Myrtle Pope, The Story of a Woman Possessed
1977


Myrtle Pope - Duo.jpg (18619 bytes)

John Muellner and
Charles Busch

Myrtle Pope - Trio.jpg (19327 bytes)

from left: Phillip Appleyard,
Marjory Schaller and Charles Busch


While I was living in Chicago, I appeared as Orestes in a strangely homo-erotic production of Sartres' "The Flies."  In the cast were a number of people who seemed to share my interest in starting a theatrical ensemble.  My fantasy was to emulate The Ridiculous Theatrical Company with myself as a North side Chicago Charles Ludlam.  I was to learn that the rest of the troupe had a very different fantasy.  Our first and only production was another short piece of mine entitled "Myrtle Pope, The Story of a Woman Possessed."  It was a pastiche of a slew of Hollywood women's pictures.  Myrtle starts out as an old maid reminiscent of  Bette Davis in "Now Voyager," becomes glamorized and accidentally kills her twin sister right out of "A Stolen Life."  Like "Madame X," Myrtle lives a life of exile and on the way becomes a Dietrich-like cabaret singer involved in a bi-sexual three-way with overtones of "Deception."  True to the plot of "Madame X," she becomes a drunken whore in Tijuana, murders a blackmailer and dies in the arms of the son who doesn't know she's his mother.  All this in forty-five fast paced minutes. 

We performed "Myrtle Pope" all over Chicago, in gay bars, bathhouses, straight beer drinking pubs and movie theaters after the last film was shown.  Naturally, I played Myrtle and it was a great chance for me to learn to adjust my performances to different kinds of audiences and well, to explore my own comic potential.  There were a couple of performances of "Myrtle Pope" where I truly felt I was on the right path.  Unfortunately, that epiphany was not shared by the rest of the "Imitation of Life Theatrical Troupe."  They felt I was hogging the spotlight and ruining their opportunity of establishing themselves as a viable theatre company.  It all ended very badly and prompted my returning home to New York.  At the risk of sounding bitchy, I don't believe the others in the troupe did much acting after "Myrtle Pope."  I'm grateful that the collapse of this early dream gave me the incentive to work even harder and with greater discipline to pursue my dream of a career in the theatre.  How interesting that this bitter experience would so mirror the loving and beautiful one that I shared seven years later with Theatre-in-Limbo.

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