The Opportunists

This follows the interconnected lives of six teenagers. Harvey, the sullen rebel. Eloise, the innocent performer. Liv, the outspoken dancer. Darcy, the writer without a cause. Josie, the quiet girl with high walls to keep people out. And James, the boy who's just trying to keep his life straight. Their lives all change at a little theatre, where opportunity struck.

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2. Chapter Two: Josie

   

 

            This one’s so terrible I actually want to plug my ears. She’s pretty, but god. She sings like shit. I write the word “NO.” on a napkin and pass it to Darcy. He hides a grin and pretends to look at her headshot. I love auditions.

            Darcy, Randy, and I sit at a picnic table on the stage. A girl, about thirteen years old, stands on the stage, singing her little heart out. Her hair is bleached blonde and her makeup is much darker than her actual skin tone. I look over to Randy. Even he has a funny look on his face, and he’s one of the kindest people in the world. Randy is my father. Kind of.

            The girl finishes her song and I smile sweetly at her. “Thank you.” I say. She looks confused and walks offstage slowly. Darcy leans towards me. “We’re not even going to let her cold read?”

            “Darcy, she’ll have to sing. You wrote the damn show. You know everyone sings. She can’t ruin the chorus.” He grins and shrugs his shoulders.

            “You’re right. You know best.”

            Randy laughs and stands. “You guys can watch the next few without me. I’m going to the office to print off more scripts.”

            Darcy and I both say “Alright.” And Randy jumps off the stage and out the stage right door. Darcy scoots his chair closer to me as I call out, “Number two!”

            I turn around to the audience’s seats. Most are empty, but hopeful actors are scattered among the front few rows. Another girl, this one older and more athletic looking, stands to walk on the stage. She had curly black hair and fantastic posture. She must be a dancer. She flashes a wide smile of white teeth to us and hands us her resume and headshot. Anna Kinney. Fifteen years old. Eleven years ballet training. I knew it.

            She walks over to Shaun at the piano and hands him her music. I always start auditions with the vocal audition. Since we mainly do musicals, it’s a good way to save time. If they are good, I give them a little dialogue and they do a cold reading with Darcy. If they are a dancer, after this audition they go downstairs to audition with Molly, our choreographer.

            I love it here. Very few places in the world would people allow a sixteen and seventeen year old to write and direct an entire show. But, Randy has trained me since I was very young and Darcy is insanely talented. Randy owns and operates the theatre. Once a year he’ll let me choose a show and he will produce it. It’s kind of like a birthday present to me. He wisely put an age limit on the show. We decided that anyone older than twenty would likely not take me seriously. So, my show accepts only actors eleven to twenty years old. It’s better that way. I don’t have to embarrass any adults.

This year, Darcy won me over with a show he’s been working on called, “Fickle.” It’s about a woman named Margaret who was once very famous, but decided to get married and have a family. She tried to get back into show business, but her agent had already replaced her with a younger actress. It’s witty, interesting, and the music is very catchy. Plus, I love working with Darcy. He’s a really good friend.

He’s handsome, I suppose. He has dark red hair that’s always messy and unkempt. His eyes are a bright olive green and he has high dramatic cheekbones. He’s tall too. He’s probably about six four or six five. He has a very good laugh; it’s deep and jolly. I could never date him, though. Darcy is such an introvert. I would need someone to argue with.

Anna is certainly good enough to get a cold reading.  Darcy looks over at me and gives me a contented look. When she finishes her song I hand her the sheet of dialogue. It’s just a simple back and forth between Margaret and Roger, her husband. Those two characters are a bit of a comic relief when they’re together. They make sharp little quips to each other. Anyone who gets one of the leads has to be quick and bubbly.

She finishes up with Darcy and we excuse her. “She was good.” Darcy says. “But, not quite.”

Authors are so damn specific.

I roll my eyes, good naturedly and tighten my pigtails. I have shoulder length, mousy hair that I always keep in two pigtails at the bottom of my head. I have kind of soft features and a round face. I’m pretty enough, I suppose. I don’t really think about that much. I push up my thick, black framed glasses and yell out, “Number three!”

