The morning Starboy was born, the weather was excruciatingly hot like the sun itself had cracked down the middle, and as it exuded its yellow lava-like substance, the small, glimmering body of an infant boy was delivered into the world. With his birth, a new star formed, one that would cause all the others to combust so that he was the sole light illuminating the galaxy.
Upon his descent into the world, the ceiling of the delivery room ruptured, sending pieces of drywall and plaster sprinkling down onto the doctor and nurses as an array of confetti coated the room like a beaten piñata at a child’s birthday party. Beyond the hole in the ceiling, sat a confetti machine larger than the Taj Mahal, with each piece of confetti a different color of the rainbow. The glitter came next, intertwining itself in everyone’s hair and layering atop the doctor’s eyelashes until his view of the room was entirely impaired. There was never an explanation of how the confetti machine ended up in the ceiling, only that there must have been an extraordinary birth that day for something so unexplainable to happen.
The tale was something of folklore that Starboy, born Joshua Gold, was told on his birthday every year. He and his parents would sit around his cake–funfetti with blue frosting and rainbow sprinkles that poured out when he cut into its center. They’d sing him Happy Birthday, and then they’d tell him the story about his birth, unparalleled to the birth of any other child.
It was a revolutionary legend he planned to recite back to his own children someday. There were no videos, no pictures, and no proof, but much like the story of the Bible, what people believe, can’t always be proven–no matter how absurd something may seem, that is no reason not to trust in its veracity.
It wasn’t so much the story itself that infatuated him; it was the idea behind it–that somehow fate had brought Joshua onto this Earth and expected nothing less of him than to make a hero out of himself–that kept him so intrigued. If somehow his birth was an inexplicable celebration and not just the delivery of one body from another, it would explain the sensation in his chest, the exhilaration in his brain, that something extraordinary had been brewing. He was born to be a star.
The night of his college graduation, Joshua celebrated in his cluttered apartment. There were papers scattered on desks and counters, along with old, dusty film cameras piled up in the corner from the days when he experimented with photography. Against a wall, Joshua kept broken backdrops from his modeling phase. Unfortunately, he was never quite tall enough, never quite fit enough, and always came second to some six-foot man with muscles so big he could punch holes in the walls of the casting room, so he gave up on his dreams of being the next face of Calvin Klein.
Joshua’s mother motioned towards a pile of coffee table books that were lying open on his stained, grey couch, “I suppose you’ll eventually organize some of these things.”
She lifted one up; dust ascended into the stale air.
“Perhaps if I ever have the time,” he replied. “If you recall, I’m rather busy these days.”
Joshua was as busy as a young man–just twenty-two years old–could be. He wrote short stories on the weekends, submitted op-eds to online news publications during the week–The New York Times, Rolling Stone, to name a few. And whenever the opportunity came knocking, as it often did, he took the train uptown to audition for roles in some of Hollywood’s biggest films. Though he never quite seemed to acquire the recognition, he so firmly believed he deserved.
“I assume you’ll be getting a job now,” his father added.
A loud huff escaped Joshua’s mouth as his eyes rolled themselves nearly out of his skull.
“I’m working on it. I have an interview tomorrow with a top production company.”
“I see,” he said. “Think you’ll be landing this one?”
“You can’t rush these things,” Joshua explained, “I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher about my book “Je Suis Spécial” and from the casting director of the new reality competition show, Love by the Sea. There may be some grand opportunities coming my way; I can’t risk losing them for a job I’m not passionate about.”
“Then I reckon you’ll be needing more money this month?” His mother asked.
Joshua was an only child, so it was typically easy for him to swindle his parents out of a little extra cash. When he was five, he’d begged them for dance lessons. When he was ten, a vocal coach. At 16, he decided to take acting classes. It was never a struggle to get them to comply, after all, he was the light of their life.
“Send it to my PO box as always.”
Balloons hung sloppily, taped up to brick walls. A congratulatory banner drooped down from above the kitchen. A few cards and presents were stacked next to a bookshelf, aside from a collection of classics– Gatsby, a man he rather admired, along with Salinger’s, Franny and Zooey.
A few of Joshua’s friends stopped by throughout the night. They stole slices of cake and wished him well on his endeavors.
“Everything will work out for me. I’m sure of it,” Joshua proclaimed.
