To be an actor is to be the height of holiness. After all, an actor must be mother, father and womb simultaneously, in order to birth a living, breathing human, all in front of a live audience. And all while projecting her voice.

To be an acting teacher, is to be a shepherd to this holiness. Daily, I must awaken the inner beast inside my student actors. Walk into my class, and you will see me goading out their inner animals. You will see my students screaming, groaning and writhing. This sort of behavior might be frowned upon in some public high school settings, but I assure you, it is all in service to the greatest of art forms.

Today in class, however, I was all business.
“As tedious as the task may be, it is essential that you all turn in your permission slips on time.”
“Why are we going to the Bronx Zoo, exactly?” Anthony asked.
“My dear boy, we are going to the Bronx Zoo because for the next two weeks, we will be working on our Animal Exercises.”
“What’s that?” Abe whispered, sounding a little terrified, as usual.
I then drew back my shoulders, stood on one leg, and affected a vacant hopelessness in my eyes.
“Ms. Slooz, are you OK?” Aurelia asked with true concern.
“Shhh, she’s acting,” Victor whispered.

I paused in my performance. “Ah, Victor, that is where you are wrong. I was not acting. I was becoming. That, my darling thespians, was the crane. I captured the spirit of that bird after weeks of observation at the Moscow Zoo. You too will become one with a non-human creature. First, you must decide on an animal. Then, you must study this animal. Finally, you must become this animal!”

Every year I have taken my acting students to the Bronx Zoo. Every year I have watched them transform into apes and antelopes, gorillas and giraffes.

This year would be just like every other year. Of course, I hadn’t told my students yet that Mr. Dower would be joining us. I know many of them aren’t on the best terms with our creatively-challenged principal. But surely, they won’t mind. And even if they do object, it’s not like they are going to kill him.


Ms. Slutskaya appears in Nina Mansfield’s short story, “An Actor Prepares,” in Where Crime Never Sleeps: Murder New York Style 4, an anthology of crime and mystery short stories by members of the New York / Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

What is the essence of the New York experience? A stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge? A concert at Carnegie Hall? Crossing the finish line at the New York Marathon? A trip to the Bronx Zoo? Or any one of these—plus murder? These seventeen stories by members of the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime, with a foreword by Margaret Maron, explore the mystery and mayhem that lurk in every corner of the most unpredictable, irrepressible, inimitable city on the planet.

Where Crime Never Sleeps includes stories by Rona Bell – Fran Bannigan Cox – Lindsay A. Curcio – Joseph R. G. DeMarco – Ronnie Sue Ebenstein – Catherine Maiorisi – Nina Mansfield – Mary Moreno – Anita Page – Ellen Quint – Roslyn Siegel – Kathleen Snow – Triss Stein – Cathi Stoler – Mimi Weisbond – Stephanie Wilson-Flaherty – Elizabeth Zelvin

“A dream of an anthology for readers who appreciate a classic mystery unfolding in a perfectly characterized setting. A terrific collection of short stories!” —Alafair Burke, New York Times bestselling author of The Ex

“A collection of stories as diverse, original and exciting as New York itself. I really loved this book.” —Alison Gaylin, USA Today bestselling author

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About the author
Nina Mansfield is a Cos Cob, CT based playwright, fiction writer, and educator. Her young adult mystery novel, Swimming Alone, was published by Fire & Ice YA in 2015. Nina’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mysterical-E, Kings River Life, and anthologized in Where Crime Never Sleeps (Level Best Books, 2017) and Fast Women and Neon Lights: Eighties-Inspired Neon Noir (Short Stack Books, 2016). Nina’s ten-minute and one-act plays have had over 100 productions throughout the United States and internationally. Nina is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, The Dramatists Guild, and The Society for Children’s Book Writers. Please visit her at www.ninamansfield.com.

All comments are welcomed.

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