In 1871, Lillian Nolan accepts a small role in Macbeth, and finally fulfills her dream of becoming an actress. That is until the renowned, but venomous, female star of the production is murdered onstage opening night. When her enraged spirit haunts the theatre, Lillian is shocked to discover she can communicate with her. Offered a Faustian bargain in which she will be given talent and expertise way beyond her ability in exchange for uncovering the killer, Lillian can’t resist.
Her quest for the truth causes her to descend into the Underworld, the den of inequity below the streets of Chicago. What Lillian finds soon embroils her in a battle between her passion for performing and control over her own body as it all plays out in a supernatural game of good and evil.
THE BACKSTAGE MYSTERY SERIES
Tagline: Life upon the wicked stage can be deadly.
Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theatre. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”
The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.
- On opening night in the fall of 1871, Irene Davenport, the renowned star of Macbeth is strangled to death by her signature pearls during her final bow.
The applause started to slacken, but Irene did not leave the stage. The main curtain began to close. Taking one final deep bow, she lowered her head almost to the floor and then threw it back in a triumph-filled gesture. Her pearls, following the momentum of that effort, swung back behind her and caught on the scenery. The applause picked up one final time and she decided that now was the moment to leave.
She turned, but, as if caught by an invisible hand, she was yanked back. The scenery moved upwards and was lifted into the fly space. Irene was caught and pulled backwards. The knot in her pearls slipped toward her head and began to tighten around her throat. She felt herself being slowly pulled upward. The pearls dug into her neck and she felt the pressure of each one against her delicate skin.
At first, she was merely surprised and startled. What new disaster is this? she asked herself. She put her right hand up to her neck and tried to loosen the pearls which only drew tighter. All pretenses were then cast aside; she panicked and dropped the roses, as both of her hands reached up to grab the white, translucent noose around her neck. The roses hit the floor, sending several yellow petals floating up and then gently back down to the stage, where they softly landed, abandoned on the scarred floor.
The orchestra, which had been playing background music for the change, stopped abruptly. The applause completely died out, replaced by confusion. The audience watched as Irene’s feet rose from the stage floor, and still the scenery continued to move up and into the fly space. She pulled at her pearls. In blind terror now, she concentrated only on wrenching away the pearls, but was ineffective against the ever tightening noose. Her face lost its actor’s mask and now showed only raw fear. As she struggled and gasped for breath, the audience finally began to comprehend what was taking place. A woman screamed in horror and that was the signal for the entire audience to merge into the aisles in an attempt to exit wherever possible.
Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theatre early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theatre, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theatre History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.
She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.
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