There’s one role you don’t want a callback for: Prime Suspect.

Aspiring actress Isobel Spice lands her first regional theater job, playing a supporting role and understudying the lead in Sousacal: The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa. A series of minor backstage accidents culminates in the suspicious death of the leading lady on opening night. When Isobel takes over the role, her mastery of the material makes her more suspect than savior, and she realizes the only way to clear her name is to discover the identity of the murderer—before he or she strikes again.

Q: Isobel Spice, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? 

Sure! I’m from Wisconsin, so moving to New York City was a bit of a shock, but I’ve been dreaming about being an actress since I was three. And you know what they say about New York: if you can make it there…! Really, it’s the center of the theater universe. Maybe even the center of the actual universe. I’ve been auditioning and temping since I got here, and I finally got my first real regional theater job doing Sousacal: The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa. The songs are all Sousa marches, and I have to admit, the lyrics are pretty lame. (Actually, they’re so bad they’re hilarious.) The temp jobs have been something of a mixed bag, mainly because I keep stumbling over dead bodies. But it turns out I’m a pretty good detective. So that’s something I never guessed about myself!

Q: Who’s the character you get along with the best? 

My roommate, Delphi. On the surface, we don’t have a lot in common except that we’re both pursuing acting careers. She’s kind of tough and no nonsense, and she dresses Goth, partly to counteract the fact that she’s so classically beautiful. When I first met her, I thought I knew her, but then realized she looked like a Botticelli painting I remembered from my semester abroad in Italy. Anyway, we share a pretty small studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, but somehow it works. For one thing, we don’t go out for the same parts or even the same kinds of shows. I do musicals and she wants to do straight plays, especially Shakespeare. This is probably the only time we’ll ever get to do a show together.

Q:  Which other character do you have a conflict with? 

Okay, I’m trying really, really hard to get along with Arden, who’s playing the leading role in Sousacal, but she’s being completely awful to me. I’m her understudy, which means I have to be ready to go on if she gets sick. The thing is, I won’t get to rehearse her role until after we open, so right now I have to work on it myself. I watch her from the wings, and mouth along with her songs, and try to memorize her blocking. I’m only doing my job, but she’s become totally paranoid. She’s convinced I’m planning to do her harm so I can play her part. What a crazy thing! I mean, who does that kind of thing?

Q:  Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?

She’s my role model. I love that she does so many things. She writes (books, plays, musicals, music criticism), she’s got two amazing kids, one in college and one in high school, and she still performs. She just played Rosie in Mamma Mia! last summer at Weston Playhouse. Her costumes were so totally awesome! Lots of shiny spandex. And she looked pretty good for a middle-aged woman. In fact, I hope I’m just like her when I’m her age!

Q: What’s next for you?

Back to New York and auditioning. You know what they say: an actor’s job is to audition! And I’ll have to find more temp work, too. Unless I get lucky and land another performing gig right away. But I can’t shake the feeling that whatever I do, there’s likely to be a dead body involved.


About the Author


Writer, singer, and actor Joanne Sydney Lessner draws on her own experiences pursuing a performing career in New York City for her acclaimed Isobel Spice Mysteries: THE TEMPORARY DETECTIVE, BAD PUBLICITY,AND JUSTICE FOR SOME, and OFFED STAGE LEFT. With humor and a bit of romance, Isobel juggles auditions and temp jobs, solving murders along the way, while Joanne’s inside knowledge provides a window into the realities of breaking into show business (as well as a forum to share every humiliating audition experience she and her friends ever had.) Joanne’s debut novel, PANDORA’S BOTTLE, was inspired by the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine and was named one of the top five books of 2010 by Paperback Dolls. With her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, she has co-authored several musicals, including the cult hit FERMAT’S LAST TANGO and EINSTEIN’S DREAMS, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, CRITICAL MASS, received its Off Broadway premiere in October 2010. Joanne is also a regular contributor to OPERA NEWS and a graduate of Yale University.

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