown up and think seriously about the future of this theatre. This is an investment. This is a serious, grown up investment, and we need to treat it as such. This is our future, Julian!” Anne ranted.
“I know, honey,” he replied, trying to put his arm around her.
“I don’t think that you understand fully. We put all of our savings into this project. If we have children, this place needs to be a success so that we can feed said children.”
“Hypothetical children... years down the road,” Julian clarified.
“Just rein Naomi in,” Anne retorted, before turning and walking away.