January 17, 2009

A Saturday Morning Excerpt

Just getting uptown on foot in this weather was a struggle against the elements. To top it off, the gray steel door of the theater was unwilling to yield to Hope’s two-fisted hammering. Following a full two minutes of bruising her knuckles, she laid back against the tan brick wall next to the entrance to catch her breath and watch assorted discarded papers making their solitary way from last night’s excitement in Times Square down 45th Street to their eventual demise at the hands of the street cleaner on 8th Avenue. She looked up to the back marquee of the theater. A paper blew up in the air and covered the S in the name of the play, Savage Winter.
She turned back to the door, coming nose to nose with the chipped sign:

STAGE DOOR
KNOCK FOR ADMISSION

and thought, “Easy for you to say.” Lifting her fist, she shook it once at the sign and found instead that she was saluting the unshaven face of Alvin the doorman.

“And a lovely good morning to you, too, Miss Grumpy. Haven’t seen you at this theater in a few years,” he greeted her, holding the door open just far enough so she would have to slide against him to get in.

“Shut up.”

She provided him with a sharp elbow as she passed, but instead of descending to her old home in the basement or going up to her new home on the third floor, she pushed through the dusty brown curtain to the right, stumbled down three stairs so old they were held together with duct tape, and entered the world of the theatergoer, so different from her world of theater crew.
Careful not to touch the smudged brass handrail (it was flu season), she climbed and climbed the brown-carpeted stairs until she reached the gods, the very top of the mezzanine, and landed with a thump in a seat built for short-legged high fashion models.

For one moment she wondered if anyone would notice in the dinginess of the gods if she dumped her overfilled tea cup on the carpet, but instead she settled back in the dark to revel for just a few moments in the pomposity that was this old lady of a theater. Built in the 1920s, in a time already way past the excesses of the Victorian era, it nevertheless pretended to an opulence to which it had no right. There were too many layers of cream paint alternating with chips out of the plaster walls, too many threadbare spots on the chair upholstery, and too many fingerprints on the brass handrails. Still, the out-of-towners would be there to be dazzled by what happened on the stage, and their cursory glances at the décor wouldn’t surface the holes in the old lady’s façade. But for her, the lady was just as fake as she felt, and she imagined a certain camaraderie with the theater’s frayed edges and crumbling cornices.

Someone at the console threw a spot from above on the table in the middle of the stage, and she noticed that from the gods you could see the white tape marks on the worn black floorboards downstage. She leaned against the sprung back cushions of the chair in front of her and watched the dust motes rise through the strong rays emanating from the powerful lamp until she was called down to the stage by Jarrod.

(c) 2009 Christina Wible

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