Accidents Happen...So They Say
By JH Robinson
I believe that Snow White is my true love. Legend says that nothing is more powerful than true love. (Prince Charming walks over to Snow White, still entranced in a deep sleep.) Could it be that true love will save her? (He leans down to Snow White and gently kisses her on her forehead.)
(Snow White slowly awakens.)
You broke the spell! (The 7 dwarfs break out in cheer)...
Curtis, even at age ten, could light up a room. “Where is my little star?”, his mother asked from the backstage classroom door. “There you are!”. She swaggered over to her youngest son. “Oh Curtis, no one is a better Prince Charming than you!”.
“Thank you Mummy”.
She swept him up in a big hug. “I can’t wait for your summer camp production of Robinhood! Of course you will be cast as the lead! Always the hero, aren’t you, my sweet leading man!”.
Curtis’ teacher clapped three times to get the attention of the cast. The children responded with three claps in unison and the room was quiet. “Boys and girls, it looks like someone has broken Bronwyn’s “Leading Lady” trophy. Curtis looked over at Bronwyn who was clearly crestfallen. Sitting in a chair in tears,she held her broken trophy on her lap. Looking around the room, Curtis could tell the other kids were also upset.
“Maybe it fell!”, said Curtis from across the room.
Bronwyn shook her head. “It was lying on my clothes in my duffle bag.” she said through her tears.
“Oh.” Curtis knew exactly what happened to her trophy. While “Snow White” waited for her curtain call, he had “accidentally” stepped on the plastic trophy, causing it to crack and break. Well, he thought, smiling to himself, I guess I’m the only one with a trophy now. Too bad, “Bronzie”, what a sucker.
As predicted, Curtis was cast as the lead in Camp Monomoy’s production of ‘Robinhood’. A camp counselor by the name of Makenzie was in charge, but things weren’t going well. “Curtis, would you take it from the top please where Little John enters?” Little John was being played by Fergus, a boy three years older than Curtis. He was slightly taller and somewhat chubby. So far, in the week and a half they had been practicing the play, Little John’s script had been found in a mud puddle, his underwear had shown up on a tree branch prop and he had missed the beginning of a rehearsal when Curtis told him it had been canceled, and Fergus had to be motored in by the raft boys from his sailboat out on the bay. He had lost the privilege of going to “Cobies”, a local ice cream stand down the block from the camp.
“Curtis, you told me that practice was canceled. Why did you lie to Makenzie?”
“Figure it out, lardo”, was Curtis’ response.
“Jesus, Curtis, you’re such a dick!”
“Oh, okay, Fergus the faggot”.
Fergus walked away shaking his head. He couldn’t believe he had to be in the play with Curtis. Again. Freaking Curtis always got the lead. He thought back to last summer when Curtis was cast as “Oliver”. What a disaster. Fergus had played the Artful Dodger and all he ever wanted to do was ‘dodge’ Curtis. The night of the dress rehearsal, which the kids performed for the off duty counselors and the Junior Counselors, Curtis had managed to let a milk snake loose on the stage. A milk snake looks almost identical to a rattlesnake, though they are not venemous. Towards the end of the opening number, not only did the kids run screaming off the stage, but the entire audience in the outdoor theater took a mass exodus out of the area. It took nearly 30 minutes to get everyone settled again at which point the play began again. The cast was shaky and audience was completely distracted by the thought of that snake slithering underneath them. The truth was, that snake was much more frightened than any of them and was likely deep into the pines within minutes.
Curtis was well coordinated, had a powerful and natural singing voice, and delivered lines as well as any kid you might see in the movies. His depravity well disguised, he was consistently polite to the adults who constantly sang his praises. “Did you hear Curtis singing during rehearsal?”, the teachers would say on their way out of the building after school. “He’s amazing, I can’t wait to see the show!”.
Oh Curtis was amazing all right. It made the other kids sick that he was never held accountable for anything. But the truth was, he was so slick, the adults in charge could never prove that Curtis was at fault for any of the ‘accidents’ that always happened during rehearsals and performances.
