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PEGGY GOES STRAW HAT ***




Produced by Stephen Hutcheson and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net






[Illustration: _"I've wanted to tell you, Peggy," said Chris, "what fun
it is working with you."_]

PEGGY LANE THEATER STORIES




_Peggy Goes Straw Hat_


By VIRGINIA HUGHES

Illustrated by Sergio Leone

GROSSET & DUNLAP _Publishers_
NEW YORK

(c) GROSSET & DUNLAP, INC., 1963
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA




CONTENTS


1 The Arrival 1
2 A Serious Complication 15
3 A Broadcast 27
4 A Favorable Decision 41
5 Opening Night 48
6 Chance Encounter 58
7 Unfair Play 74
8 An Explanation 85
9 A Lifeline 96
10 Friends - New and Old 108
11 Quick Thinking 121
12 Varied Explosions 131
13 Double Trouble 143
14 Ups and Downs 156
15 Summer Stock 168




PEGGY GOES STRAW HAT




I
The Arrival


Eight hours after leaving New York City, the rickety old Pathways Bus
lurched to a bouncing halt in a small Adirondack mountain town. Peggy
Lane rose from her seat and somewhat shakily managed to collect her
handbag, a small suitcase, a hatbox, two coats, and her precious tin
make-up kit.

"I wonder if I really look like an actress or more like a walking
luggage rack?" she thought excitedly as she stepped down from the bus.
The scene that greeted her was breath-taking; Peggy gasped aloud with
delight. Before her, Lake Kenabeek lay gleaming like a jewel in the
afternoon sun. Pine trees rose everywhere and although it was summer
there was a delicious nip and tang in the air. Peggy's heart raced with
eagerness and the familiar nervous anticipation she always felt when
approaching something new. She had been hired as resident ingenue for
eight wonderful weeks with her first summer stock company. Each week she
would be playing a different part, gaining invaluable experience, and
learning new phases of life backstage.

"And I got the job all on my own!" Peggy thought exultantly. "Just by
reading for the producers! That must mean something - at least, it means
that I'm really a professional actress now and don't have to depend on
friends and 'contacts' for my work!" She smiled happily, taking a deep
breath of the fragrant, pine-scented air.

"Miss Lane?" A voice interrupted Peggy's thoughts. She turned and saw a
spectacled, studious-looking boy about seventeen who was wearing
dungarees and a paint-smeared shirt. Offering her a slightly stained
hand, he grinned shyly. "Scene paint," he explained, "but it's clean."

Peggy could hardly shake his hand, laden down as she was, and the boy
stammered with embarrassment. "Oh, I'm so sorry - I was so busy looking
at you, I didn't notice." He relieved her of some of her bags, giving
her a frankly admiring stare. "You sure look like a good ingenue!"

"I do?" Peggy beamed.

"Just what I had in mind." He smiled, taking in Peggy's trim little
figure, dark chestnut hair and fresh, mobile face. "I'm Michael Miller,
and I have the jeep waiting to take you to your hotel."

The jeep had been painted bright blue with an eye-catching sign on the
hood. Kenabeek Summer Theater, it proclaimed in large white letters.

"Good advertising," Michael confided as they deposited Peggy's bags in
the rear. "But then, you're not bad advertising either!" He nodded in
the direction of a few bystanders who were casting curious glances at
Peggy. Peggy smiled back at the townspeople, and as she climbed into the
front seat, her nervousness unexpectedly dropped away. She was really
here at last, she realized, an actress with a season's contract - and
suddenly she felt very professional.

As they drove carefully up the winding mountain road, Peggy discovered
that Michael was one of three local boys who were to work as
apprentices - helping the scene designer, doing odd chores, and playing
small parts when needed. Michael's father was Howard Miller, a retired
theater man, who was to do all the older character parts during the
season.

"Oh, I've heard of him!" Peggy exclaimed. "He's supposed to be a
wonderful actor, and we're lucky to have him. You know how hard it is to
get good character men for stock. Michael," she went on eagerly, "do you
think the theater will be a success?"

Michael considered a moment. "I don't honestly know," he replied
thoughtfully. "This is a very small town, and actually we don't have a
large enough population to carry a summer theater all on our own. But
one of the ideas behind this venture is to bring in more summer resort
business."

