Insomnia led him to the theater around three in the
morning. Locking the door behind him, he walked
through the lobby with a full cup of burned, weak
coffee. The completed sets were illuminated only by a
dim ghost light with props strategically scattered
around the stage. In the dressing room costumes lay in
disarray. Empty whiskey, beer and nail polish bottles
polluted every corner of the theater. Every step he took
was a struggle not to smash the glass under his shoes.
A clinking sound between his feet and the bottles
echoed through the isolated space.
Daniel stood there sipping his coffee in a sea of
bottles, knowing that by the end of the day all of this
would be gone. “Damn,” he said to himself.
Daniel’s Off Broadway debut had not made it to
opening night. The producers fell short on money, and
later in the morning the strike crew would come to
dismantle the sets, props, and Daniel's psyche. The
marquee had been set, posters decorated downtown
New York City and a website had been launched, all
announcing previews, opening night and an open-ended
run. The bills being unpaid meant the death of the
Marion, the producer, had shown up unexpectedly at
Tuesday afternoon's rehearsal and interrupted with the
news—“Guys, we've been snipped.” The cast and crew
sitting in the first few rows looked up in confusion.
“Some idiot, somewhere, lost some money and
somehow we ain't got no show. We can’t pay the rent
on the theater and we are being evicted.”
“Ain't that a—” the sound mixer blurted out.
“So . . . preparing for this . . . I have brought the three
wise men. Jim Beam, Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels.
Beer too. We’re all unemployed so let’s do what the
unemployed do best—get drunk in the middle of the
day and then paint our toenails.”
“I want fuchsia toenails!” a voice yelled from behind
Women, he thought. The cast was all actresses, the
stage manager, producer and even the lighting and
sound crew were women. “Um . . . what's with all the
women?” he said to nobody. He looked up and down
and was confused that he didn't realize this sooner.
“Now? You’re noticing this now?” Marion poured drinks
and handed out nail polish. Shoes were piling up while
the cast and crew grabbed at different colors. “You
spent weeks in a theater surrounded by women and you
didn't realize it?”
“What happens to the theater when we leave?”
“Nothing.” She downed a cup of whiskey.
“It’s just empty? They’d rather have empty space than
not be paid?”
“Of course. This is America. There’s a precedent to be
Anxiety and losing his production led to Daniel’s
insomnia and his need to find himself in the theater
hours before the eviction. Bottles of empty liquor, beer
and nail polish rolled around his feet while he sat
staring at the stage. He moved his foot and broke two
bottles. He couldn't see much; the lights were off and
only the ghost light illuminated the entire theater. Nail
polish spots speckled the floor. He went to get a broom.
In the lobby Daniel looked at a large poster advertising
the play, looked at all the names and at the end saw
the words, Directed by Daniel Vogel.
“Who the hell is that?” he said out loud.
He started organizing the empty bottles and sweeping
up broken glass. The women and his stress all raced
through his mind while he asked himself, “Who the hell
is Daniel Vogel?” He repeated the question three times
in his head as he worked. He reached into his wallet
and pulled out his ID showing a picture of himself with
the name Daniel Vogel. He started to ask himself
rudimentary questions. “What’s my hometown?” “Did I
have a dog?” He stepped on a bottle, smashing it.
“What's the capital of New Jersey?” “I'm Daniel Vogel?”
One question after another, he couldn't answer. What
he could think of was the play, back stories and
production details. Every line of the script, blocking and
lighting cues were perfectly ordered in his head, but he
was blank about himself.
“Whatever happened to ‘The show must go on’?”
“Who am—” He stopped mid-self-pity. He had a plan.
Dropping the broom he knew how to keep the show
running without any hallowed cash. He took his phone
from his pocket and wrote an email to the entire cast
and crew: “Everything is fine. Rehearsal starts at
11 a.m. Crew, please arrive at 9 a.m. but not for
strike.” He pressed send. Marion was excluded from the
email. The crew was already scheduled for 9 a.m. to
strike the set so he knew they'd be there. He was
worried the actresses would be too hungover to read
their email before 11. He started to prep the theater
for an audience since no house manager or ushers were
Daniel tried to push the main entrance open and a New
York City gust of wind pushed him back until he finally
overpowered it and exploded onto the street. Wind
whipped up and down the street while he made his way
to the nearest supermarket. The sun had still not risen
and only the all-night hotdog shops and crazies were
on the streets.