“Is it a writing position you’re going for tomorrow?” His classmate, Maya, asked.
“Nope,” he responded rather quickly, “a production position, which I assume will lead to a role, and then stardom from there.”
He lifted a hand, swaying it through the air as he spoke as if he were presenting an invisible, light-up sign in which his name was illuminating an entire city. Visibly, there was nothing there.
“Well, good for you,” she replied.
The words came out in an almost strained stutter, like the sound of a car engine struggling to start up. It seemed as though she was biting her tongue or what she wanted to say had gotten tangled up in her teeth, and so she spat out the first kind thought that came into her mind. Maybe there was a rush of envy in her blood, or perhaps she couldn’t see things working out for Joshua the way he did.
As the crowd sizzled down, and even his parents headed out, Joshua escaped to his bedroom–a small corner of his apartment hidden by a room divider, the only thing separating it from the rest of his home.
Joshua awoke the next morning with a sense of luck tingling down his spine. He was sure something marvelous would find him on that day.
He took the two train uptown to the office where his interview was being held. The rats ran through the subways, past his feet, and into the tracks, as he imagined his life in a few years. He could land himself the job, pitch his blockbuster film idea, and launch himself into worldwide fame. He would no longer reside in his cramped apartment, and he wouldn’t ride dirty subways with homeless men crowding the seats. He would look down from his penthouse, look out at the mountains of his Los Angeles mansion, or he could wave from the windows of his limousine. His face would be plastered on billboards overlooking Manhattan, as his friends from college drown in their own envy–regretting the days they poked fun at him, calling him vain, pretentious, and delusional.
The environment inside the office was less than enthusiastic–far less exhilarating than expected. Everything looked grey. The room resembled an accountants office more than a place where creativity is thriving and fresh ideas are brewing. There were small cubicles and bulletin boards plastered with little reminders and lunch schedules on post-it notes. There were expressions of misery upon each worker’s face like the room was a place of torture, not the first stepping stone over the river and onto the Hollywood walk of fame, like Joshua presumed it was.
An employee walked by holding something that looked like a tray.
“Can you bring me a cup of tea?” Joshua asked, “with two sugars.”
The employee snickered, then walked away.
Joshua was led into a small office in the back of the room. A woman in jeans and a button-down blouse sat at the desk in front of him. There were papers scattered everywhere, similar to his apartment.
Joshua sat down across from the desk in an open leather armchair, which was tearing at the seams and squeaked each time he adjusted his legs. The interviewer went through a list of questions, and Joshua made sure to answer each thoughtfully and eloquently.
“Are you willing to give up most of your free time?” The interviewer asked.
“I don’t have much free time as it is,” he answered, “I’m a hard worker; I often write ten articles a week and three short stories per weekend.”
“And you’re experienced in the film industry? Your resume states you’re an actor.”
“Indeed. I also worked on the set of an Indie film for school. I helped direct it and edited the final cut. I added in most of the special effects.”
“Well, your determination and hard work are exactly what we’re looking for. The job is yours if you want it.”
“Perfect, and where exactly could this lead?” He asked, crossing his legs and intertwining his fingers.
“You’ll have to work your way there, but there could be a position waiting for you as the head of production here.”
“And then I’ll make my way to Hollywood? I’ll walk the carpets, meet the stars, have my own fan club?”
She looked confused as if Joshua had said something completely absurd, though he knew he hadn’t.
“Sir, this is a small indie production company; I’m not sure you understand.”
“I understand just fine. I’ve had many auditions for your films, but I never seemed to fit the part.”
“Then you should know we’re no Hollywood film producers.”
He raised his eyebrows; he’d entirely misinterpreted the company.
“Is that so? Then I’m not quite sure this is the right job for me, perhaps you should find someone else.”
Joshua left the interview hopeless and lost, confused as to what went wrong.
Just an hour earlier, he was sure something fantastic was going to find him, but there he was with no fancy new job, and no sign pointing to the road to Hollywood. With both feet out of the very door, he was so desperately trying to bust open, he slugged back home.
Joshua sat at his desk, unkempt and unexpectedly dusty. Past stories and articles that had never gotten published lied around lonely and useless. It was almost sad to see something that once had such potential lost in a pile of others. His desk looked similar to how the interior of his mind felt. A mess. There was something Joshua was reaching for, something he wanted so terribly he could taste it, but he couldn’t seem to find his way there–or understand what or who was holding him back from realizing his full potential.
