The Sea Witch Babysitter
By Diana Dawn
Oh, the drama! And it wasn’t even when we were out on the stage!
Let me back up. I’m Susan Aldrich. I’m a few years older than some of these youngsters. Back in “the day”, while my “stage friends” got their theater degrees, I was getting a computer science degree. So now that I have established somewhat of a career and a fairly comfortable… albeit single… lifestyle, I’m having to get my “theater bug” fix by volunteering at a local community theater. As a refreshing change, it’s a “family friendly” theater. So I can actually invite my little nieces to come and see me. We are currently putting on “The Little Mermaid.” After auditions, I was thrilled to learn that I had gotten the part of “Ursula, the Sea Witch”. It was a dream role for me! But then I had already made a name for myself at the theater as the “villainess”, after playing several villains.
I’d just finished my grueling purple makeup and white wig routine and adorned my enormous octopus costume. As I sat in the green room, the drama ensued around me. Poor Laurie, who was originally cast as Ariel, the “Little Mermaid”, had to step down after she started suffering from anxiety attacks. What a nineteen-year-old had to be anxious about, I’ll never know. In her place stepped in the “diva-esque” Sarah. Although she was the understudy, you’d never know it by the way she immediately took on the attitude of “star of the show”. My “fabulous and flamboyant” friend Fernando got the part of the outgoing crab, Sebastian. As you can guess, two “divas” don’t get along very well. The problem started when Sarah was demanding to reserve the entire east section for her college sorority for next Saturday night since the east section was considered the best view of the underwater royal palace scenes. However, Fernando had already reserved that section for his extended family. The issue was that the box office hadn’t entered it into the system yet, so it still showed as available online.
Let’s just say the “fish scales” flew as both divas argued over whose guest reservations were more important. It was like watching a catfight within a fashion show. I even began counting to see how many times Fernando gave Sarah a “talk to the hand” sign, versus how many times Sarah flipped her wavy blonde hair… as she hadn’t yet donned her red Ariel wig.
Then I heard 'his' voice. It was Ryan, our director. I stifled a sigh as he came into the green room. I’d harbored a secret crush on him since we met a few shows prior. After all, I was the only one in the cast that was his age… well, the only female. There was Brad, who played Prince Eric. He was almost my age. Brad rolled his eyes at the “cat fight” that ensued in front of us. I had to giggle, as Brad was totally oblivious to several of the little “jail bait” mermaids sitting on the green room couch swooning over him with starry eyes.
Ryan was finally able to take control of the “duel of the divas” situation and took Sarah and Fernando to the box office to see what they could work out. As they left, a hush fell over the green room as the “witch” walked in. Not the sea witch… that was me. This was the witch with a “b” that made all of the cast tremble in fear. It was Melinda, the costume and makeup woman. Literally “larger than life”, she also happened to be the theater “control freak”. She had to have control of everything. To make matters worse, she was so good at sucking up to management, including directors, that she could do no wrong in their eyes. She just treated the rest of us like slaves… or garbage. Take your pick. Of course, wouldn’t you know that the cast member who needed the most makeup and had the biggest costume was “yours truly.” By some miracle, I managed to talk her into letting me do my own makeup after she instructed me on every painstaking purple brush stroke for the first week of the show’s run. How I talked her into letting go of her “control” on me, I have no idea. Especially after the costume fiasco.
So about that. My best friend is Carrie Fields, the assistant costumer. Our original costumer had a death in the family and had to step down, so Melinda was more than happy to “take control”. Carrie was scared to death of the woman… of course, weren’t we all? But Melinda seemed to relish her reign of fear over Carrie. Anyway, I had made a deal with the theater producer that I would pay for all the materials for Ursula’s costume and make it myself in exchange for some extra “comp” tickets for my friends and family. The costume’s total was way more than the price of the tickets, but I enjoy helping the theater out.
Well, Melinda was none too happy that she didn’t have control over Ursula’s costume, and so since she couldn’t take it out on me, she seemed to take it out on poor Carrie. As if Carrie didn’t have enough drama. More on that story. She was cast as Scuttle, the funny seagull. Well, during tech week, the last week before the show’s opening, her dog tripped her as he ran out the front door and she blew out her knee. Consequently, she had to step down from the role. The cast “swing”, AKA overall understudy, was none other than Nick… Melinda’s son. And he took over the role. Ugh! So now, Melinda was able to not-so-subtlety rub that in poor Carrie’s face. But my best friend is a trooper. She stayed on to help the cast with costumes throughout the run of the show. And the rest of us were so much happier to see Carrie than “you-know-who”.
I made my way back to the women’s… and I use that term loosely… dressing room. All the while, I was keeping a careful eye out for the mermaids and other various sea creatures on “Heelys” brand shoes as they whizzed by. Ryan thought having them in “wheeled shoes” would give a more flowing picture of sea creatures swimming underwater, rather than just having them walk across the stage. Our theater is “in the round”, so with audience seats on all four sides, it did add a nice touch. I freely admit I said a “thank you” prayer to God for Ryan not putting “Ursula” in Heelys. I have about ten to fifteen years on some of these kids, and I don’t need to be falling down and breaking anything as I go crashing into Ariel’s grotto.
