Friday, December 14, 2012
Melanie Mackenzie walked Samantha to school and then headed over to The Village Theater. She ran into Agatha and Hap Hazzard on the way.
“Good morning you two. Isn't it a beautiful day. I love the way the sunshine makes the snow glisten. Are you ready for our first day of auditions? I hope we don't have to disappoint too many of our would be actors, I never suspected we would be getting such a good response.”
“We're ready,” said Aggie. “I just hope I know what I'm doing. I'm glad to be working with two professionals.”
Alice Claiborne was waiting at the front door of the theater with her daughter Angel at her side. Hap had to look twice to make sure Angel was a real little girl. She was wearing a bright pink tutu and matching sparkly shoes. He hair was in ringlets and the child's face was loaded with makeup. Hap had to turn away for fear he would laugh or take out his handkerchief to wipe that goop off that little girl's face.
“Melanie Fairchild! I can't believe it's really you.” the woman gushed. “This is my beautiful little Angel,” she said as she yanked the girl's arm. “Angel, say hello to the famous Miss Melanie Fairchild.”
Angel may have been a pretty little girl but the get up she was wearing and the hair and makeup were comical.
“Ma'am, I'm Melanie Mackenzie now. We aren't auditioning until later this morning. Do you have a time scheduled?”
“No, I didn't make an appointment, I was sure you would want to see my precious Angel before anyone else. I know you will choose her.”
Melanie handed the woman her business card. “Call this number to set an appointment. We are following a very strict schedule today. We want everyone to have an equal opportunity. You do realize this is a simple community theater. Our productions will be done well, but they will be performed by amateur actors and actresses who are not looking to be famous.”
“It won't take but a minute to watch my talented little Angel. Go ahead Angel, sing a song for the lady.”
“We aren't looking for singing talent. May I give you a suggestion? When you bring your Angel back at the appropriate time, I would suggest you dress her in casual clothing without the curls and makeup. The play is about the people of Camden Corners in the early 1900s and I'm sure young girls didn't have their faces painted back then.”
It was obvious the woman was not going to leave until Hap stepped up to her. “Madam, I would suggest you take the advice of Mrs. Mackenzie and be on your way.”
Alice Claiborne pulled her daughter by the hand and walked away. “Amateurs, country bumpkin amateurs.” They could hear her mumbling as she walked away.
“Well, that was fun, laughed Aggie. I hope we don't get anymore stage mothers today.”
Aggie needn't have feared. Everyone was very cooperative the remainder of the day. Some of the folks trying out for a part decided right then and there that acting wasn't for them. Being on stage and looking out into a large auditorium gave them stage fright. Most were quite good and with a little coaching would be very good. Jamie Henderson was not only good, she was exceptional.
“Have you taken acting lessons, Jamie?” asked Melanie.
“No, Mrs. Mackenzie. I did have a part in the school play last spring, but that is the extent of my acting.”
“I think we have found our April Hawthorne.” said Melanie and the others agreed.
Heather Crowley wrote a screenplay based on the journals from her ancestors and their neighbors. Actors were matched with appropriate roles. Andy Logan, the high school art teacher, offered to organize the set decoration and gathered his helpers. Everyone was excited about this new venture. The actors planned to meet every Tuesday and Thursday evening and Saturday morning. Andy was looking forward to attending these sessions, especially since Heather Crowley would be there too.
“Jamie, what are you going to tell Father? You know he will throw a fit when he finds out you tried out for the play after he specifically told you not to.”
“Father is being so unreasonable. He didn't like it when I was in a school play for heaven sake. I don't understand him. I'm 18 years old and he has nothing to say about it.”
“You are 18 but you are living under his roof and, need I remind you, he is paying for your college education. If you ignore your studies while you are involved in this play, he will really hit the roof.”
