By APRIL GEORGE
It was now or never. The curtain was about to go up on the most important night of Phoebe’s life. Lucy had yet to show, and everyone was anxious. It wasn’t like Lucy to miss an opening night.
Phoebe watched James pace. Three different people were on cell phones, trying to find the wayward Lucy. David and Phoebe had taken turns dashing back to the dressing room. No one had located her.
James was cursing his decision to send Lucy’s understudy home. Phoebe chewed on a fingernail. They couldn’t do the show with no Joanne! Her worst nightmares were coming true. Her show business dreams were slipping away.
David peeked through the curtain at the audience. “The natives are getting restless,” he whispered. They were already 20 minutes behind schedule. If Lucy wasn’t found soon, James would cancel the show.
Phoebe bit her lip. “Where is she? I didn’t think she’d actually ruin the entire show over my punching her!”
David put a hand on her shoulder. “James called Maryanne, the understudy, but she can’t make it. Weird how no one can reach Lucy, though.”
“It’s like she disappeared from the face of the earth,” Phoebe said. She sighed and leaned her head on David’s shoulder. “It’s over, then. We have to close before we’ve opened.”
“She’ll be here.” David sounded unsure, and James confirmed the fear when he announced the words Phoebe had been dreading.
“I’ll tell the audience. We’re canceling the show.” He looked around at the cast. “You’ve all been wonderful, and I’m truly sorry it turned out like this.”
There were disheartened murmurs from the cast. James slipped between the curtains. They could hear his words clearly. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. It is with great sadness that I must announce…”
“Wait!” The entire cast turned, and James stepped back through the curtain.
Lucy dashed onstage. “My car broke down, and I killed my cell battery trying to call a tow truck and my dad.” She was in costume already, and looked around at the cast. “I couldn’t let you guys down, so I walked the last three miles to get here.”
James smiled. “Well, better late than never. Get into your places. I’ll let the audience know.”
Lucy caught Phoebe’s arm. “No hard feelings, Pheebs? After the show, we need to talk.”
Phoebe nodded. “After the show, Luce.”
The cast dashed to their places as James explained to the audience that they had been having technical difficulties, but the show would now proceed as planned.
Phoebe smiled as the curtain rose. Finally, her dream was coming true.
By APRIL GEORGE
By a stroke of luck, Phoebe was still in the cast, though she was on what James called “actor probation.”
Her saving grace had been how close they were to opening. James didn’t think anyone else could learn the part in time, and she had no understudy. However, if she messed up again, she was out with no reprieve.
Tech rehearsals went by without much incident, beyond one inexplicably blown-out spotlight. Before the cast knew it, final dress rehearsal was upon them.
The dressing room was filled with cards and flowers from the various cast members’ families. Phoebe’s own space held a vase of white roses from her boyfriend, Michael. She felt bad, because she had more or less blown him off during the last month and he still treated her like a queen.
David sat behind her, finishing her hair while she did her makeup. His own face was expertly made up and he was already in his costume, while Phoebe still sat half-dressed in her jeans and bra.
“Everything will be fine, honey.” David smiled at her in the mirror. He was referring to the fact that Lucy had been barely tolerable since the incident. Phoebe had expressed concern, as Lucy refused to be onstage with her for any scene other than “Take Me or Leave Me.”
James had supposedly talked to her, but Lucy was still being a diva. Luckily, Lucy had an understudy, so Phoebe had had someone to practice with. She was worried, however, because Lucy had bluntly said that the understudy would not be going on for her when they opened.
Phoebe nodded, absently. David smiled again. “It’ll be fine. Lucy won’t let the show be ruined just because she’s mad at you.”
Phoebe returned his smile. She finished her makeup, then reached for her shirt. “I hope you’re right, David. If she ruins the show, I’m going to do a lot more than damage her nose. They’ll have to kick me out of school for what I’ll do to her.”
David sounded sympathetic. “I know, honey. But everything will work out. You’ll see.”
Phoebe finished getting dressed. “David, you’re an angel, you know that?”
“Duh. Why do you think I’m playing Angel?” He took her hand. “Come on, Pheebs. We’d better get onstage.”
Phoebe followed him. Tonight, Lucy would show her true colors. If they weren’t good, the show would be over and Phoebe’s dreams ruined.
See the next issue for Part 5, the conclusion.
By April George
As weeks passed, the cast drifted into cliques. The director, James, could preach cast equality but the groups became painfully obvious.
Lucy, Doug and Eddie were the career theater kids. They had been in plays since they could walk, were majoring in theater and didn’t really like the college policy of allowing non-theater kids to do anything harder than sing in the chorus.
They liked to hang out on the theater docks, listening to show tunes and debating whether Patti LuPone had ruined Broadway.
Other cliques included theater wannabes (they smoked French-style, wore all black and tried to hang around with the career theaters), the smart but creative kids (psychology majors who desperately needed to fill a hole in their souls) and the “I’m just doing this to make my parents happy” group.