In a pile of unfinished scripts, he found a play he’d once written. A short musical about a boy who is destined for success, but is shunned from the spotlight due to other peoples’ insecurities.
“Why didn’t I ever finish this one?” He questioned.
Maybe it wasn’t the right timing, but as it’s often said, there’s no time like the present. So, Joshua spent the night editing, rewriting, ripping it to shreds, then starting all over again. Refusing to let the shimmer of luck he felt that morning go to waste, he reworked the old script until it was something he was proud of. With ink-stained hands, he lifted the finished product into the air and kissed it. The paper was rough on his lips, but still, he could almost taste its perfection.
“Starboy,” Joshua said aloud, “I shall call you Starboy.”
Just a block away there was a small, rundown, theater. It was rare that anyone, other than its owner, Joe, entered the premises. The steps were broken; the doors were rusted; it was nearly abandoned. Joshua was sure all the place needed was a little magic–in the form of a decent play, or better yet, a phenomenal groundbreaking musical like the one he’d created–to bring it back to life. Joshua walked the one block over to the theater to pitch his show.
Joe was a heavy set man in his mid-forties. He had a scruffy dark beard that made him look almost like a pirate and large, round eyes so that he always looked like he was surprised. Joe was the type of guy who’d set out for greatness but could never quite acquire the success he so desperately desired–the kind of person Joshua fought so hard not to embody. Still, he felt sorry for him. He wasn’t a bad man, just a little lost and hopeless, but Joshua was determined to get him back on his feet and get his theater running again.
Joshua sat down with Joe in his office. It was a small room resembling a supply closet, almost as cluttered and dirty as Joshua’s apartment. The desk was pushed up against the wall, and there were three bookshelves in the back overflowing with the stories that probably hadn’t been read in years.
“What do you got for me?” Joe asked.
“A musical,” Joshua responded. “Inspired by my own life. A sort of musical memoir, I might say.”
“Sounds intriguing,” Joe said.
“Exactly, and it’s just what your theater needs. Something to inspire people. Something to remind the audience not to let minor inconveniences, caused by the people around them, ruin their lives.”
“I like that. So what’s the story?”
“It’s a story of fate. Fate has brought this boy into the world. The road to fame and success is already paved for him, but somehow, he struggles to get there. There are too many obstacles along the way.” He pauses, “You know the Wizard of Oz?”
“Heard of it,” Joe answered, spinning a ballpoint pen around in his hand.
“Imagine it like this. There’s the scarecrow, and the tin man, and the lion. All these little obstacles that stop Dorothy on the path to the Emerald City. She just wants to get there already to see the Wizard, but she keeps getting sidetracked by these vexatious, impotent, characters.”
“I never really saw the movie in that light.”
“Well, now you do because this is Starboy. The story of a boy who is meant to be a star, but everyone is so envious of him, that they don’t want him to succeed. Unfortunately for them, he prospers regardless.”
“Sold,” Joe said without further explanation. “We haven’t had a decent show here, well, ever, and I think this is exactly what I need to bring an audience into this theater.”
“I promise you, you will not regret it. Once this show opens, we’ll be headed straight to Broadway within weeks. Then everyone will remember you as the man who launched Starboy. The one man who gave me a chance.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. What do you say, can I perform Starboy here?”
He reached out his hand, and without hesitation, Joe grabbed it. They had a deal. Starboy would premiere the following week.
With the lack of performances at the small theater, the budget for Joshua’s show was nonexistent. He quickly called his parents and begged them for a small loan.
“No, I didn’t take the job at the production company. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but I promise you, if you just believe in me, everything will work out.”
As always, his parents obliged.
Joshua built each set by hand. Cautiously, he nailed each wooden board together, attentively painting and carving them to perfection.
Next, he hand sewed every sequin onto each costume, embroidering Starboy onto the back of the final ensemble.
By the end of the week, all his work was complete, and he still had time to rehearse his one-man show for Joe before doors opened two days later.
“What do you think?” Joshua asked, stepping down from the stage after belting out the final number.
