So…hi. This is me. Evelyn Grey, actress extraordinaire. Kinda. Sorta. Maybe. Not really.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering what’s going on, why Jake has his hand between my legs, and why I look like a porcelain doll wearing G I Joe’s clothes on a bad hair day. Or maybe you find this kind of thing normal. I’m never sure whether to be amused or depressed that I do.
The glamour of the theatah, dahlings. The glamour of the theatah.
I’m not an expert on the theatrical life, as I’ve never been with a professional group, and I’m only sixteen anyhow, which most people would say means I don’t know that much about anything. But I can tell you that the drama onstage pales in comparison to the drama behind the scenes, and anything involving a pack of elementary school kids under the dubious leadership of a group of hormonal teenagers is bound to end up more than a little screwy. Hence my strange appearance and Jake’s hand.
I guess it all started this morning. My alarm went off at seven—oh, goody—and I forced myself to get up. Only to discover that, por supuesto, I hadn’t done laundry last night, or, come to think of it, for the last three weeks. Which meant that the entire contents of my wardrobe consisted of two red socks, a blue sock, a pair of Star Wars panties, a cream-colored camisole several microns too thin to be considered entirely decent, a magenta feathered boa, and a pair of army-green boy’s cargo pants.
I fished yesterday’s bra out of the laundry basket and put on everything except the boa and the blue sock. Stumbling downstairs, I discovered that the contents of the fridge just about matched the contents of my wardrobe. Calmly cursing whoever had organized the Midwestern Astronomy, Cosmology, and Astrophysics Symposium (MACAS) that had both of my parents at the University of Michigan rather than home doing useful things like grocery shopping, I spread the remainder of a jar of apple butter on the end of a loaf of sourdough (FYI: Do not try this at home. Or, you know, ever. It’s disgusting).
The early morning and the bad breakfast may help explain why the rest of my day has gone the way it has. Or not. The universe may just hate me.
Where was I? Oh, right, breakfast. Anyway, I choked down what I could, staggered around the house for several minutes trying to find my script and my contacts, found neither, tripped over the dog, attempted to apologize to the dog, was bitten by the dog, gave up, and left the house bleeding and without most of what I needed for today’s dress rehearsal.
Fortunately the theater is only an eight-minute walk from my house, and the Fates decided to give me a brief respite from the Morning from Hell. I suppose I’m supposed to be thankful, or something, but seriously? Was eight minutes all they could give me?
I got to the theater at a quarter to eight. Dress rehearsal didn’t officially start until ten, but I, being the ever-so-helpful girl that I am, had volunteered to help Jake with the furniture-wrangling.
Those of you who have something of a theatrical background yourselves may wonder just what furniture-wrangling has to do with acting. Normally, not much. But YTC—the Youth Theater Corp—doesn’t have the budget for a tech crew or, well, much of anything. So we actors (aged 8 to 18…or thereabouts) get to deal with pretty much all aspects of the performance. And this particular production is ambitious, even for us. Aside from the fact that it’s nine hours long and has well over 100 roles, it also requires ten chairs, two tables, three desks, three stools, a trunk, a coat rack, a curtain, and a whipping horse. When you consider that our backstage area at the theater level is about four feet wide by thirty feet long (the rest of backstage is in the basement, accessed by a peppermint-green fire escape), you can see how furniture-wrangling might suddenly become an issue.
I tugged on the door handle, depressing the latch with my thumb. The door didn’t budge. But I’d felt the latch give, which meant it was open. I tried again, with both hands—no luck. Growling slightly, I seized the handle again and leaned backwards, pulling with the full force of my body.
Of course it’s March, so it’s been raining and snowing on and off for the past week, and the door handle was slick with water and ice. My hands slipped on the handle and I tumbled backwards—directly into Jake’s arms.
“Uh,” I said, displaying the great wit of a world-class actress. “Hi?”
“Hi,” Jake agreed, setting me on my feet again. He reached around me and effortlessly opened the door. “Ladies first.”
I forced a smile and went in, wondering just what had made me think this was a good idea. I mean, me? Alone? With Jake?
I guess you can’t really see him that well under the makeup and wig, but the guy is hot. He swims when he’s not at YTC (which isn’t that much, as he’s the director’s son and tends to be in charge of things like sword fights and stage crew, in addition to playing the male lead), so he’s got the body of a Greek god. The chlorine has bleached his hair, but it looks good on him, and he’s got the most gorgeous eyes…ahem. Anyway. If you haven’t guessed, like the rest of the female population of YTC, I’ve been harboring a tremendous crush on him since about five minutes after I first met him.