“Belinda, you worry too much. I know I can do both. Promise me you won't mention this to Father. I'm not going to tell him anything about it until the performance and then he won't be able to do a thing about it. Did you see that cute guy who is playing my boyfriend, Cody? He goes to the university. I have seen him on campus before and he always has a slew of girls following him. His name is Mike Daniels.
“Hi girls, what have you two been up to this afternoon?” said their mother as they walked in the door.
“Nothing, Mother. We were just hanging out with some of Jamie's friends from school.” Belinda was so good at lying, it frightened Jamie. Her sister was still in high school. No telling what trouble she could get herself into and then lie her way out of it.
“Father will be home any minute. I'm glad you are both here, it's been a long time since we all sat down together for a family meal. Jamie, a fellow named Mike called you a short while ago, he said he wanted to talk with you about April and Cody. I never heard those names before, you must be meeting a lot of new people this semester.”
Belinda smiled at her sister. She wondered how Jamie would ever be able to pull this off. She was a terrible liar.
Walter Henderson opened the back door. “What a day, my secretary took off after lunch to audition for some play they are putting on at the old opera house. If you ask me, they should have torn the whole thing down. What foolishness, putting on plays in this little town. Things will never be the same around here since that movie star married Dr. Mackenzie. What a fool he was. Just fell for a pretty face.”
“Now, Walter. I have have met Melanie Mackenzie. She is a lovely young woman. I don't know why you feel the way you do about folks in the entertainment business. Your precious football and baseball players are also entertainers, you know.” Grace Henderson loved her husband, but he could be very opinionated. He was out of town on business last year when Jamie signed up for the school play. Grace had never seen him so mad when he found out. She was afraid for his health. He insisted Jamie drop out of the play and when she told him it was too late, he refused to attend the performance and didn't speak to his daughter for a month after.
Five weeks after the auditions, the rehearsals were going smoothly. Some subtle changes were made in Heather Crowley's scripts, but for the most part they had remained as she had originally written the lines. Andy Logan's crew did a extraordinary job with the scenery and props. There wasn't much left for Andy to do but he liked watching the rehearsals and watching Heather.
“Heather, how can you just sit there when Andy Logan is in such agony mooning over you?” Melanie asked one day.
“Melanie, I will admit I am attracted to Andy but I told Philip Graves I would wait for him until he returns from his studies in Boston and I intend to keep that promise.”
Sophie Reynolds was walking by as the two women were talking. “Did you say Philip Graves, Heather?”
“Yes Sophie, do you know him?”
“I not only know him, I'm engaged to him.”
“That can't be,” said Anna Philpot, “my sister is madly in love with him. Just yesterday, she received a letter from him. He told her how much he missed her and he would be back in May.”
“I have a letter from him right here. Listen to this. My love, my heart is breaking because we are apart, I am counting the days until I see you in June.”
“I also have a letter,” said Heather, “He tells me he will be returning to Camden Corners in April. Ladies, I think we have been duped.”
Sophie ran out of the theater in tears. Anna ran home to report her findings to her sister who she knew would be heartbroken.
“Melanie, I feel like a fool. I have wasted two months on that jerk. I can't believe I told him I'd wait for him. I was going to break it off when he came home because of my attraction for Andy Logan. If you will excuse me, I think it's high time I got to know our set director a little better.”
Melanie glanced in Andy's direction and saw his face light up. She wondered about Philip Graves, he must collect woman like some people collect stamps. Maybe someone should warn him not to show his face in Camden Corners again. On the other hand, it could make for an interesting story. Maybe we could make it into a play. I'll have to mention that to Hap and Aggie, it could be our next project.
“Hello Jamie, I didn't expect you this afternoon, are you and Mike rehearsing together. I know he was concerned about the lightning scene.”
“No, Mike isn't here. I just wanted you to know that I may have to drop out of the play.”
“Why Jamie, you are so talented. Is the schedule interfering with your school work?”