Peggy nodded. She knew that Richard Wallace, one of the two young
producers, was a resident of Lake Kenabeek, and wanted to help improve
his town - both culturally and financially.

"Of course Richard's Aunt Hetty is vice-president of the Chamber of
Commerce," Michael continued, "and the Chamber of Commerce put up half
the financial backing for the theater. So we do have solid support
there. But some people here resisted the idea of a group of actors - you
know, they think that actors are a strange, Bohemian breed - " He glanced
at Peggy and laughed. "Bohemian, huh! All they need is to take one look
at you, or any of the other actors who have come up from New York."

Peggy smiled gratefully. She knew that a lot of people didn't realize
what honest, hard work the theater could be. But obviously this
intelligent young boy had a deep feeling for the profession and knew
that an actress' life wasn't only curtain calls and bouquets after the
performance.

"Yes, we do have a lovely group of people," Peggy agreed earnestly. She
had met most of them in New York during the tryouts and been impressed,
not only by their acting ability, but by their responsible and
intelligent attitude. "And we have a really good director, wonderful
plays, and at least half the town is behind us. That should be enough if
we work hard!" she concluded with a twinkle.

Michael turned from the twisting, ribbonlike shore line and drew up in
front of a large, old-fashioned, rustic building. "Here we are," he
announced grandly, "Kenabeek Inn! But you're not in the main building;
your company is staying in the annex."

Peggy followed him around the side of the inn, down a little path
fringed with fir trees. In a small clearing, well away from the kitchen
noises issuing from the rear of the inn, Peggy saw a tiny, two-story
building. There was a roofed-over patio outside with two sofas, some
chairs, and a table on which stood a hot plate and stacked cups and
saucers. Peggy smiled to herself, recognizing the sure sign of an
actors' residence - coffee, coffee, and more coffee.

Rita Stevens came bursting out of the door, a radiant smile transforming
her rather plain features. "Margaret, 'Peggy' Lane - Star of Stage,
Screen, Radio, Television, and Summer Stock! Welcome!" she cried,
running up and giving Peggy a hug.

They grinned at each other happily. "Oh, I'm so glad to see you!" Rita
bubbled. "I've been positively frantic for some female company around
here. We've been up for three days and Gus has spent every single minute
at the theater - "

Rita was married to Gus Stevens, the scene designer - a lucky combination
for the company. Although young, Rita had one of those ageless faces and
a maturity which made her a perfect character woman. Peggy had liked her
the instant they met at the readings in New York.

"No women?" Peggy asked, "Hasn't Alison Lord arrived yet?"

"Oh, no, my deah," Rita intoned in a stagy accent. "No, our leading lady
is being flown up in someone's private plane and isn't expected until
tomorrow morning." She waved a hand airily, imitating perfectly a prima
donna.

"Oh, no!" Michael grimaced in disgust. "Is she really like that?"

"No, Mike," Peggy said with a laugh, "she's really quite friendly and
nice - and a very good actress. Just a little theatrical, but I'm sure
you'll like her."

"Well, I hope so," Michael said, obviously still doubtful. "Look, I've
got to scoot back to the theater. May I leave your things here, Peggy?"

"Oh, I'll take them, Mike." Rita grabbed some of Peggy's luggage and
started up the stairs of the little house. "See you later, Mike."

"And thanks for the ride and everything," Peggy called after him.

"He's such a sweet kid," Rita commented as they climbed. "A wonderful
help to Gus - I have a feeling Michael may make this business his life
work. Here's where you live, Peggy!"

They stepped into a tiny white room, sparsely furnished with only a day
bed, a large bureau, a folding screen, straight chair, and a bedside
table.

"The manager of the inn must know something about summer stock
companies," Rita observed ruefully. "Obviously he has a good idea of
just how much time we'll be spending in our rooms."

Peggy looked at her questioningly and Rita laughed. "It's your first
season, I know - but just you wait and see!"

"My trunk!" Peggy interrupted with a sudden disturbing thought. "I sent
it ahead by Railway Express. Hasn't it come?"

"Right here, madame." Rita folded back the screen and revealed Peggy's
large, black wardrobe trunk, which was somewhat dented and worn, parts
of old labels still sticking to it here and there. "You know, for a girl
who hasn't done stock before, or been on the road, this trunk is really
strange. What did you do?" she asked with a teasing smile. "Stick on
labels, and tear them off, and then jump up and down on it wielding a
hammer?"