He grabbed bread, lunch meat, mayonnaise and
mustard off the store shelves. Fumbling sandwich
supplies, he spilled them in front of the graveyard shift
“Food . . . we’re gonna need food! Do you sell toenail
“Like for women . . . girls . . . women . . . actresses
and for some reason a lighting and sound crew.”
“Drug store,” she dismissed.
At the drugstore Daniel could barely juggle all of the
different toenail polish colors and bags of sandwich
supplies. When he dumped the toenail polish in front of
the cashier she gave him the stink-eye.
“Are these all the colors you have?” he asked. “Do you
sell heavy duty chains and padlocks?”
Making his way back to the theater, the before-sunrise
commute had begun and an endless stream of people
bumped him as he walked. He pulled the door open
with the help of the wind and closed it behind him to
keep away the outside world. He set up a sandwich
bar, and next to it, a toenail polish buffet on a table
just off the exit, then hid them with a piece of fabric he
thought was a tablecloth.
He found piles of clothing and fabric around the lobby
and started to fold and organize them. Once complete
he picked up the broom and continued to clean the sea
of glass from the previous day. Daniel hadn’t stayed to
party with the girls; after Marion’s announcement he
just wanted to be alone.
The door flew open, flooding the theater mercilessly
with daylight. Daniel dove behind the concessions
stand to escape the piercing brightness. The stage
manager arrived first for rehearsal. Time had brushed
by Daniel; it was already 9 a.m. and the crew was
arriving to prep the theater.
“I don’t know what you did to save the show and I
don’t care,” said one.
“I have work to do.”
“It smells like Schlitz in here,” said another.
Daniel grabbed the broom and got back to sweeping up
the bottles and glass. He tried to jog his memory.
“What’s the capital of New Jersey?”
“Trenton,” someone yelled from the other side of the
“Aren't you from New Jersey?”
“I am? Trenton, that sounds so wrong.”
“Eleventh hour miracle?” The lighting board operator's
voice asked from behind.
Before Daniel knew what was happening the entire cast
and crew were in front of him ready to rehearse. They
did a full dress rehearsal that to his pleasure went
incredibly smoothly. He watched the time as the hours
went by; he knew what was coming and hoped his plan
After some notes and a second run through Daniel
assembled the cast in the front of the house. All the
women looked at him thinking he would explain how he
found the money to save the show.
“Ladies . . . ah . . . um . . . I don’t have a lot of money
or some rich uncle somewhere. To be honest I really
didn't save the show. Um . . . this is slightly awkward.
I've chained and padlocked the front door and taken
you all hostage until we can open the show, which we'll
do tonight. I really hope everyone is cool with this.”
No one reacted. Daniel thought, hmmm...that wasn't so
bad. Then a makeup compact hit him in the head.
“You can’t do that!” A voice said.
“Are you crazy?” another interjected. Within seconds a
cacophony of angry female voices was directed at him.
“Wait a sec . . . ” he squeaked.
More voices yelled at him and an open lipstick tube hit
him in the forehead. Finally the stage manager stood
“Daniel, you can’t take us hostage. First, we’ll
overpower you and you’ll have a full blown Amazon
insurrection on your hands. Second, we have lives and
commitments and other junk so we just can’t be
hostages. I’m going to my knitting club.”
“A knitting club?” an actress asked. “Like for knitting?”
“Yeah, but, you know, this is about Daniel.”
The women returned to chastising Daniel. “Who’s the
equity rep on this show?” came from the left.
“I thought it was you,” another replied. Daniel couldn’t
keep track of who was saying what, all the voices bled
together in his ears.
“Listen to me!” he yelled, silencing all the voices
around him. “This will work! We’re opening the show—
“Tonight? As in . . . tonight?”
“I know it’s early, but . . . you know . . . we worked
hard. Why should we give up? Besides, I can’t keep
hostages longer than a few hours. I only bought so
many sandwich supplies.” There was a silence of
consideration. Everyone in that room, including Daniel,
always believed money would dictate what was to be
done, but suddenly, through hostage-taking, a new
option presented itself.
“Does Marion know you’re doing this?”
Daniel continued. “We’re being evicted from this
theater. It's either now or never. The show must go
on . . . right?”
Daniel’s phone started vibrating in his pocket.