“Beautiful, and how has the promotion been coming along?” Joe asked.
“Wonderfully! I posted fliers up and down every street, I alerted my 12,000 Instagram followers of the occasion, and I doubt they’d want to miss the opportunity to see me shine. I even convinced a young girl to review my show for her school’s paper.”
“Excellent, I can see this show taking off, you’re gonna be a star!”
Joshua smiled assuredly, “If all goes as planned.”
On opening night, Joshua was overcome with a wave of nerves, something he hadn’t experienced before. He was typically a confident person, with enough self-awareness of his artistic abilities to never have any reason to worry. For some unknown reason, this was different.
Perhaps he was afraid of how the audience may perceive his show or maybe he was fearful of what this might mean for his future. Regardless, Joshua straightened his posture, lifted his chin, and stepped out on stage for the opening number.
The crowd was a sea of empty seats. Joshua had presumed it’d be packed, being that 12,000 people had been informed via social media, as well as the over 8 million who live in Manhattan–who surely must’ve stopped to read his fliers. He hadn’t expected that many people to show up to the theater. He wasn’t delusional, but, if just one percent of his followers and only 30 out of 8 million New Yorkers had shown up, there would have been enough people to sell out the theater.
Instead, just three strangers sat in the audience. He quickly recognized the girl in the front row. The young journalist sat front and center, with her notebook in her lap and a pen in her hand. She wore an almost condescending smirk like she had a strange suspicion that Starboy wouldn’t live up to the expectations Joshua had put on it.
An older woman sat towards the back of the theater dressed in a long gown, with an assortment of pearls around her neck. She looked like someone out of a period film. Perhaps she’s a Broadway critic, Joshua hypothesized, and she’s here to review the show before deciding to send it to 42nd street.
The last audience member was a poorly dressed man in torn clothing, who exuded such a foul stench, Joshua could smell it from the stage.
At the start of his musical, he didn’t receive the loud applause or warm welcome he’d expected. Despite the underwhelming initial reaction, Joshua strived to perform his show just as rehearsed.
He ran through every number without a hitch. He hit each note effortlessly, and every costume sparkled in the spotlights like diamonds in a jewelry store window. That night, he undeniably was Starboy.
After his show, there was polite applause. The woman in the back looked nearly asleep, the man in torn clothing was dazed, and the journalist wore an even stricter smile like she’d gotten exactly what she needed. Sadly, Joshua didn’t know what that meant for him.
On his way out, he found Joe, “Did you see that old woman? I think she was here to review my show for Broadway.”
“You mean Mrs. White? She’s just my neighbor, but I’m sure she’ll tell her friends at cards tomorrow to come to see your show. I think she really liked it.”
He stumbled home that night, feeling somewhat of a failure. The show he’d poured his heart into was not the hit it should have been. He fell hopelessly asleep that night, but when he awoke the next morning, things took an unexpected twist.
His phone lit up on his bedside table. Joe had forwarded him the article the young girl had written for school. It read, “Starboy, the disaster show everyone must see.” Was that positive or negative? He wondered, scrolling down the page.
“Starboy is a calamity of a musical, so catastrophic that you can’t miss it. The story of a boy so not proficient, yet so determined to make a star of himself. His delusion is pitiful, but his willpower is admirable, and that’s why Starboy is a must-see for anyone who’s ever dreamed big for something they just can’t achieve. Get your tickets before it sells out.”
Joshua couldn’t believe it. He was struck with a flashback, the condescending smile she wore the night before, she had planned to discredit his musical from the very beginning. She’d entirely misinterpreted his concept. The story was one of a boy with potential, not a boy with false hope and impractical dreams. He was furious.
His phone rang. He hesitated to answer, still fuming as he reread the article over and over. Finally, he picked it up.
“Hello?” he whined.
“Joshua!” Joe called excitedly, “you’ll never believe this. Starboy is sold out for tonight.”
Joe was correct, Joshua was in utter shock. His show had been slandered online, how could anyone want to go see it?
“Apparently that journalist has a large online following. There will be a lot of younger folks in the audience, but it’s a good start.”
Joshua dropped his phone and raced down to the theater to start rehearsing.
With a full crowd, he’d make sure to get the point across this time. He’d hit every note and speak every line with clarity. He’d dance like he was Fred Astaire in Swing Time. By the time he was finished, there’d be ten other articles discrediting every word the young journalist wrote about him.