Peggy hooted. "Rita Stevens, you have a very suspicious mind! I want you
to know that this trunk belonged to a friend of my father's - a wonderful
woman who was in the theater years ago." Peggy's face softened
wistfully. "And I imagine that this battered old trunk has seen more
drama - on stage and off - than we can even imagine."

The girls looked at it thoughtfully, a picture of the old, romantic days
of the theater - great plays, great producers, great stars - all the
golden history of the stage firing their imagination.

Peggy broke the spell, "Well, anyway, May Berriman gave it to me. She
runs the rooming house where I live in New York, you know. And believe
me, I'm grateful! Besides needing a trunk, I think of it as a symbol of
good luck. Some time soon, Rita, would you mind taking a look at my
wardrobe? I think I brought enough, but I'd like to be sure."

"I'd love to," Rita said. "But now let me show you where everything is
in our little annex, and then you'd better rest awhile. I'm sure you're
tired, and we have a company call tonight."

Alison Lord would be in the room across the hall from Peggy. Rita and
Gus were also upstairs, on the opposite side of the house. Danny Dunn,
Chris Hill and Chuck Crosby, the director, were all downstairs. The
patio was community property for coffee, line rehearsals, and just plain
relaxation. It seemed like a good arrangement. Rita showed Peggy where
she could shower and freshen up and said she would call her in time for
dinner.

But Peggy was too keyed up to take a real nap. She sat on the edge of
her bed, thinking of all the steps that had led her here, to this place,
at this time. Her love of acting, the school plays, the productions in
college, coming to New York, the long, hard work at the Dramatic Academy
and in the Penthouse Theater. She was grateful for a private room where
she could be quiet and think.

She remembered her home town of Rockport, Wisconsin, and suddenly had a
vision of that other gay little bedroom where she had often sat quietly
and thought - much as she was doing now. She remembered her mother's
kind, attractive face and her encouragement and understanding. Her
father, too, would be glad to hear of this job, Peggy thought, and would
probably run an article about her in his paper, the _Rockport Eagle_.
She smiled, visualizing the headline - Local Girl Signed in New York - or
something like that. Thomas Lane was a good newspaper man and would try
to "hook" them with the headline. Nothing so simple as Local Girl Makes
Good.

Peggy promised herself to write them good long letters as soon as
possible. And she should write to May Berriman, and to her housemate in
New York, Amy Preston. Well, there was a lot to do - and a lot ahead.
Peggy sighed and opened a suitcase to change into something fresh for
the evening.

After dinner, Peggy, Rita, and her young husband, Gus, walked up the
road to the theater. Gus had joined them for dinner in the little
roadside restaurant where the cast had made arrangements for meals at a
percentage off the regular cost.

"Mrs. Brady, who runs the place, is anxious to do all she can for the
theater," Rita explained.

"To say nothing of the extra customers she hopes to attract by having
real actors in her dining room," Gus added. "Not that I'm a candidate
for glamour, you understand - "

The girls laughed. Gus had hastily donned a clean shirt and a fresh pair
of blue jeans, but the unmistakable signs of sheer hard work still
showed on his pleasant, tanned face.

Rita squeezed his hand affectionately as they hurried up the road. "I do
wish you'd let up a little," she said. "After all, we do have nine days
before opening."

"And it's going to take every minute!" Gus nodded emphatically. "You
haven't seen the auditorium yet, have you, Peggy?"

"No, I haven't. You know," Peggy confessed, "I was really disappointed
when I learned that we were playing in the high school. I had visions of
a rustic barn with candlelight, bats in the wings and mice for
rehearsals - "

"There is one." Gus chuckled warmly. "Aunt Hetty has a barn that we can
remodel next summer if this season is a success. But we couldn't afford
to do it this year. It's better to rent the school and see what happens.
If it bothers you, Peggy," he added, looking at her with amusement,
"hold on to the thought that we're helping education! We are, too. The
school needs the money."

The front doors of the school auditorium faced the highway. A large sign
for the theater gleamed brightly under the floodlights that played on
it. "It's never too early to advertise," Gus observed as they walked to
the back of the building.