“Seriously, who just texted Marion?” As he looked at
his caller ID the sound board operator raised her hand
to admit she placed the text.
“There are sandwiches and nail polish in the lobby.
We’ll be out of here before midnight. Have something
to eat, call your friends and family and invite them to
the show tonight . . . and then paint your toenails.”
“You can’t buy our freedom with nail polish. Well, what
colors did you buy?”
Daniel answered the phone to the belligerent
screaming of Marion. After about five minutes of
screaming threats, obscenities and even a biblical
verse she said, ”You’re really doing this aren't you?”
“What if the women won’t do the show?”
“Something was said about an Amazon insurrection.”
“You’ll go to jail for this. Once the owner of the theater
comes and realizes you've barricaded the doors there’s
no turning back.” Her voice was deadly serious. “Jail,
Daniel. Jail. Directors can't go to jail; no one will listen
“I need to do this! I need to have my Off Broadway
play. I need to direct a play that the entire city will
remember they forgot to see.”
Another silence. He could hear Marion’s breathing over
the phone. She finally broke the silence. “Okay, I’ll
As Daniel placed the phone back in his pocket he saw
the women making sandwiches and talking about nail
polish. One of the crew tugged at the chain. She
nodded, approving of the lock's strength. Harriet, the
lead actress, grabbed Daniel and kissed him. “I’m
totally having Stockholm syndrome right now!” She then
ran away from him and even the stage manager smiled
at him. “You're so dangerous!”
Daniel fell into one of the front row seats. Everyone
seemed to accept the hostage situation and for the
second time since he had woken he felt a sense of
peace. He immediately returned to reconstructing his
memory. He knew he was from New Jersey and his last
name was Vogel, but other than that he was clueless.
An hour passed, the women’s toenails changed color
and he couldn't remember a thing.
Red and blue lights started to flash in the theater.
Daniel looked out one of the small lobby windows and
saw police cars and Marion standing outside with a
euphoric smile. Flash bulbs went off around her as
photojournalists competed for the right shot.
Marion texted: “Had to promote this somehow so i
called the police and media on u. Itll be great press”
He looked back up and saw she was giving him a
thumbs up. Behind her was an army of reporters.
An amplified feminine voice came from the streets into
the theater, “What are your demands?”
His phone vibrated again and he immediately picked it
“Hold one second for Susan, the hostage negotiator.”
“Susan? Really? Susan?”
“This is Susan, with whom am I speaking?” Her voice
was unbelievably calm and controlled.
“Um . . . Daniel Vogel . . . My name’s on the Marquee.”
“Are the women in there safe?”
“They’re painting their toenails.”
The hostage negotiator looked at Marion, “Is this guy
some kind of pervert?” Marion shrugged.
“Do you have any demands?”
“A premiere . . . the show tonight at eight and when
it's over I'll turn myself in.”
Marion started giving a sales pitch for the show to the
hostage negotiator in hopes she and her friends would
buy tickets. Then she stopped and realized there were
no tickets for sale. She smiled and said, “I’d give in to
his demands. You never know.”
Daniel turned, put his back to the window and slid
down to the floor. He put the phone to his ear.
“Marion . . . will we have the premiere?”
“I don't know. It's up to the police.”
“Did I screw up? Am I going to jail for nothing?”
“I married you because you were the most passionate
man I'd ever met. I divorced you because passion
doesn't make for a good husband. But I know now that
you believe in what you do, so I guess it's for
something and for what it's worth your ex believes in it
“We were married?”
“This is a weird moment to say this but I think I lost
“Like . . . remembering things?”
“I think . . . Well I only know my name because I saw
it on a poster . . . . This isn't good is it?”
Marion dropped the phone onto the sidewalk, and the
hostage negotiator just looked at her and then to a
large crowd pushing against police barricades. Almost
the entire community of theater critics had arrived on
The negotiator said to Marion, “Those people are really
“They're theater critics. You give them free tickets to a
show, and they still say it sucks. Vultures.” Daniel
heard this all over the open phone line and laughed at
“Lock and load!” the stage manager yelled. “We are at
one hour till curtain!” People started to move around,
going back stage, the lighting booth or wherever they
were supposed to be.
“Is this going to happen?” Marion picked her phone up
off the street. “Marion? Is this going—”
“It better. The vultures . . . er . . . critics, are circling.
You remember nothing?”
“I only remember things about the play, not me or our
apparent marriage and subsequent divorce.”
