Week 50- Heather Ouellette-Cygan

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Heather Ouellette-Cygan, Week 50

 Merely Players: Part One


George wished he had had time to change after work before driving to the Fay Wray Community Theatre for these auditions. He was the only one in the room in a suit and tie. He felt hot and restricted under the expensive grey gabardine. His red silk tie was choking him. The flourish of red made him self conscious. He looked around himself to the others sitting and waiting to audition in the renovated doll factory turned community theatre. No one was looking, so he loosened then removed the tie.  He did not want the restriction to cause a reenactment of that dreadful day in eleventh grade.

As he reached into his pocket to dispose of the tie, he felt the brochure he had been carrying around for weeks. The first time he had noticed the audition poster was on the bulletin board on his way out of grocery shopping. “Act on the Lakes of New Hampshire” it announced. “The Fay Wray Community Theatre on Silver Nickel Lake is hosting open auditions for William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Hamlet.” Below a clip art version of the drama masks, the dates were announced followed by the phrase that got him, “No Acting Experience Necessary.”

“Hmmm,” he had said aloud as he grabbed one of the flyers from the shelf below, folded the smooth, shiny paper and briskly shoved it into his coat pocket. He had looked around behind him as if he had been shoplifting.

A few months ago, he would never have considered auditioning for a play. He was not the artsy type as he liked to remind his daughter. He was the freak, the “Alex P. Keaton” of his family. But then, the members of his Rotary Club had nominated him as head public relations coordinator. At first he was flattered, but when he learned that part of the position’s responsibilities included giving speeches at local businesses and schools, he had tried to resign.

“I have a lot on my plate,” he, relying on cliché, had told the Club’s president, Ned Johnson. “I don’t think Julia will approve of me running around and giving speeches in the evening. She likes me home for dinner.”

“Come on, George. She’s twenty-three and working on her thesis. I think your daughter might appreciate the time alone to work on her research,” Ned had retorted.

George’s brain had looked in all its dusty and uncreative corners for another excuse to get him out of this responsibility. He did not give speeches. He did not talk in public. He rarely spoke in groups larger than two. At least not since that day in eleventh grade.

And so, here he was, sitting in a red velvet chair rescued from a defunct movie theatre, awaiting his turn to audition for the role of Claudius.

“But to persever in obstinate condolent is a course of impious stubbornness. ‘Tis unmanly grief,” he mouthed quietly to himself as moths battled it out in his stomach. He could close a million dollar deal over lunch with clients from Japan or Saudi Arabia, and yet here he was in this shabby, refurbished theatre, nervous about auditioning in front of a bunch of local-yocals. Deep breath, he thought and imagined the extra-dry Bombay Martini he always drank at those business lunches. He should have had one this evening on his way. That would have put those dancing moths into a coma long ago. Instead, they seemed to be jitterbugging across his pancreas.


At least Nigel had eventually decided to set his version of Hamlet in Elizabethan times. Roseanne had always wanted to design costumes for a period play. She had squirmed at pre-production meetings as Nigel had shared his ideas for setting the play undersea or on a space ship in the twenty-second century. Fortunately, a number of members of the Fay Wray Community Theatre’s board, including Mr. Jefferies, the theatre’s most generous donator of both cash and time, had spoken out against Nigel’s ideas for alternate settings. Roseanne had wanted to speak-up too, but she had not  said a word to agree with those who disagreed.

Instead she had writhed in her chair at the thought of wrapping actors in silver lamé before they delivered the poetic words of William Shakespeare. Roseanne had kept mum about the whole business and suffered in silence. She was open minded about most things, but this seemed a travesty of the worst literary kind. Plus, that fabric was a bitch to work with. Sewing machines did not like it one bit.

And an entire cast in bathing suits, perhaps on Broadway where your actors were fit. But this is community theatre. You have to work with all types of bodies in a community theatre, and although she was usually good at finding the most flattering costume styles for them all, she recognized that there is only so much you can do with a fat man and a Speedo. So, the decision to keep Shakespeare’s work in Shakespeare’s England made the young costume designer quite happy.

“Not a great turn out,” she thought. “Nigel doesn’t look happy with it at all. Of course, he wouldn’t be satisfied with any turn out that was less spectacular than what he had experienced during his short stint in London. God knows we have heard enough about that in the three years that I have been here.”

Roseanne turned from the director’s table and again scanned the audience waiting to audition. As she looked at each face, she could place him or her into a character and her designer’s mind began with the rich colors and fabrics fitting for the Elizabethan age and stage. Purple velvet doublet, golden silk gown. Oh, if she is cast as Ophelia, she noted as she found a young face surrounded by blonde curls in the turnout, I will make her the most beautiful gown of periwinkle silk. Her eyes will come to life in that color.


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