Entering the stage door, they came through the wings and walked out on a
dark stage, only a single worklight throwing a white circle on the bare
boards. The heavy drapes were pulled back, framing the empty house, the
vacant seats ghostlike in the silence.

"Well, where is everybody?" Peggy gasped in the eerie quiet.

Gus and Rita roared. "We just thought you'd like to see the stage,
Peggy," Gus laughed.

"You didn't think we were going to rehearse tonight, did you?" Rita
teased, and then took Peggy's hand. "Come on, dear, we're only kidding.
Everybody's down here."

They crossed the stage, descended some stairs, and entered a door that
led directly into the school gym. "Here's our ingenue," Rita called as
she ushered Peggy in, "ready to work!"

Peggy blinked, coming into the sudden light and busy scene. The gym was
bright as daytime. A huge canvas ground cloth covered the floor and
several people knelt, beside cans, buckets, and paintbrushes, over the
scenery flats that were strewn from one end of the gym to the other.
Peggy had difficulty recognizing anyone. They were all spotted and
paint-smeared, in a variety of strange work clothes.

"Hi!" someone called, raising a hand with a dripping brush. Peggy peered
intently at the slight figure and dark hair, and recognized Chuck
Crosby, their intense young director. "Get to work," he ordered with a
smile and went back to his painting.

A well-built young man with a heavy mass of light-brown hair rose with
his can and beckoned to her. Peggy picked her way through buckets and
flats, following him.

"Danny Dunn!" she said with a shock of surprise. "How on earth am I
supposed to know you under that disguise?" Danny was to do juvenile and
some character parts for the company. Now he looked like a clown as he
smiled at her with a paint-dotted mouth.

"Tomorrow is another day!" he quoted dramatically. "Tomorrow and
tomorrow - I can hardly wait! By the way, sorry I couldn't join you all
for dinner, but I just had a sandwich here. Tell me everything
tomorrow - if I'm still alive." He made a face, "Here, ingenue, fill a
can."

In a clear corner near the wall, Michael Miller sat hunched over a hot
plate with a bubbling pot of melting glue. He looked like an ancient
alchemist as he stirred and poured, mixing paint, whiting, and glue into
large buckets.

"The white cliffs of Dover," Michael muttered romantically, taking a bag
of powdered chalk and measuring it into his caldron.

"Sure, double, double, and all that," Danny replied, nodding kindly.
"Well, just keep steady, old chap, we're all a little tired tonight."

"It really is the white cliffs of Dover," Michael protested as Danny
walked away. "For the ground coat," he added, peering up at Peggy
through his steaming glasses. "Here, have fun." He waved her away.

For the next four hours Peggy knelt on her hands and knees, laboriously
painting flats. These were frames of white pine, over which was
stretched unbleached muslin, like a painter's canvas. They had already
been sized with a solution of glue and water until they were drum-tight.
Over the ground coat that Peggy was painting, Gus would design wallpaper
for interiors, fireplaces, outdoor scenes. Peggy's back ached as she
worked silently. No one said a word.

[Illustration: Painting flats.]

"A funny way to begin," thought Peggy, sighing. She had expected a line
reading, even some work on stage. "And Chuck hardly said how-do-you-do,
and I don't know half the people here." She glanced around, guessing
that the young boys must be Michael Miller's friends, and that older man
by the other wall his father, Howard Miller. He noticed Peggy looking at
him and smiled.

"Well," Peggy decided, acknowledging him with a sigh, "if a man his age
thinks nothing of working like this until all hours of the night, I
guess I can do it too!" She worked on with renewed energy. By the time
all the flats were finished, it was after midnight.

"Rehearsal promptly at nine o'clock in the morning," Chuck announced
crisply as they cleaned up and prepared to go home.

"Heavens to Betsy!" Peggy thought wearily as she lay in her bed, her
back aching, muscles jumping from the unaccustomed effort. "Now I know
why everyone was so quiet. They'd been at it all day - and I feel like
this after only a few hours!" Her head spun dizzily as she closed her
eyes. "Well, I'm part of a company," she mused dreamily, "and that's
what counts. Even if I don't like the parts I'm given - even if I have to
do other things than act." Plays and parts and costumes danced before
her like a mirage. "I guess this is summer stock, all right!" she
thought as she fell asleep.