Joshua peaked through the curtains before showtime, all 150 seats were filled. A crowd of mostly young girls, in shorts and tank tops with greek symbols plastered across them, excitedly chattered amongst themselves before the opening number.
Joshua’s confidence skyrocketed knowing so many people had come to see him. He stepped out on stage with his chin to the sky, free of his opening night nerves.
The audience seemed to laugh after every line and clap after every musical number. There were tears in their eyes, but Joshua still wasn’t sure they were getting the gist of the show.
Starboy was supposed to be moving, it was supposed to be inspiring, it wasn’t a comedy. It certainly wasn’t something to be laughed at.
At the end of the show, he received the standing ovation he imagined he’d get, but it wasn’t the show he thought it’d be.
“They loved it!” Joe exclaimed, bursting through the backstage doors and into Joshua’s makeshift dressing room. “Congratulations, you’re a star! Next stop, Broadway.”
As he removed his sequin scarf and wiped the glitter from his face, he wondered if he really was a star.
“They thought it was a comedy,” Joshua said, feeling entirely defeated.
“Is it not?” Joe wondered.
“Not what?” he asked.
“A comedy, of course. I found it rather comical. Was that not your intent?”
“Of course not!” he yelled.
“Well, sometimes things don’t work out as we plan, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud. You created a masterpiece, the audience loved it. I’d like to offer you a permanent residence here at my theater.”
Joshua shook the fallen glitter from his clothes, then put on his loafers.
“I’m not sure I would like to accept your offer.”
“And why not?”
“This isn’t exactly what I would like to be remembered for. I want to leave a lasting impact, a legacy per se. I don’t want to be a laughing stock.”
“But they loved you! This is the best thing that’s happened to my theater, ever.”
“I’m happy I could do that for you, but I’m sorry, I won’t be continuing on as Starboy. The show is canceled. Tomorrow when I wake up, I expect the posters to be down and the set to be destroyed. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
Joe was disappointed, and Joshua felt as though he’d failed him. He couldn’t deliver the show Joe needed, and because of that, they both suffered. He left abruptly, so not to hear Joe try and convince him to stay.
There were three articles the following morning. Starboy was called the musical comedy of the century and was expected to hit Broadway theaters in less than a year. The Starboy fans would soon find out the show was over, and there would be no Broadway launch.
Joshua spent the following week neglecting the world. He remained in his home, ignoring the calls from his parents and trying not to think about his show that never was.
He didn’t check his social media or his emails, he didn’t even so much as turn the television on. He had entirely blocked out society in exchange for wallowing in his own self-pity.
“Why didn’t they perceive my show the way I had planned they would?” He moaned to himself.
When he’d garnered up enough energy to get out of bed, he finally reimbursed himself into the world. He pulled out his laptop and decided to pass on googling himself. He didn’t care if anyone had said anything else about his show, that was in the past. Instead, he logged into his email to find a series of rejection letters. He’d been submitting, auditioning, creating since freshman year of college, and he’d gotten nothing out of it. Starboy was the first time anyone had appreciated his work, of course not the way he wanted them to, but perhaps it was his one chance. Maybe fate had brought him Starboy, meaning for it to make him the star he was born to be.
Joshua dragged himself out of his bed and took a long shower–ridding himself of humiliation and shame. He put on his best suit, spritzed himself with Saint Laurent cologne, and headed back to the theater.
“It’s so nice to see you again,” Joe said upon his arrival, “you look rather dapper.”
Joshua smiled, “I have come to the conclusion that Starboy is a masterpiece, the best thing I’ve created. I would like to accept your offer of letting me perform it here every night.”
“Wow, I’m glad you’ve come to your senses.”
“Great, if you don’t mind I’d like to start rehearsing now.”
“Look, I’m really sorry, but we’ve already booked another show.”
“After the success of Starboy, my theater started getting more recognition than I could have ever dreamed of. There was a girl, she was in the audience the last night of Starboy, she wrote her own show, and it’s premiering tonight. You should stop by, maybe you can write a review, we’ll post it in the window.”
As Joe suggested, Joshua made his way back to the theater at 7:30 sharp in preparation for the 8 o’clock show.