“It's nothing like that. I love acting and I still have plenty of time for my studies. It's my father. He is really a wonderful man, but he is totally against the theater and acting. I have no idea why. I haven't told him about the play or my being in it. I don't like lying to him and I'm forced to lie to my mother too. She wouldn't object but it would be difficult for her to keep this secret from him.”
“Would it help if I talked with him? Maybe he could come to some rehearsals. He will see how good you are and maybe change his mind.”
“No, I don't think he will ever change his mind. I'm so sorry, I should never have auditioned for the part. I thought it would be easier to hide this from my parents, but I feel so guilty when I lie to them.”
“Jamie, don't worry about the play, you are a very fine actress, but we will find someone else to take over as April. I'm sorry you won't be part of the show. Does Mike Daniels know of your decision? He seems to have taken a liking to you.”
“No, Mike doesn't know yet, we are meeting this afternoon to go over our lines again. I'll tell him then. I'm sure he won't mind. He's the biggest flirt in the entire university. He won't have any trouble accepting a new April Hawthorne.”
Melanie gave Jamie a hug. “We will miss you, don't be a stranger. Even if you don't have a part in the play, you would be a wonderful coach.”
Jamie walked home feeling relieved that she wouldn't have to lie to her family any longer but sad because she loved being a part of the production. She knew she would never pursue a career in show business, but enjoyed working with the local people and telling the story of her home town.
After dinner, Walter Henderson sat down in his favorite chair, turned on the television and sat down to watch his favorite western. The doorbell rang.
The Everett sisters had stopped by on their way home from the theater. “Don't mean to bother you good people, we are collecting items you may have in your attic that can be used in the play. Thought you may have some old clothing from early in the century,” said May, the elder sister.
“Anything you have, even if it is in need of repair. Sister and I are very good with a needle and thread, we will be able to make them look like new,” added June.
“There are some old trunks upstairs. The girls used to play dress up with some of my grandmother's clothing. I'll be happy to look to see what is there.”
“Tomorrow will be soon enough, Grace. By the way, we were so sorry to hear Jamie won't be in the play after all. She was so good in the part of April Hawthorne.”
Grace tried to hide her surprise. She had no idea Jamie had been involved in the production. She only hoped Walter hadn't heard what June just said.
After the ladies left she casually walked into the living room and could tell instantly that her husband had heard every word. His face was as red as a beet.
“Jamie!” he shouted, “I want to see you this instant.”
“How did he find out?” asked Belinda.
“I don't know, but obviously, he has,” said Jamie
“I'll go down there with you.”
As expected, Walter Henderson ranted and raved. The more he ranted, the redder his face got. There was no calming him down. Suddenly he grabbed his chest. Grace walked to his side as Belinda picked up the phone and called for an ambulance.
After several hours and many tests, it was determined Walter had suffered an anxiety attack. He was given a mild tranquilizer and instructed to see his doctor within the next few days.
“Walter, this has got to stop,” said Grace. “I have no idea why you are so vehemently opposed to Jamie performing on stage. You are a reasonable man but seem to come unglued when anyone mentions a theater or an actor. You will be seeing Doctor Mackenzie tomorrow if I have to drag you there. Now, get some rest. I think that pill they gave you will help you sleep.”
“Grace,” said a groggy Walter, “my mother didn't die when I was a youngster, she moved to New York City to become an actress. I never saw her again.” He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Grace was in shock. How could Walter have kept this from her all these years? His father was alive when they first met and he talked about his deceased wife. No wonder Walter was so opposed to his daughter's acting. Jamie never talked about going into show business, she enjoyed being on stage, but it wasn't something she wanted to spend her life doing. Suddenly Grace thought of the trunks that were in the attic. Along with those holding her grandmother's clothes, there was one that she brought over from her father-in-law's house after he died. Walter never seemed interested in looking inside and she couldn't find a key to open it. She asked the girls to help her bring it down from the attic.
The trunk was locked. Belinda took a hammer and pried it open. There were dozens of unopened envelopes addressed to Walter Henderson. They were post marked New York City.