Photo Flash
A Comic Mystery in Two Acts
by Michael Craft

Cast of characters
(in order of appearance)

Claire Gray, a renowned theater director
Grant Knoll, a Palm Springs real-estate broker
Tanner Griffin, a promising young actor
Erin, a caterer’s maid
Detective Larry Knoll, Grant’s brother
A Sheriff’s Deputy*
Kiki Jasper-Plunkett, a costume designer
Rebecca Wallace, wife of a prominent film producer
Bryce Ballantyne,* Rebecca’s attorney

*The roles of Bryce and the deputy may be played by the same actor.

Character sketches

Claire Gray, 54, a renowned director recently transplanted from New York to chair the theater department at Desert Arts College in California, is vigorous and self-confident with a well-masked edge of insecurity. She speaks with precision and enunciates clearly, but this does not signal a stiffness of personality or a pedantic nature; rather, her studied speech has arisen from decades of giving direction from the rear of darkened theaters. She always wears at least some red, quite a lot of it on special occasions.

Grant Knoll, 49, is a Palm Springs real-estate broker and developer who helped Claire get settled in the desert when she arrived from New York. They have since become best friends. A nice-looking man, Grant dresses with style and is quick to crack a joke. Although Grant is gay and often indulges in campy humor, the actor portraying him should remember that Grant is also a successful businessman.

Tanner Griffin, 26, is a promising young actor, drop-dead handsome, and a genuinely nice guy. Shortly before classes began last fall, Claire discovered him working in a car-repair shop and recruited him into her theater program, needing a leading-man type. Despite their disparate ages, they have become romantically involved. Tanner has just been offered an important role in a major film produced by the legendary Spencer Wallace, which effectively spells the end of his relationship with Claire. They both have mixed feelings about his sudden success.

Erin Donnelly, early 20s, works on the catering staff for a cast party thrown by Claire. Young and pretty with streaked-blond hair, she wears a maid’s black uniform with lacy white apron and trim. Shy and unassuming, she remains in the background as much as possible. The actress portraying Erin must be able to deliver a bloodcurdling scream.

Detective Larry Knoll, 46, is Grant’s straight brother, a family man. Though a few years younger than Grant, he has less joie de vivre, perhaps wearied by the rigors of police work. He’s a plainclothes detective, with the emphasis on plain. He shares none of his brother’s sense of style, wearing workaday business suits. Though his manner is generally down to business, he is neither gruff nor officious, treating everyone with equal respect.

A Sheriff’s Deputy, of indeterminate age, makes a brief one-line appearance and otherwise serves as set-dressing in the second scene. Perhaps Hispanic with dark hair and moustache, he wears a tan police uniform and a cap with visor; he may be doubled by the actor who will portray Bryce.

Kiki Jasper-Plunkett, 54, is a tall woman with dark hair and a striking bearing. She and Claire, who are the same age, attended college together and have remained lifelong friends. A costume designer, Kiki changes clothes several times daily; we never see her wear the same thing twice. Her tastes are exuberant and eccentric (but she never wears red, which is reserved for Claire). Kiki is always boldly accessorized with heavy costume jewelry and armloads of noisy bracelets. Her manner is dramatic and a tad zany. She affects a vaguely British accent, dah-ling!

Rebecca Wallace, about 50, is the slain producer’s widow. She is attractive for her years, but icy, with light-colored hair perfectly coiffed in a tight but elegant style. Her clothes are dressy and expensive, marked by urban sophistication, a bit “too much.” We never sense that Rebecca is in mourning.

Bryce Ballantyne, 30 or 40, is Rebecca’s attorney and lackey. He looks athletic and fit, but his manner and bearing are reserved. He dresses with the same urban sophistication as his employer. They look like a couple.

Synopsis of scenes

The action takes place in the living room of Claire Gray’s vintage-modern home in Rancho Mirage, California, near Palm Springs.

Scene 1: The present. Late Saturday, nearly midnight, a warm
              April night in the desert.
Scene 2: Later, after midnight.
Scene 3: Sunday morning.

Scene 1: Monday afternoon.
Scene 2: That evening, sometime after six.

Click here to view the scene design.

Click here for an overview of the Photo Flash script.

Click here for an overview of the Photo Flash premiere.

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