The posters in the window displayed the silhouette of a Hollywood golden age girl. The words “Hollywood Girl” were plastered across the image, in thick, gold letters. The line to get in was out the door, and Joshua wondered how someone, on the opening night of their unknown show, had garnered such a large audience.
“Are you here for Hollywood Girl?” He asked one woman.
“Well, of course. Its star is such a doll. I met her a few days ago. She has so much integrity, I just had to come to see her show.”
“I performed a show here too, not very long ago. It was called Starboy.”
“Yes, I remember that one, it sounded so–cute. I wanted to come to see it, but I heard it got canceled. Such a shame.”
“Actually, I chose to not carry on with it, but I’m considering bringing it back.”
“Well, good for you. Enjoy the show tonight.”
She smiled, and he smiled back at her before walking to the end of the line and waiting to go inside.
The audience was so full that Joe had to set up a few folding chairs to ensure everyone had somewhere to sit. Joshua wandered around for a few seconds before finding a seat in the last row and sitting down.
He crossed his arms and pursed his lips, trying to repress his jealousy, but he could feel his blood pumping. Why didn’t this many people show up to the opening night of Starboy? He wondered. What was it that Joshua had missed, that Hollywood Girl’s star, evidently, had precisely understood about accumulating a following?
The show opened with a massive production number. Hollywood Girl’s star rose from the stage in a long champagne gown and a white fur shawl. She looked like an old Hollywood film star, something like Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe. She spun around to face the crowd, one arm wrapped around herself, keeping her shawl in place, and the other raised high in the air like a princess waving to her loyal followers.
She opened her mouth for the first note of the show and the sound that egressed from her lips pierced the room in the most spectacular manner.
Joshua had heard stories of angels singing and had listened to the chirps of birds early in the morning in his mother’s garden as a child, but nothing could compare to the sound of Hollywood Girl’s singing.
Throughout the show, each word she spoke, she spoke with elegance, each note she hit, she hit like a professional.
Joshua had wanted to be angry. He had expected he might storm out of the theater in a jealous rage, but she was so charming that Joshua felt the fury in his blood evaporate away. In its place remained an admiration he hadn’t known he was capable of possessing.
After the show, the star remained on stage, greeting each person who came to see her. Joshua made his way to the stage and held out his hand, but she grabbed him and embraced him in a long, sincere hug.
“Thank you so much for coming. I can’t explain my gratitude.” She said.
She carried herself with such elegance and grace, and such kindness and courtesy. Was that why so many people showed up to see her? Was it who she was more than the show she’d created, which regardless, was phenomenal on its own.
Joshua could spend years wondering. He tossed and turned all night with thoughts of the girl and her show spinning through his mind like a supercut.
The following morning, Joshua was eating breakfast alone at a corner cafe when he saw a familiar face. It was Hollywood Girl. She came running over to his table in excitement.
She was dressed more laid-back than the previous night. Still, in a casual, yellow sundress, she outshined everyone in the room.
“Did you hear the news?” She exclaimed.
He took a sip of his coffee, then placed it back down on the table.
“Exactly what news?” He asked.
“Hollywood Girl has gone global. It’s being called an overnight success. It’s on its way to Broadway.”
“Congratulations,” Joshua said with a sly smirk. “Though it must be hard for Joe. I assume he’ll need a show to replace yours.”
“He really didn’t tell you, did he?”
“Tell me what?”
“Joe’s producing the show, he’s selling the theater, and we’re moving it to 42nd street. Isn’t that so exciting?”
Joshua crossed his legs and intertwined his fingers, placing his now joined hands onto the table.
“It sure is.”
Joshua went straight to the old theater after breakfast and offered Joe all the money he could get his parents to donate to his newest dream, owning the small theater and performing Starboy as many times as he desired.
“It’s all yours,” he said, handing Joshua the keys. “Enjoy it. I’m going to Broadway!”
He spent the next two weeks, recreating each set and each costume. Aiming to make them far more extravagant than before, with two times the color and glitter so his show would shine all the way to the last seat of the last row in the theater. If he was going to make his big comeback, he had to make it perfect.
Hollywood Girl was a spectacular show, but Star Boy was an original. No amount of success or critical acclaim could change that.