A boy runs up from the seats. Oh, god. He can’t be older than eleven. He has long, frizzy brown hair and a jumpy stature. If he can sing, maybe he can be Margaret’s son. He grins nervously and hands us his papers. Elijah Davis. Eleven years old. He takes his papers to Shaun and Shaun starts playing a loud boisterous tune. It overtakes the sound of Elijah’s singing. Not that I would be able to hear him without the piano. He’s practically whispering the song.

Darcy presses his lips together and looks down. That’s a bad sign for Elijah. Darcy is a very, very sweet person and he has trouble saying, “No.” to anyone. He just presses his lips together and let people walk all over him. That’s why he needs someone more forceful on his side. That’s why he has me. He writes the pretty stories and I make sure they get done.

I thank the kid for coming and he walks offstage, a little disgruntled. Darcy covers his face with a paper and whispers over to me. “Find me someone good.”

I mouth, “I’m sorry.” smile towards the audience and say “Number four!”

We hear soft footsteps coming from the audience. A girl comes onstage. She’s tall and beautiful. Her dark blonde hair is braided back behind her and her eyes were a wonderful liquid blue. She wore a lace skirt, a striped hoodie, and red high top sneakers. She smiles softly at us and runs up to hug us. Eloise Amity. God, I missed her.

“Eloise!” I say, wrapping my arms around her. “I haven’t seen you since Macbeth.”

She turns and hugs Darcy. “Well, I haven’t exactly been around since Macbeth.” I’ve worked with many times Eloise before and consider her a friend. Her and her family was traveling Europe. She has about five siblings and the whole lot of them is performers. They were in Europe for her twin little brothers who were auditioning at various ballet schools.

“Any news on Sam and Toby?” I ask.

“No, but they have a good shot at the school in Switzerland.” She grins and takes a music sheet to Shaun. She moves to the center of the stage with a smile. The music starts soft and slow. Her first note has already won me over. Her voice is sweet and clear. Her song is high and sad. It’s about a girl, who has lost everything but her name. It sounds wonderful, crystalline and meaningful. She looks helpless; a dot on the large wooden stage. The thick red velvet curtains cast shadows on her face. She looks and sounds desperate, although I know that Eloise is strong and bright, she is lost in character. Darcy looks like he’s going to explode from excitement. He can’t contain himself; he leans over and briskly whispers, “She’s perfect. She’s it. Hire her now!”

I roll my eyes and wait for her to finish. When she does, I tell her she sounded lovely and hand her the dialogue. Darcy speaks in a monotone of voice when he does cold readings, because he likes to try to throw the actors off their game. Eloise doesn’t take the bait.

“So, you really aren’t coming?” Darcy says blandly.

“I’m not moving until you apologize.” She sounds haughty, civilized. I like it.

“Maggie, I said I was sorry. Now, Devon is waiting for us.”

“Maybe you should take” She pauses, and continues with disgust. “Elsie.”

That’s it. I can see it on his face. Darcy’s sold. He thanks her a few times and lets her leave. I told him it was overkill. Whenever Darcy gets excited, I have to calm him down so he can keep working. I’m kind of like everyone’s rock. And I like it that way. Really, I do.

I call out, “Number five.” God. I’m getting tired of this, already.

A boy, about my height, walks onto the stage. He looks angry and disgruntled. He has messy brown hair and dark eyes. He doesn’t look happy to be here at all. It actually confuses me a little. He hands me his papers. They’re in a random order and aren’t stapled together. Harvey Banks. Fifteen. No theatrical background.

He stands there, look expectantly at us. “Well?” I ask. “Do you have music?”

“Oh.” He says. He rushes off to Shaun and hands him papers. He stands next to the piano and sings, annoyed, “Happy Birthday.” How original.

He doesn’t sound awful, but Darcy doesn’t offer him dialogue. Oh well. Nice try, Harvey.

We go through that process for about six hours. Six fucking hours.

By the end of auditions, I’m exhausted. I let Darcy go home for a few hours to get some rest. It’s going to be a long night. We decided early on that we would try to cast the entire show as quickly as possible so we can put on the show by July. We had sixty two people audition. We only need a cast of about thirty-five people. I had no idea so many people would want to be involved. I guess that since they have a good shot at a larger part they were more interested. Talk about fickle.