II
A Serious Complication


"Not quite so serious, Peggy." Chuck Crosby pulled on a lock of his
straight, black hair as he listened to her read. "If you don't have a
slight tongue-in-cheek attitude, it's not going to be funny. She is an
earnest young girl, but it's got to be exaggerated in a comic way."

Peggy tried again. "Dad, I'm disappointed in you," she read. "The
world's on fire and you're occupied with a cigarette lighter!"

"Thank you," Howard Miller answered dryly. He was reading the part of
Peggy's father in their opening show, _Dear Ruth_.

The cast was having its first line rehearsal on the sunny patio of the
annex. Peggy had awakened excitedly with the expectation of working on
stage, only to find that the company would be at the annex all day. She
had wondered, in a resigned way, if she would ever see the stage at all.
But now, as they progressed to the second scene of Act One, her
disappointment was forgotten. She was concentrating on her part of
Miriam, "Dear Ruth's" younger sister.

"We can _use_ you," Peggy read on, addressing her father. "We can use
anybody we can get!" She read the last line in a hopeless, adolescent
fashion, timing it carefully, and the cast spontaneously laughed.

"That's it," Chuck cried. "That's the quality I want."

A pretty local girl, Mary Hopkins, who was playing the part of the maid,
Dora, didn't come in on her cue. Everyone looked at her as she nervously
rattled her papers, looking quite lost.

"That's your cue, Mary," Chuck said patiently. "Miriam says, 'We can use
anybody we can get,' and you enter."

"I don't see it," Mary replied helplessly.

"Right here." Rita was sitting beside her and pointed it out. "Anybody
we can get."

"But that's not the whole line - oh, I see." Mary blushed.

"We're using sides, Mary," Chuck said kindly. They were half sheets of
paper bound like a small pamphlet. "I have the master script here with
the whole play, but you'll find only about four or five words of the
preceding speech printed on your sides. You can fill in the other words
if you find it easier."

Peggy gave Mary an understanding smile. She had been busy writing in
speeches herself, as she found the short sides difficult to work from.
Peggy liked to think of the play as a whole, but she knew that some
actors worked better from short cue lines, and that for stock, with so
many different parts to learn each week, sides were often faster.

Rita read the part of the mother with assurance and humor. She made a
perfect partner for Howard Miller, and one could tell that she was used
to this type of part. Miriam made her exit, and then Ruth appeared for a
short scene with her father and mother. Before her next cue, Peggy had
time to examine, with a certain fascination, their leading lady.

Alison Lord had arrived that morning, making a grand and breathless
entrance at exactly nine A.M. Her luggage was still stacked in the
patio, and peering at it, Peggy raised her eyebrows. "And I thought I
had a lot!" She wondered how many costumes Alison expected to wear on
stage, but judging by the stunning outfit she was wearing for rehearsal,
Alison must intend to dress as glamorously off stage as on. Her bright
auburn hair was caught up under an eye-catching sun hat of fringed red
straw. The color exactly matched the sleeveless blouse she wore over a
beautiful pair of beige, basket-weave slacks. With her enormous straw
bag, gay sandals, and dark glasses, she looked like a visiting star. And
a really beautiful girl underneath all that, Peggy thought, noticing the
careful make-up that enhanced Alison's features.

Peggy glanced down at her simple, peasant skirt and blouse. It was
pretty, but hardly spectacular like Alison's attire. For a moment she
wished that she had thought of bringing more colorful everyday
clothes - was it good advertising for the theater perhaps? - but then she
laughed at herself. "You're just a little bit envious, Peggy Lane, and
you know it! Now just forget about clothes, and tend to your knitting!"

Her cue came, and she jumped back into her part with gusto, really
enjoying it now that she had caught the flavor of Miriam. She found that
playing with Alison was fun. She was even better than Peggy remembered.
She had a certain awareness of herself, a special "here I am" quality
that would make an audience notice her. She wasn't a very deep actress,
but she had poise and presence and moved the play along.

Chuck was pleased with the reading. He looked at his watch and called a
break. "Take five. Chris ought to be here any minute, and there's no
point in going on now without him."

The cast paused for coffee, waiting for their leading man to arrive.
Chris Hill, who was to play the part of Bill opposite Alison in _Dear


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