So volunteering to be essentially alone with him for over two hours was probably not the smartest decision I’ve had all week. Not that I could do anything about it now.
The vestibule and theater were dark when we entered, but there was light in the stairwell that led to the basement, so we traipsed downstairs to find a bleary-eyed Sarah hemming a velveteen skirt.
“Honey, have you been here all night?” I asked, shedding my coat and setting it on a chair.
Sarah, who helps the director’s wife with the costumes for most productions, wobbled her head at me. “I had caffeine.”
“Oh, honey,” I said, dropping down to the floor beside her. “Go home. Go to bed. We don’t need you until the end of Act Two.” I pried the cloth and needle from her hands. “Sleep.”
“But…” she mumbled, her hands following the costume as I pulled it away.
“Sleep,” I repeated.
Sarah crawled over to where someone had left a blanket on the floor and curled up. Satisfied with the compromise, I levered myself up off the floor and turned to Jake. “So…where do we start?”
“First, we get to clear the upstairs backstage of all the crap people have left there since we moved in,” Jake said.
I’ll spare you the details of most of that; while wrangling an old bookcase, a case of wine bottles, a broken bar stool, five bits of wood that had once been a perfectly respectable prop sword, three decorative cinderblocks, parts of at least seventeen different scripts, a shoe, old makeup brushes, candy wrappers, and what I seriously hope were not nail clippings down the fire escape and finding room for them in the downstairs backstage was slightly awkward, the details are more tedious than anything else.
By the time we were finished clearing the upstairs, several other of the older (and thus, theoretically, more responsible) members of YTC had arrived to do other pre-dress rehearsal preparations. Rachel, our apprentice director, sent Adam and Peggy out to shovel the sidewalk (wouldn’t you know it, the theater’s on a corner, which means twice the snow) and popped a DVD into her laptop to keep herself awake as she cleaned the fridge.
“Does this belong to either of you?” she asked, proffering a dubious-looking Tupperware as Jake and I came down to wash our hands.
I peered reluctantly into the container, cautiously sniffed, and proceeded cough violently for the next several minutes. “Rachel, I’m not sure that even qualifies as food,” I complained, eyes watering.
“I think it was once sauerkraut,” she replied, as if that made it better. “Well, it’s garbage now.”
Sarah sat up blearily as Rachel tossed the ex-sauerkraut, Tupperware and all, into the garbage. “Do I hear Errol Flynn?” She turned slowly to Rachel’s laptop, currently playing The Adventures of Robin Hood. “I hear Errol Flynn.” Stretching, Sarah stood and padded over to the table where we were keeping the wigs.
“Evvy, come here.”
“You’re supposed to be asleep,” I said, but I came anyway. “What do you need?”
“Errol woke me up and we’ve finally got your wig. Sit.”
“Um…” I protested weakly as she forced me into a chair and proceeded to attack me with bobby pins. I have a lot of hair, so the efforts were necessary to get it all under the wig, but still.
“Hmm,” Sarah considered once she’d squashed my head into the thing. “It doesn’t quite fit with your coloring. Maybe…” Muttering to herself, she wandered over to the makeup table.
“You going to sit there and play dress-up all day, or are you going to help?” Jake demanded.
“Sorry!” I said quickly, jumping to my feet. I glanced guiltily at Sarah, but she looked like she would be busy a while, and besides…it was Jake.
“Okay, we need to get all of the furniture in Dad’s office onto the stage so we can figure out where we’re storing it during the play,” Jake said as we dashed up the stairs for the seventh time in the past half hour. “If we can—” He stopped suddenly as we entered the director’s office. “I know you’re under there. What are you doing?”
Two sheepish blond heads emerged from under the director’s desk.
“Katie! Emily! What on Earth are you doing?” I demanded. “And how did you know they were there?” I asked Jake.
“Phone cord,” he said simply. Sure enough, the cord stretched from where the cradle was attached to the wall to Katie’s hand.
“And who, exactly, were you calling that you needed to hide under the desk?” I asked, confiscating the receiver.
Emily pointed an accusing finger at Katie, who rolled her eyes and sighed with all the world-weariness an eight-year-old girl can muster. “We were calling Madame Celestina.”
“Madame Celestina,” I repeated. I suddenly had a very bad feeling about this.
“1-800-FORTUNE,” Katie supplied. “We wanted to know if Jake was going to ask Emily out.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry as Emily turned bright red and Jake spluttered. “I think maybe that question can wait for later,” I said, returning the phone to the cradle. “Why don’t you two go downstairs so Sarah can try your wigs on you?”