I live in an apartment on top of the theatre with Randy. Randy adopted me when I was two. He had a wife then, but she left him. She was no good anyway. She was addicted to some painkiller. Randy won’t tell me which. The main floor of the building is the theatre, below that is the offices and the costume and set shops. The theatre has been losing a lot of money lately. We only have a few people working there now. Molly is a college student; she works here part time. Shaun volunteers to play piano. Randy and his best friend Adam work in the scene shop. Adam’s grandmother and great aunt make the costumes. We used to have whole teams for every department. Not anymore.

I exit the theater from a side door and walk down the rusty metal stairs. I turn a corner and go into the office, where Randy is filling out paperwork.

“Did you make coffee?” I ask, yawning.

“There’s a pot on my desk. You’re gonna need it, kid. What time is Darcy coming back? I’ll help you two out.”

“I told him eight o’clock, so about ten minutes. Is Molly still here?”

“No.” He says, taking off his reading glasses and picking up a piece of lined paper. “But she already gave me her top picks. She has a whole ensemble chosen. I hope they can sing.”

I roll my eyes. “So do I.”

It’s a complicated dynamic that Randy and I have. But we work very well together. I love him; he is my father after all. I couldn’t call him dad, though. He isn’t a father, he’s Randy. Randy just happens to be my father.

I hear a warm voice scream my name from upstairs. That should be Darcy. Randy follows me up the stairs. Darcy is sitting at the table on the stage, looking over his huge reading glasses at us. I start laughing. He dresses like he’s a professor. He’s wearing a dress jacket made out of some scratchy material and tan slacks. He couldn’t be more of a dork if he tried.

Still holding Molly’s list, I walk up the stage to sit next to Darcy, Randy following close behind. I throw all of the resumes on the table dramatically and throw myself down with a sigh. It’s going to be a long night.

We start sorting through the papers, looking at hopeful actors, trying to decide who would be good for what part. Darcy immediately finds who he is looking for. He eagerly picks up a resume and hands it to me.

“Eloise. I want Eloise to be Margaret.”

I stare at her headshot. Eloise would be excellent for the role. I’m a little worried about giving her such a big part. She’s never had something so vital to the importance of the show.

But, hell. I could be a gambler.

“Fine. Then I want James to play something.”

Darcy gives me a smug look and I can feel myself start to blush. I look down at the papers. James was in one of our shows a few years ago. I instantly decided I was in love with him. Only Darcy even suspects that I like him. I’m very good at hiding my feelings. He’s very talented. It’s not like I’m asking for the moon.

Darcy agrees and we cast him as Margaret’s son. That’s two parts we no longer have to worry about.

“I want Liv to be Elsie.” Randy speaks up. Darcy and I give him uncertain looks. He says what we both feel.

“Liv is good, but I’m not sure she has the experience to be such a complicated character.” Darcy says while cleaning his glasses.

“Yes, I agree. But I think Liv is a sweet kid and I’m paying for the show. I didn’t offer her as a suggestion.”

Go Randy. Fight the power.

Darcy shrugs and puts her name down as Elsie. We continue this process until the entire show is cast. We finish at three in the morning. I’m hunched over the table and I can hear Darcy snoring next to me.

“So, that’s it.” Randy says in a perky tone. He’s been chugging whole pots of coffee all night. He wakes Darcy up and offers to drive him home. He’s half asleep and doesn’t complain. I restack all of the resumes and walk to the bulletin board in the hallway, where I pin the cast list. I’ll have Randy call all of the members tomorrow.

I stomp down the narrow metal hallway on the left of the bulletin board and unlock the door that leads to the steps into my apartment. The steps are old and rotting and lead up to my kitchen. It’s a smaller kitchen, with a breakfast nook that Randy and I rarely ever use. We’ve always been too busy to actually sit down and eat. We never really cook. The theatre is across the street from a little Chinese restaurant. I practically live on fried dumplings.

The kitchen and the living room are open to each other and doors on either side lead into both of our bedrooms and the bathroom. I open my door, which is next to the television on the far side of the room.

My room is pretty nice. It has lavender walls and a big fluffy comforter. The walls are plastered with posters from the shows we’ve put on. We must have done about thirty as far back as I can remember. I have a dresser across from my bed and a vanity in the corner. I put on pajamas and lay down on the bed. I’m still looking up at a poster over my bed when I fall asleep.

 

 

 

       

                

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