3 comments

Fiction Funny Contemporary

The sky opened up as Theo hurried down the sidewalk. He chastised himself for not having an umbrella. Turning up his collar, he quickened his pace. Not only was he late for rehearsal, but he was going to be soaked as well. At least he had his lines memorized, well most of his lines memorized. Theo was hoping he would be able to bluff his way through the lines he didn’t know.

He turned a corner and the theatre loomed up in front of him. A magnificent structure built sometime in the early 1900’s, the theatre had lost most of its former grandeur, but still had all of its charm. Theo ducked under the glowing marquee, out of the pouring rain, and opened the front door. Its creaking protest announced his presence. 

“Late again, Theo,” a booming voice said. There in front of Theo stood Franklin Lyons, the director. Theo took a deep breath and raced through all the possible excuses as to why he was late. Abducted by aliens perhaps? Or what about saving a box full of puppies from a dastardly designer? Maybe he was… Wait, what was he thinking? Franklin was never going to believe any of those excuses. 

“Well?” Franklin asked in the same booming voice. What is it this time? Sick grandma? Lost dog?, or some other lame excuse you haven’t told me yet? Franklin stood before Theo with his arms crossed. He wasn’t a tall man, but what Franklin lacked in height, he made up in volume.

“Honestly, I’m just late. No excuses this time.” Theo assembled what he hoped was a contrite expression on his face to let Franklin know how “sorry” he was.

Franklin sighed heavily while rubbing his hand over his five o’clock shadow. “Just get on the stage and start warming up for rehearsal.” He turned, stalking off in the direction of the theatre muttering the entire time. Theo was positive he heard his name attached to some rather unflattering descriptions of him. 

Theo walked in Franklin’s wake, making sure to keep some distance between the two of them. As he made his way into the theatre, Theo took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of aged wood, drying paint, and musty upholstery. 

The theatre was in dire need of an upgrade, but that didn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. Attendance wasn’t what it used to be. People just weren’t coming to performances  anymore. Theo couldn’t remember the last time there was a sold out show. 

As he stood on the stage, Theo nodded at his fellow actors and actresses, but all he got in return was some glares and one offensive gesture. Theo simply sighed and began his warm-up exercises. Deep breathing, followed by stretching and Theo was ready to begin  the vocal warm-ups, including a series of tongue twisters that left Theo absolutely exhausted and rehearsal hadn’t even started. 

Once warm-ups were complete, the cast and crew had only about five minutes before rehearsal began. Theo sat down on the edge of the stage, closed his eyes, and went over his lines in his head. As he concentrated a shadow loomed over him.  Looking up, he saw Maisie Fletcher staring at him with an angry expression on her face. She was the last person that Theo wanted to talk to. It was bad enough they had to share the stage, he tried to ignore her when he was able.

“Are you ever going to take this play seriously?” she asked. Her voice made Theo’s head hurt. To sound cliche, it was “like nails on a chalkboard.” 

“Not everyone can be perfect, Maisie, " Theo shot back as he stood up to face her. “Unlike you, I have a life outside these walls,” he stood just outside of Maisie’s kicking range. Theo had been on the receiving end of one of Maisie’s vicious podiatric attacks before and he had spent a week limping.

“Theo!” Franklin shouted from the audience, “That’s enough! We have two weeks until opening night, and I will not let someone’s juvenile tendencies derail this production!”

Theo opened his mouth to try and defend himself, but decided against it. It wouldn’t matter anyway. Maisie was the star of the show, she could do no wrong.  Instead, Theo just rolled his eyes and headed backstage to get dressed. He wished he could quit the show, but he had made a commitment and was determined to see it through. 

Once in costume, Theo checked himself in the mirror. He was dressed impeccably and could see no flaws with his costume, but Franklin would. Though, if Franklin wanted to find flaws, Theo thought he should check his directing technique. It didn’t matter what type of show was produced, Franklin tried (tried was the operative word here) to make all his shows edgy. His last play was a production of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web. Except, this version had can-can dancers appear during the fair scene. Franklin said it added extra “pizazz” that was sure to get the attention of a Broadway or off Broadway producer. Attendance for the performance was so low that Franklin had paid his own mother to come see it.