In the 8th grade, Curtis played Curly, a young cowboy in “Oklahoma”. Opposite him was Katie Way, in the role of Laurey. ‘Curly’ and ‘Laurey’ were a young couple who were in love but wouldn’t admit it. Poor Katie Way never knew what hit her. During the first week of rehearsal, Curtis had rubbed poison ivy all over the inside of Katie’s cardigan sweater, which caused her to be utterly miserable during rehearsals. She had poison ivy rashes all up and down her arms, behind her ears and on the back of her neck. Thankfully, it had healed before opening night, but just before the curtain opened for their first audience, Curtis made sure to step on the end of Katie’s dress, which tore across the back seam. Staging was interesting that night, the stage crew trying to sew up parts of her costume in between scenes. While they sang their flirty and romantic duet, "People Will Say We're in Love", in which they tell each other to keep their distance so people wouldn't suspect their attractions towards one another, poor Katie nearly had an anxiety attack.
Curtis’ antics didn’t stop when he got to High School. He became sneakier, more opportunistic, and, unfortunately for his cast members, more vicious. He was nearly 6 ft tall, his copper colored hair in a curtain fringe style, just above the ears. His eyes, with every green hue of spring growth and his mischievous, yet reticent smile, Curtis was a shoo-in for leading roles. He landed the role of Danny Zuko, in Grease, his sophomore year, Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie his junior year, and played the baker in Into The Woods, his senior year. All three years, Curtis continued his sardonic pranks which became more and more ruthless by his senior year. He should have been cast as the evil witch, but instead, his antics were directed at the girl cast as the witch.
Marion Mailer was no stranger to Curtis. She had endured Curtis since they were four years old in nursery school together. And even at age four, Curtis would pinch Marion under her dress while their teacher couldn’t see. At seven, in Frosty the Snowman, Curtis knocked Marion over by ‘accident’ countless times. Curtis played Frosty and Marion was a chickadee. “I just can’t see where I’m going,” he would tell Mrs. Henry. “I’m really sorry, Marion”, and then, sing-songy under his breath, “ ya putrid barbarian”.
On opening night, the set for Into the Woods was missing something. It was missing a screw to a bolt that secured the top half of a tree downstage that was used in nearly every scene. He knew if it was carefully moved, it would stand tall for most of the production. The opening scene wowed the audience who stayed patient and attentive during the show. Marion, as the witch, was remarkable. As she told the baker and his wife that she had put a curse on his family for stealing from her vegetable garden long ago, and thus, they would never be able to have children, save for one courageous feat, Marion had the audience entranced. She looked at Curtis as if to send the message, ‘we’re in “the woods now, and I have all the power’...
“Go to the woods and bring me back One: the cow as white as milk
Two: the cape as red as blood Three: the hair as yellow as corn
Four: the slipper as pure as gold Bring me these before the chime
of midnight in three days time and you will have, I guarantee,
a child as perfect as child can be... GO TO THE WOODS!”
The show went off without a hitch, and the finale was well choreographed. As the surviving characters were singing, “be careful the tale you tell, the children will listen”, Marion, playing the witch, reached up to pick an apple from the branch off the tree, the entire top half of the tree unhinged and fell onto her head, knocking off her witch’s hat and causing her to land, face down, on the stage. The tree was made out of a plywood panel and managed to knock Marion out. Curtis nearly revealed his rotten ways when he had to exit the stage quickly, unable to keep his hilarity in check.
The audience's reaction was a combination of gasping in disbelief, a few “oh no’s” and “oh my God’s”, but some of the students in the auditorium just could not hold back their laughter; nervous or otherwise. And of course, no one knew why the tree was not secure. The director flew from his tenth row center seat to the stage and Marion was just coming to. She had a bump on the back of her head the size of a small apple all ready and her face was scraped from landing on the stage. The director and stage manager helped Marion backstage and the music director cued the rest of the cast to finish the finale.
When it came his turn for the curtain call, Curtis bowed graciously and the audience leapt to their feet. There he stood. Beaming. More talented than most actors twice his age, he took another bow, waving to the audience, saying, “thank you, thank you so much.” Curtis had pulled off his final shenanigans. And no one was the wiser. He was, time and again, the leading role but indeed, a reprehensible and villainous star.