As I entered the dressing room, I could hear yet another catfight in progress. Apparently, Stacy, one of the mermaid sister “teeny-boppers” grabbed the wrong mermaid top for an earlier scene, leaving its rightful owner, Tamera, with one that was just a hair too small. Hence, the girl had to hold the thing on the entire time, so it wouldn’t “bust” open. I didn’t witness the scene, but apparently, it had been pretty obvious. Now, these two were having words over the incident… and not too quietly, I might add. The ruckus was such that the stage manager had to come in and shush the girls. They didn’t take too kindly to that, as once again, you have two “diva mermaids” that felt they were more important than some lowly stage manager.
Tamera got up in the poor stage manager’s face. “Who do you think you are? You’re just a stagehand! My father is on the board of directors here!”
To which the other mermaid, Stacy, retorted, “Yeah? That explains a lot! You must be inviting yourself to the board meeting buffet dinners, FATSO!”
“At least I HAVE a pair! You’re like a carpenter’s dream, right? Flat as a board and easy to SCREW!”
I couldn’t help it. These children were bringing out my inner “Supernanny”. Later, I did slightly regret my actions, but only slightly. I pulled them both up by the forearms, as neither one weighed more than a hundred pounds soaking wet. It startled them just enough that they raised up on their heels, and I was able to drag them a few feet over to the dressing room couch via those lovely little “Heelys”.
I began in my best ‘Ursula’ voice, “Now, unless you wish to be the latest member of Ursula’s ‘Poor Unfortunate Soul’ garden, I suggest you zip it and act your age and not your Heely size!”
I smirked as I proceeded to exit the room. I could swear I heard someone applauding me next door in the men’s dressing room as I passed by.
It was approaching time for Ursula’s first scene and I made my way to my entrance. Remember those “jail bait” mermaids I mentioned? Well, as I’m waiting backstage for my entrance cue, I couldn’t help but hear the “twittering” of giggling teens swooning over “Eric”.
“He asked me out, you know!”
“Brad’s like almost twice our age! Isn’t there some kind of law? What’d he say?”
“I was in the green room and Fernando asked if anyone was going out after the show. Everyone decided to go to IHOP. Then Brad turns to me and asks if I’m going! I could have just died!”
“Geez, Brenda. That’s hardly asking you out!”
“Well, it was good enough for me! Don’t squash my fantasy, Misty!”
I rolled my eyes, thankful to finally hear my entrance music begin. I shook my head, racking my brain, trying to remember if I ever sounded that trite, silly, and stupid.
After the show, I hurried to get out of makeup so I could join the group at IHOP, when in the back of the theater, I saw our director, Ryan, and Donna, the theater’s producer, both talking with Brad.
Carrie walked up with her bag, along with Fernando. “You going to IHOP?”
I couldn’t help but notice how somber the conversation up the way seemed. I motioned to the small group, “What’s going on up there?”
Fernando suddenly quieted his voice to a whisper as he tutted in annoyance. “Oh, rumors are flying that Brad asked Brenda out. Since she’s only sixteen, the theater management is very concerned. Crock of you-know-what, if you ask me!”
Carrie gasped in horror. No one else knew why, but I did. She’d harbored a secret crush on Brad from day one. At least she was closer to his age than the teens.
As for me, I was already fuming, remembering back to the conversation I overheard earlier. “Oh my gosh, that’s such a lie! I was backstage waiting to go on and I heard the whole thing! Brad is our friend and I won’t have his reputation smeared because of some over-hormonal slutty ‘Chicklet’!”
I stormed off toward the group as Fernando tried to call me back. Carrie followed quietly.
“Excuse me?” I interrupted politely.
Luckily, Donna was still appreciative of my contributions to the Ursula costume, and smiled as I walked up.
“I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I hear there have been ‘rumors’ of Brad asking a certain underage girl out, and I need to squash those rumors right now. I know what really happened, and I fear that the truth might have been ‘embellished’.”
As I looked at Brad, he seemed to plead for help with his eyes.
I continued, “Earlier tonight, just before I went on in my first scene, I couldn’t help but overhear Brenda telling Misty that very rumor… that Brad had asked her out. Then she explained the actual story.”
Luckily, they believed me and assured Brad and I that they would re-question Misty about the conversation, and of course Brenda about the incident.
As Ryan and Donna made their way out of the theater, Brad gave me a sincere hug. I refused to look in Carrie’s direction. I could already feel her “look”.
Brad sighed in relief. “Thanks, Susan. I was afraid I was about to not only lose this role, but be blacklisted from the theater, and maybe even brought up on charges. It was Brenda’s word against mine, and Misty clammed up for some reason. I don’t know how to thank you!”
I looked over at Carrie, and then back at Brad. “You’re our friend, Brad. That kind of injustice shouldn’t happen to anyone, let alone a friend. We certainly can’t afford to let a talented guy like you get away! Face it… you’re stuck with us, bud! So come to IHOP with us.”
He shook his head. “Thanks. I would, but I don’t have a ride. I’m only a few blocks from the theater, so I usually walk here.”
If Brad hadn’t been looking right at me, I’d have given Carrie a wink as I replied, “That’s no problem. My car is chock full of boxes from moving my office at work, but Carrie can give you a ride. Right, Carrie?”
It took her a second to tear her eyes from Brad long enough to process what I’d said.
Finally, she offered, “Oh! Um, yeah! Yeah, you can ride with me.”
Fernando had now joined us. “Great! It’ll be fun.”
I breathed a very meaningful sigh as I added, “Come on. We have a lot of ‘drama’ to clear up!”