Opening night came fast. The pre-show jitters he’d felt the first night he’d performed Starboy had simmered away. This time his body was glowing in excitement.
The show was set to start at 7, but by 7:30, the audience remained vacant, with not a single seat filled.
“This is worse than opening night,” he spoke to himself.
He stepped out from behind the curtain and sat down at the edge of the stage, letting his legs dangle, barely touching the floor due to his short stature. He waited there all night for his audience, checking the clock on the wall every five minutes, but they never arrived.
As discouraging as the experience was, Joshua was sure he just had to wait a couple of weeks for the news to get out that Starboy was back on, but as the weeks went on, still not a single soul entered the old theater. Each night was a repeat of the night before, and though he tried to reach out to his former audience members, no one ever got back to him.
“They’re just busy these days,” he told himself, even if he knew it was a lie.
The truth was, the world had moved on to the next big thing, and as his wallet was running dry and his parent’s checks were coming less frequently, he had to come up with another plan fast.
In the following months, posters for Hollywood Girl began emerging on every corner, on every tour bus, and on every billboard. Critics called it “The Show of The Century.”
Joshua was standing on the roof of his building one morning, looking out at one of the billboards, when he made the decision to cash in on the Hollywood Girl wave that was flooding New York City.
Once again, he tore down the Starboy posters, then ripped apart the set and costumes. This time, it’d be the last time.
He rid the theater of every seat, every curtain, and transformed the place into his very own exhibit. “The Hollywood Girl Exhibition.”
In the center of the room, stood a large glass case displaying the Champagne gown she wore in her opening number. The original script was framed on the wall where the stage once stood.
It’d taken a lot of convincing and promising that his plan would be worth it in the end, but Joe had agreed to give Joshua all the memorabilia he needed to make his museum a reality.
In a small corner he had initially left vacant, he set up his Starboy display. “The show that inspired Hollywood Girl,” he called it. Sure it was a stretch but had Starboy not blown up, Joe’s small theater would have never gained recognition, and Hollywood Girl would have never gotten its start.
Guests started flooding in as soon as the doors opened, and they stayed until closing.
Joshua led the crowds through the exhibit, explaining each piece from the show. The group ate up every word he spoke.
He then led them to the small Starboy display.
“Who here remembers Starboy?” He asked.
A few hands rose slowly before falling back down, after realizing the lack of enthusiasm from others.
“Starboy was the acclaimed musical comedy which launched this very theater into fame.”
There were a few yawns and polite smiles, Joshua thought he may have heard light applause.
“Can we get back to Hollywood girl now?” a young girl asked, clasping her Hollywood Girl doll and wearing a dress similar to the one from the finale number.
Suddenly the doors opened, and like the stars themselves were shining straight into his museum, Hollywood Girl walked inside. The crowd roared, charging towards her, begging for photos. She took each one like it was no bother to her at all.
She was held to high esteem, the way Joshua only ever aspired to be, but never quite was. It struck him that it really wasn’t her beauty, it wasn’t even quite her show they admired so much. It was her character, how she spoke with such modesty. Just because she was something of a queen, didn’t seem to impact her notion of self. He wondered, how in all her triumph, did she remain so humbled, with no delusions of grandeur, or ideas of superiority?
She may have worn an updated champagne gown, with diamonds on her neck and ears, and a fur shawl white as her smile, but she spoke to others as her equals. She was so gracious and humble. How? Joshua wondered again.
That night he stumbled home and found himself in another slump. How would he ever lift himself up again? Every dream he had, had been crushed. His show had been stolen from underneath him, and now all he had left was a theater turned museum that he expected would sizzle out eventually.
Instead of returning to his bed, where he would inevitably cry himself to sleep, he climbed the long staircase to the roof of his building. He walked to the edge, right up to the ledge, and screamed.
“Rough day?” Someone asked.
He turned to see a young man, around his age, in torn jeans and a stained t-shirt. He was sitting on the cold roof, smoking a cigarette.
“As a matter of fact, I have been having a rough day, actually a rough couple of months. Nothing ever seems to work in my favor.”
“I know what you mean,” he replied, “I just lost my job. I was a drummer in a band.”
“At least you had a job, I’ve been unemployed for 22 years.”
“Really?” the man asked, looking increasingly more intrigued, “no one ever wanted to hire you?”
