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Brittney was sitting there on a folding chair we’d painted purple blowing bubbles bigger than her head. “These changes to the script…” She looked up at me with a serious face. “They’re amazing. But they’re way too last minute. We can’t use them, at least not for tonight’s show.”
I bit my tongue before I said something that would make her even more upset. Britt the normal teenage girl was my best friend. Britt the actress prima donna was one of my worst nightmares.
“I’m sorry, but you’re going to just have to roll with it. This is opening night which means we’re going to have the biggest audience. And as writer and director I know what’s best for this play. You can do it Britt.” I said, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She threw her head back and groaned, then started fanning herself with the script. “I need water. It’s got to be cold, and it’s got to be bottled. Timothy!” She yelled. “God, where is Timothy to help me with my breathing exercises?”
As she vanished into the darkness of backstage, I contemplated the meaning of the term “best friend” and how grateful I was that there was a thick curtain separating this chaos from the people streaming into the rows of seats that lay just beyond.
“Ah!” I heard a squeal come from the other side of one of the changing room doors which then opened to reveal a smiling, jumping Kayla. “They’re perfect! Don’t I look gorgeous?” She was referring to a pair of bright red sparkling pants that I’d ordered in her size last week, but didn’t fit when she first put them on. She had swore that by the time show week was here, they’d fit, and now they did.
“Great!” I said with a huge smile, not really wanting her to launch into a detailed story about anything. Mark appeared from around the corner and I could tell from the look on his face that he was about to say something stupid.
“Hey, how do those fit now? Last week you couldn’t get them to button remember?”
I went to go stop him before it became a disaster but suddenly there was a rush on the directors attention and by the time I could push past the questions and complaints his mouth was already in action.
“I’m not fat!” Kayla yelled. “Of course I can still fit into a size 0!”
“I don’t know, last week you looked like you could stand to lose a few…”
“You jerk! I was bloated!”
“I was on my period and I was bloated! It’s a totally normal thing!”
Mark’s face twisted in disgust. “Gross! I didn’t need to know that! That’s…disgusting.”
“So you think I’m disgusting?” Kayla asked, clearly on the verge of tears.
I shot him a warning look, which apparently went right over his head because he continued to speak.
“No, I didn’t say you were…I mean except when you’re on your…you know…”
There was no way to redeem this situation. Kayla stripped off the red pants and ran out into the auditorium in the boxer shorts she’d had on underneath.
When Mark saw me glaring at him, more words fumbled out of his mouth. “At least she was wearing boxers and not like,”
“Shut. Up.” I said through gritted teeth. “Go find her.”
“I can’t.” Mark was grinning, apparently pleased that he could get out of fixing this situation. “I gotta start helping with props and stuff.”
“Devin!” I yelled, really hoping that I wasn’t losing my cool. “Please go find Kayla. Make her understand that she’s our supporting actress and we open in 30 minutes. 30 minutes!” I said louder, gaining everybody’s attention. “I need everybody to focus, get in costume, make sure you know your lines, and get ready. We do not have that much time left.”
Devin nodded and sprinted off to search. A group of kids huddled tighter in the corner hoping to hide their scripts and their obviously unlearned lines from my eyes. Somebody bumped into me as they walked past muttering something about who put me in charge. I pinched the bridge of my nose and there was a tap on my shoulder.
“Oh!” I exclaimed when I turned around. A mixed expression of amusement and surprise must have flitted across my face as I looked down at our youngest cast member, Marissa.
“How does it look?” She asked, bouncing on her toes eagerly.
“Um…who did your makeup Marissa?” I asked.
“I did.” She grinned.
“Where was Kat? She was supposed to be handling makeup tonight.”
“She said she needed to go work on her own makeup and that it would take the longest since she has one of the most important roles in the show. So she told us to it ourselves.”
“Us?” I turned, horrified, toward the makeup mirrors. There were at least 12 girls crowded around, putting on blush, eye shadow, mascara – you name it, they had it on their faces. Only about half of them knew what they were doing. The other half looked like clowns that were trying to scare children and get fired. I took a deep breath. “Marissa, honey, you take your friends to the bathroom and wash that stuff off, ok? I just realized, I don’t need makeup on you guys tonight.
“Alright.” She said with clear disappointment.
I turned to see Devin returning empty-handed.
“Before you say anything,” He started. “I looked everywhere, and I found her. She’s inside the girls bathroom locked inside one of the stalls rethinking her life and deciding on a new weight loss plan.”
“Go get her then!” The frustration was building up ever so quickly.
“Well I would, but seeing as I’m not a girl and she’s in the bathroom in the lobby and not the one back here, I’m gonna pass.”
“I’m sorry Devin.” I said, realizing that if it was up to me, he would’ve barged in on a restroom full of lady playgoers.
“Nah, don’t be. I’ll find someone to go get her. Relax.” He added, smiling. “We go on in 15 minutes.”
“My costume is gone.” Jake declared. “I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find it.”
“It won’t come off!” Marissa whined, coming up to me with black smears around her eyes.
“I’ll only do the play if Mark is fired. Otherwise, you can find someone else to carry the whole thing.” Kayla sniffed and turned away.
“Guess who’s in the front row!” Brittney said, running up to me. “A talent scout! And one of the best scriptwriters in the country. He’s going to review the play!”
Then everything went quiet. I could see their faces and their mouths moving, but the words were all a blur, I couldn’t understand a thing and suddenly going inside a bathroom stall and crying didn’t seem like such a bad idea. I don’t know how long I just stood there. Finally something broke through the silence.
“Carli. Carli!” It was Devin. He was next to me, dragging me away from it all, out the back entrance of the building and onto the concrete steps.
I sat with my head between my legs, trying to collect my thoughts.
“You should’ve had more help in there tonight.” He said, trying to calm me down.
“I’m the director.”
“Yeah, but everyone else had jobs too. They didn’t do their parts and they let you down big time.”
I groaned. “The show is going to bomb and it’s going to be my fault. The show!” I stood up and checked my watch. Oh my God it starts in less than 5 minutes.”
Devin stood up beside me. “Chill. I can take care of it.”
“No this is my show.” I said, trying to remember those breathing exercises Brittney was so fond of. “This is my show and I can do this.”
He smiled. “I know you can. But sometimes even the great writer/director Carli needs a break. Even if it’s just a short one.”
Devin went ahead of me and I followed a minute later expecting mayhem and disorder that would be impossible to contain. Instead, the entire cast stood together expectantly in costume, all ready to go.
“You guys are ready.” I said, almost not believing it myself. We’d been working on this for 4 months now.
“We’re all ready.” Brittney said, stepping up to me. “Sorry we all kind of flipped on you before, it’s opening night, everyone’s crazy nervous.”
I squeezed her hand. “It’s ok.” Then I turned to address the rest of them. “Tonight’s the night. We’ve worked really hard on this and we’re going to do great. And remember they might not think it’s the best, but as long as you give your best, they play will be amazing. And,” I grinned. “I’ve always wanted to say this guys. It’s showtime.”