“There's not much to remember there.”
Both Marion and Daniel heard the hostage negotiator
addressing the crowd through a bull horn. “You can only
enter the theater at your own risk. We have no
knowledge of what weapons or explosives Mr. Vogel
may have and if he is prepared to use them.”
“Whatever, we've been comped!” a critic immodestly
replied to the cheers of her cohorts.
“What?” Daniel said.
“Please tell me you have no explosives.”
Marion exhaled with relief. The negotiator approached
her. “Hostage situations are easier than that. How are
we getting them in?”
“Daniel, open the side entrance at half an hour to
curtain time!” she yelled into the phone.
Marion hung up on him as he walked to the side
entrance. Outside she directed the critics as well as
useful journalists to the side entrance for seating.
Daniel cautiously opened the side door to get the
critics, family members and other comped well-wishers
seated. There were no playbills, tickets or seating
assignments. Utter pandemonium broke out as people
fought for the best seats in the house. Journalists lined
the aisle, in direct violation of the fire code, taking
notes on the ambiance. Daniel rubbed his hands
through his hair wondering if the police were coming to
arrest him. He hid backstage to avoid Marion, the NYPD
and perhaps bill collectors. He walked into the dressing
room to give the actresses a pep talk.
“You should knock!” one said, putting her shirt on.
“I think it's going to happen. I think we're going to be
able to do the show, so I have some final thoughts
before you take the stage.”
Daniel had some prepared words of encouragement and
pride but before he could get any of them out of his
mouth, Harriet grabbed him and kissed him again.
“Like . . . Sweden? Don't you have a boyfriend?”
“You get a pass with Stockholm syndrome.”
He gave up on his notes, exhaled and said, “Break a
He walked out into the stretch of corridor between the
dressing room and the stage. Marion charged directly at
him from the other end. He realized he couldn't avoid
her, and she subsequently slapped him across the face.
“You're insane.” She slapped him again. “We need to
hide you until the bow. Your arrest will be our big
finish. It’ll be great for the morning papers.” She
dragged him by his collar and placed him in a trap door
under the stage.
“But I'll miss the show.”
“You should have thought of that before you took
Daniel was completely alone in the dark. When the
house lights went down and the play started he could
hear every line of dialog. The play was raw and sloppy
but completely fresh and urgent. He sat alone in his
crawl space and just laughed at himself.
Marion dragged him out and straightened his clothes as
the last few lines of the play were spoken. The lights
dropped into complete darkness and Marion kissed him
unromantically on the cheek. “We’re the crazies,” she
said. The actresses were taking their bows and Marion
threw him on the stage. The crowd of journalists, critics
and others erupted with cheers for Daniel. People stood
on their chairs cheering the director who couldn't afford
to put on the show.
In the noise and chaos in the overcrowded theater with
the flashbulbs going off and bright lights above,
Daniel’s memory rushed back. All of who Daniel was
Returned and he remembered his favorite song, where
he was from, where he went to college, his mother's
first name and so much more. He threw his arms in the
air and screamed in a fit of ego, celebration,
megalomania and a bunch of other undefined emotions,
“I am Daniel Vogel Off Broadway!”
Immediately an NYPD officer tackled him and put his
knee on his throat while he slapped handcuffs on him.
At central booking Daniel was granted one phone call
while a group of lawyers vied for his case pro bono. He
called Marion from an old fashioned pay phone.
“Are you okay?”
“Our premiere is the top story on every station and I've
been called by all the papers for comment. It's the
biggest story of the night—a crazy director takes his
cast and crew hostage cause the production runs out of
money, makes it to premiere and it's a hit!”
“The reviews are already out and it's epic! The money's
coming; we're going to have an open ended run. Maybe
I divorced you too soon.”
“Am I going to jail?”
“I don't . . . you don't get it. You’re a legend in this
town, Daniel. They'll remember your name.”
The time limit on the call expired and the receiver went
silent. He looked at the gray walls of the holding cell
as an officer approached to take him to an unknown
destination. Daniel placed the phone on the receiver
and was happy just for a moment to know who he was.
André M. Zucker was born in The Bronx and attended SUNY
Purchase. His work has appeared in Danse Macabre, Blaze Vox,
And/Or, This Great Society and many other journals. His first novel,
Generation, is seeking publication. He lives in Antwerp, Belgium.