The production they were currently in was Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Theo was sick of it. Everyone fawned over the show, calling it the world’s greatest love story, but it wasn’t. It was a tragedy where a short lived teenage romance caused the death of six people! If they were going to do Shakespeare, Theo would have preferred “that Scottish Play,” but he couldn’t suggest it. He couldn’t even say the name. Every thespian knew that it was bad luck to say the name of the actual play. Anyone who had ever been involved with a theatrical production knew to take superstitions seriously. 

What Franklin was thinking when he chose this play, Theo didn’t know, but it probably had something to do with the fact that it cost nothing to perform. The Bard’s copyright had run out long ago. Now Franklin could spend his budget on extravagant sets and unnecessary props. It wouldn’t surprise Theo at all if Franklin added a small laser light show during the balcony scene. Just the thought of Franklin ruining Shakespeare made Theo want bang his head vigorously against the wall. Franklin wasn't even requiring them to use English accents. He said, “use whatever accent you feel is best for your character.” That's how the show had a Romeo that spoke in a southern accent!.

Theo headed back to the stage to wait for notes from Franklin. He noticed the rest of the cast sitting in the audience looking at their phones or scanning scripts. Theo settled into a seat in the back row and slunk down trying to make himself seem as small as possible. Maisie, of course, sat in the front row, dead center, ready to drink in everything Franklin said or did. 

“Can I have everyone’s attention please?” Franklin announced walking onto the stage. He had put on his “director’s scarf,” a paisley patterned affair, and his black beret. Theo longed to snatch both of them off of Franklin and burn them, all the while laughing like a comic book super villain.

“As I said earlier, we have two weeks until opening night. The majority of you have worked hard, a lesson one of you would do well to learn.” Franklin narrowed his eyes at Theo as he said this. “I would also like to give props to Maisie for always being on time and having her lines memorized earlier than anyone else in the cast.” As the soft and pretentious applause began, Theo could see her sit straighter in her seat, and he knew her trademark smirk was plastered on her face.

Theo was sick and tired of both of them. If Franklin said one more negative thing about him, Theo was going to lose it. Franklin always made him feel inadequate, even though Theo’s knowledge of theatre was miles and miles ahead of Franklin’s. As for Maisie, she couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag, and Theo was being generous with that assessment. Her exaggerated gestures made Theo think of a combination of Shatner and Walken. Every time Theo shared the stage with her it was all he could do to keep from throwing up.

Franklin clapped his hands like a Kindergarten teacher, saying “Places! Places for Act 1 Scene 1.” As the cast stood and began to trudge backstage, Theo remained in his seat. He knew he should get up and follow his castmates, but he didn’t. While Franklin had been talking, a plan began to form in Theo’s mind. He decided to use one of the many theatre superstitions against Franklin and Maisie, but which one? He could tell everyone good luck instead of break a leg… or maybe he could whistle backstage… but neither of those felt right. He knew what he had to do. The one superstition that Theo knew would send everyone into a frenzy, and he had Shakespeare to thank for it.

No matter how much he loved theatre, enough was enough. Theo was tired of Franklin and Maisie making his life miserable at rehearsal. He knew the other cast members would be collateral damage, but it was a chance he had to take. 

Theo stood up and yelled, “Can I have everyone come back out here? I have something to say to everyone.” For a moment no one appeared, so Theo repeated himself. “Can I have everyone come back out here? I have something to say to everyone.” Still no one answered. Theo’s anger boiled over. He marched up to the stage, turned and faced the audience and said, “It’s all fun and games until someone says Macbeth!”

As a slow clap rose from the disgruntled cast, Theo jumped off the stage and marched out of the theatre. Whatever happened next was not his problem. He was even going to keep the costume.

April 16, 2024 00:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

3 comments

Leala Steadman
18:35 Apr 29, 2024

😂😂😂😂love it!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Marisa Billions
21:19 Apr 24, 2024

Well done and engaging! I enjoyed reading this.

Reply

Bethany Walters
23:33 Apr 24, 2024

Thank you! I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.