Phoebe was a career theater kid, but was only grudgingly accepted into their group (and only because she and Eddie had dated the semester before).
Onstage, she and Lucy were dating. Offstage, they didn’t get along but Phoebe decided it was easier not to rock the boat. The only actor she really got along with was David, the tiny red-haired dancer playing Angel.
About two weeks before opening, as they began technical rehearsals, Phoebe found herself on the docks, running lines with Doug, Lucy and David.
As Phoebe coached Doug on his lyrics, she noticed Lucy tormenting David mercilessly for the millionth time. Poor David looked like he was about to burst into tears. Something snapped inside Phoebe.
Standing up calmly, Phoebe set her script aside and walked to Lucy. The brunette looked up as she saw a shadow over herself, and met Phoebe’s eyes. “What’s the matter? You want to help torment the little loser too?”
Phoebe locked a smooth smile on her face. “I’ll leave the tormenting to you, Lucy. But I’ve wanted to do this since the show began.” She turned to leave, then spun and punched the girl in the face. Blood poured from Lucy’s nose as she screamed.
Satisfied, Phoebe put an arm around David and began to walk into the theater. However, she was intercepted by James, who had seen the entire incident. His face was drawn. “Phoebe, my office, now. We’ll have to discuss your future in this show.”
Phoebe’s heart sank. She had just been defending her friend. Would that act of friendship cost her her dream role?
See next issue for Part 4.
By April George
A week had passed, and Phoebe was still in shock. She’d gotten the part.
After worrying and losing sleep, telling everybody there was somebody better than her for the role, she was sitting in the theater, in a circle with the rest of the cast, holding the script with her beloved Maureen’s lines highlighted in purple.
To her left sat Doug, the miniscule blond playing her former flame, Mark. To her right sat Lucy, the fiery brunette playing Joanne, Maureen’s lover in the month before the opening scenes of the show.
The director, James, sat in the center of the circle, addressing the group.
“Everyone, welcome. After a difficult process, you’ve all been selected for roles in this year’s production of ‘Rent.’ You’ve been chosen for your roles based on several things. A few of you were cast as the character you auditioned for, but many of you were cast because I saw something in you that was right for your part.”
James pointed to Doug. “Now, why don’t we each introduce ourselves? State your name and who you are playing. We’ll start with Doug and go left.”
The blond actor stood up. “Hi, I’m Doug. I’m playing the role of Mark.”
To his left, a lanky actor with black hair raised a hand. “I’m Eddie, and I’ll be playing Roger.”
On and on the introductions went. Everything blurred together in Phoebe’s mind until she felt Lucy stand and introduce herself. Phoebe brushed her long red hair from her face and stood. “I’m Phoebe, and I’ll play the role of Maureen.”
James nodded. “Thank you all. Now, we have no time to lose. We open in just under a month. Why don’t we start our read-through?”
They all opened their scripts. Doug looked nervous, but Phoebe could understand that. He had the biggest role in the show. Doug started his opening monologue, over the music that James had set up to represent the band playing.
After a few minor incidents (the girl playing Mimi was badly off-key, in Phoebe’s opinion), the read-through was over.
James sat back in the center of the circle. “Not bad, for the first time.” He handed out disks. “This is the musical side of the show. I want you all to listen to it as you learn your lines. We’ll meet here again tomorrow at 6.”
See next issue for Part 3.
By April George
The alarm blared far too early, the flashing red numbers declaring “7:00.” Phoebe climbed out of bed. If today wasn’t so important, she would still be asleep but she had to be on campus early. The cast list would be posted.
A week earlier, the college drama department had held open auditions for the annual musical. This year’s selection was “Rent.” Phoebe had dreamed of being in the show ever since she’d seen it live in high school. She’d spent years preparing for her dream role as Maureen, the high-strung drama queen.
For her audition, she prepared Cassandra’s monologue from “Agamemnon” and chose the song “Gentlemen Aren’t Nice” by Emilie Autumn. She thought those two pieces showed the depth and range needed for the character. From the opening line of her monologue to the closing line of her song, she thought the audition had gone rather well.
Now the day of truth was upon her. She wanted to know before anyone else if she’d gotten the part. The early start had an added bonus anyway. She was falling behind on her schoolwork. She’d invested all her time in the audition, then on worrying about whether she got the part. She could use the extra hours on campus to catch up.
Michael, her boyfriend, met her in the drama department. He smiled. “The list isn’t up yet, but I’m sure you’ve got the part.”
Phoebe bit her lip. “I’m not sure. I mean, the audition went great but there’s probably someone better .”
“No one is better than you.” Michael nodded toward the cast board. The director was pinning up the list.
Phoebe raised an eyebrow. “Let’s see if I got it.” She slowly made her way to the board and scanned the list.
See the next issue of Aztec Press for Part 2