The girls tiptoed sheepishly out and down the stairs.
“I—Emily—um—why?” Jake asked when they were gone.
I shrugged. “She’s got a crush on you. It’s cute.”
“Well, yeah, I guess, but…why?”
I raised an eyebrow. “You really need to ask? Jake, every straight girl in the group—ah, you know what, never mind. We need to move this furniture.”
“Wait—” Jake started as I stepped forward to pick up a chair.
You remember how I hung up the phone before? Turns out I’d managed to get myself caught in the loop of the cord. I’ll let you imagine the rest. Sufficient to say it ended with me on the floor, tangled in the cord and buried under a pile of previously stacked chairs.
“Ow,” I said, trying to be cavalier, but damn it, that hurt, and it was embarrassing, and I was starting to cry, and…
Jake, being the gentleman that he is, cleared the chairs off me, untangled me from the phone, and helped me limp downstairs.
“What happened to you?” asked Adam and Peggy, who were apparently done with the sidewalks.
“Long story,” Jake said, saving me from answering as he propelled me over to a chair. “Can someone find the first-aid stuff?”
“I’m fine,” I insisted, even though I was still crying. “I’m not bleeding.”
“Yes, you are,” Peggy said, coming over with the first aid kit and a stack of ice packs she’d taken from the newly-cleaned freezer. “Your hand.”
The fall had apparently re-opened the cut from where our dog bit me this morning. Brilliant. I swallowed hard and managed to stop the tears. “I guess I am.”
Peggy handed me an icepack. I waffled for a moment, trying to decide between applying it to the knot on my head or the one growing on my collarbone, or the ache in my thigh, so she handed me the whole stack. I draped one over my leg and held the other two to my other aches.
Satisfied that I was sufficiently numbed, Peggy opened the first-aid kit and discovered a bottle of antiseptic, an EpiPen, and a roll of gauze. No band-aids and certainly no painkillers. “Has anyone bothered to restock this recently? Say, within the millennium?” Peggy muttered, squirting antiseptic on my hand. I valiantly managed to contain my tears.
“Hey, do we have any aspirin?” Adam asked, flopping down beside me. “My back is killing me.”
“No aspirin, no Ibuprofen, no Advil, no band-aids, no thermometer,” Peggy said shortly, wrapping gauze around my hand.
“This is why we need an army of dwarves,” Adam said sagely.
“What?” I asked desperately. Adam’s hard to understand at the best of times, let alone when you’re in pain.
“So that we’re not sore from shoveling,” he explained. “Short people have an advantage, in that they don’t have to bend over as much, so their backs don’t get as sore. But they’d need to have pretty good upper-body strength to deal with all the snow. Dwarves.”
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” Peggy advised, tying off the gauze. “He’s been going on about his dwarf army for a while now. This is only the latest application.”
The icepack slid off my thigh, landing with a thump between my legs. I blinked at it for several seconds until Jake picked it up and returned it to my bruise.
To be honest, the last twenty minutes were kind of a blur. I think Sarah decided to take advantage of my immobility to play around with my makeup—after removing my wig and scolding me for wandering off with it. At least, I think that’s what she was doing. There was a lot of yelling. And Jake ended up with a wig of his own at some point. Adam and Peggy wandered off to help Rachel remove Katie and Emily from the washer and dryer. The ice fell of my leg a lot, and Jake finally got fed up with replacing it and just held it in place.
That was about when you came in to drop your grandchild off. From the look on your face when you saw me, I’m betting you’ve never been to YTC before, and I’m certain I wasn’t what you expected. But there is a good reason for why I’m sitting here looking like a disreputable whore with a man’s hand between my legs. Really. I promise. You believe me, don’t you?
Hell. Well, at least Jake’s still here. Maybe I can fake a swoon into his arms.
No Ursula today as I’m fine-tuning a knitting pattern; we’ll return to her story tomorrow. For now, please accept this story, written about four years ago, about a group of overly enthusiastic young actors which may sound a bit familiar…
The parts that are true or actually exist: an overambitious theater group, furniture wrangling, Evelyn’s clothing, bad hair days, sleep-deprived costumers, arriving at dress rehearsals already bleeding, toxic theater refrigerators, pre-dress rehearsal movies, extreme wig preparations, children making long-distance calls when they shouldn’t, Wisconsin winters, proposed armies of snow-shoveling dwarves, under-stocked medicine kits, ridiculously attractive offspring of directors, young children with crushes on said offspring, the hand of said offspring coming far too close to my lady parts for comfort…