“Not exactly, just nothing I’ve been interested in.”
The man opened his mouth as if to add something, but was cut off by Joshua’s own rambling.
“I had an offer earlier this month with a production company, but they had the nerve to tell me I would never evolve into a Hollywood star. Some job offer? Then I had a beautiful musical which failed to acquire the level of respect it so obviously deserved. Then, some girl comes around and steals my success right out from under my feet.”
“Starboy!” the man exclaimed as if he’d just recognized Joshua right then.
“That’s the show. Have you seen it?”
“No. I heard it was canceled immediately after opening. They did that to you?”
“Oh, of course not. I canceled it myself. The level of disrespect they had, telling me it was a comedy. I think I would know if the show I created was a comedy, and it wasn’t. It was serious.”
“Serious?” the man asked.
“Yes, it was an autobiographical show about a man, born to be a star, but he never gets there because he’s so sidetracked.”
“No, of course not by himself. By the people around him, who are drowning in their own envy, so they pull him down too.”
The man stands up and starts laughing.
“Is something funny?”
“It’s just so amusing to me, you think you were born to be a star, but every opportunity you’ve had to be something, you’ve single-handedly destroyed.”
“That’s not true! I haven’t gotten the right opportunity yet.”
“You had a job offering with a production company, you even had your own acclaimed musical, but you walked away from both of them because of your own pride.”
“Pride? Sure I’m proud of myself, but that’s only because I have so much to be proud about? Have you heard the story of when I was born?”
“I’m not sure I have.”
“I may have mentioned it once on my social media, I wasn’t sure if you’d read it.”
The man crossed his arms, “Seems I never got the chance, but please, enlighten me.”
“Gladly. I was born on an unusually hot and sunny day, only appropriate for a star like myself. Somehow, a confetti machine got stuck in the ceiling, no one knows how it got there.”
“Is that so?”
Joshua ignored his comments, “When I was born, the confetti machine, which was unusually large by the way, exploded confetti all over the room. It was magical, really, and twenty-two years later, the doctors have no explanation of how it happened.”
“Who told you that one, your mother?”
“Actually yes, my father too.”
“You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“Sure, it sounds unrealistic, but haven’t you ever questioned the story of the bible?”
“Quite frequently, actually.”
“But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
“So you’re comparing yourself to Jesus?”
Joshua smirked, “I don’t think that highly of myself, but if there were one living person on Earth who could live up to a man of his honor, I believe I could be that guy.”
The man, seemingly more amused, asked: “And what have you done to earn that title?”
Joshua hesitated for a moment. He was an artist, an artist who worked tirelessly creating, an artist who’d created his own show and opened his own museum for another show. How did that equate him to Jesus?
“I guess we share the same star power.”
“Starpower you say? And what about morals, desire to help others, put them before yourself even? Would you allow yourself to be crucified for the sake of other people?”
“Isn’t that the dilemma all artists are faced with? We’ve all been crucified at one point or another.”
“I think you may be delusional.”
“You have an obstructed sense of self, that is why you haven’t achieved a single one of your desired goals.”
The man turned away and headed towards the door, before turning back to face Joshua one last time, “people worship gods because of their integrity, not their star power.”
Then he left, slamming the door and letting the loud bang echo in Joshua’s ears. He was alone.
“I have integrity,” Joshua mumbled to himself. “I have nothing if not integrity.”
He crossed his arms and stared out into the city, where he was sure he’d one day see a giant billboard of his face. He had felt so hopeless these past weeks. Everything he’d worked for had blown up in his face and left him feeling more defeated than he had in his life. But was it worth throwing his dreams away? Of course not.
One day Joshua would have heaps of fans bowing down to his feet, and kissing the ground he walked on. But perhaps his time in Manhattan was up. He’d done all he could, and he still failed.
Maybe it wasn’t his city. Perhaps his dreams in New York belonged to Hollywood Girl. It was time for him to step out of his comfort zone and explore an unfamiliar world.
Dreaming of a star on the walk of fame and palm trees with his face carved into the bark, he took out his phone and called his parents.
“Mom? Dad? I think I need a change of scenery. I was thinking of LA. Send the money to my PO box as usual.”
Then he hung up and headed back to his apartment to pack his bags, for he had a new journey to prepare for.