This is a short story I wrote earlier this year. It’s actually a vignette from a (potential) idea for a novel I had brewing in my mind.
Jessica considers herself a sensible person in that she’s cautious around other people. She wants friends, but she doesn’t want to be friends with everyone. That’s why Jessica can’t understand why she wants to be accepted by Minnie. No, it’s not because Minnie is popular; it’s not because Minnie is drop-dead-gorgeous, and it’s not because she happens to come from a very well-to-do family; it is because Minnie is an amazing actress. Minnie has starred as the lead character in every school play since the eighth grade. She even played the role of Clara in The Nutcracker last Christmas, a play produced by the Okanagan Arts Club, the most reputable and prestigious theatre company in the Okanagan Valley.
Jessica emerges from the bathroom stall, then walks over to the sinks. When she peers at her reflection in the mirror, she frowns. I wish I was as pretty as Minnie. I wish my hair was as thick and as long as hers, and I wish I had her hour-glass figure. Jessica’s stomach is not protruding, but it’s not flat either: it is round enough to make Jessica feel self-conscious of her appearance. Her hips and thighs aren’t so bad, but still, she avoids wearing yoga pants, tights; anything that reveals her husky figure.
Jessica could work out at the gym two days a week. Three days a week. No, she’s going to work out every day, for one solid hour. Hopefully, once I’m all toned, I’ll have a better chance at landing a part in an Okanagan Arts Club play. Maybe then, Annie, the director, will admit me into her theatre school.
Jessica rakes her fingers through her straight, fine, blond hair. Forget it, Jessica. Beauty alone isn’t going to get you a star role in a big production. And it’s not going to ensure you a place in the Okanagan Arts Club theatre school for teens.
Jessica gives her reflection a determined look. “I need Minnie to help me improve on my acting skills,” she whispers.
The door flings open suddenly and voices fill the air around her.
“Where did Adam, of all people, come up with the idea for story theatre?”
That voice belongs to Sarah, Minnie’s best friend.
Jessica’s eyes widen. Story theatre?
“His imagination of course. I don’t know where else he would have found an idea like that,” Minnie says.
Jessica spins on her heels. “What’s story theatre all about?”
Sarah’s face darkens into a scowl. “Of course, of all people, you have to be here.”
Minnie flashes Jessica a tight smile. “Hi, Jessica, aren’t you supposed to be in whatever class you have now?”
Jessica can feel the red creep up her neck and over her face. “Um–yeah. English.”
“Then, you shouldn’t be fooling around in here, Jessica,” Sarah says.
“Minnie, what is story theatre about?” Jessica says, ignoring Sarah’s snide remark.
“Uh–it’s kinda like–street theatre.”
“Really? It totally sounds like a lot of fun,” Jessica says.
Sarah gives Jessica a chilled look. “Yeah, but it’s for experienced actors only. Isn’t it, Minnie?”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Sarah,” Jessica says, glaring at her.
“Leave her alone, Sarah,” Minnie says with a sigh.
Jessica keeps her eyes fixed on Minnie. Today, Minnie’s hair is down; it tumbles over one shoulder and down almost to her waist in one mass of perfectly shaped waves. She is clad in a long, pale green tunic, black tights and ballet flats. A pang of envy beats against Jessica’s chest. I wish I could dress like that and look stunning. She shakes her head. Oh, snap out of it, Jessica. You want to know more about story theatre. That’s all that matters to you. Nothing else.
“I want to be a part of this troupe.”
Minnie’s eyebrows snap up. “Really?”
“She’s joking. Isn’t that right, Jessica?” Sarah says. “Don’t you remember the time back in seventh grade when Mrs. Simmons told you to never audition for another play?”
Jessica bites down hard on her lower lip. That had been the worst day of her life, and Mrs. Simmons–the drama teacher–didn’t have the decency to tell Jessica that in privacy: she had to let Jessica know in front of the entire class, in front of Minnie and Sarah. Jessica doesn’t cry much, she never has. But after she got home from school that afternoon, she sobbed for hours.
She didn’t give up, though. With a lot of support and encouragement from her family, Jessica managed to rebuild her confidence, enough to try again.
She had been in eighth grade and in her first year at Rock Hill Secondary School when she auditioned for a minor role in Greece, a production put on by the school drama club. Jessica thought her audition went well–despite the fact that she had been nervous–and believed that she got the part. But she never received a call back. Only that time, the drama teacher told her that she needed to improve on her acting skills. Quite dramatically. What the teacher really meant to tell Jessica was that she had raw, natural talent. It just needed to be refined. That’s how Jessica interpreted that critique anyway.
Jessica has spent the last three years working on improving her acting skills. She even wrote her own monologues, then had Jenny, her best friend, film her acting them. Jessica posted some of those videos on YouTube, but very few people have viewed them. And no one left any good comments. Jessica, though, never took that as a negative; Jenny even told her that she’s a good actress. Jessica just needs one professional actor to take a chance on her. She has hoped that Annie would be that one special person, but Annie has made every lame excuse under the sun to not give Jessica a chance. Regardless, Jessica is not going to give up.
Jessica shoots Sarah a scathing look. “That’s in the past now, Sarahdumbbitch, so why don’t you leave it there?”
Sarah gives her an even more menacing look, but Minnie holds up her hand in a gesture that stops Sarah from unleashing a hail of razor-sharp words.
“Forget it, Sarah. This is so not worth our time. We’re not joining Adam’s story theatre troupe because the only people who are going to sign up for it are the geeks, losers and the people who’d like to think they are star actors, but in reality, they can’t act worth crap,” Minnie says.
“Like Jessica,” Sarah says. “You’re never going to get a part in any play, so give it up, wannabe.”
Minnie nods her head up and down, then tosses her hair over one shoulder.
Jessica’s lips tremble and her eyes fill up with tears. It feels as if Minnie has just thrust a sword through her abdomen, then twisted it. Jessica has hoped that Minnie would have warmed up to her by now, but obviously, that hasn’t happened.
Jessica walks past the two girls, keeping her eyes peeled on the door. Once she steps out into the hallway, she crumbles. The tears flow down her face, obscuring her vision. Ahead, at the end of the hallway, near the foyer, the words, STORY THEATRE WORKSHOPS appear as a blur before her eyes.
Jessica stops in her tracks, wipes her eyes dry, gets her emotions under control, then looks again at the words. They inhabit almost the entire billboard and they are written in bright red ink. Jessica walks up to the billboard, studying the words as if she has never seen them before. So, that’s what Sarah and Minnie were talking about. How could I have missed this? Her eyes fall to the information below. It reads:
Workshops will be held in the cafeteria, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 21st and 22nd.
Times: 3-6pm. Anyone who would like to be involved in acting, music and back stage management (outside of school) can come to the workshops.
For more information, call Adam McAllister at 250-490-0896.
Jessica chews on her lower lip. Last August, the drama club had been cut from the school program because of a lack of funding, and because of a lack of interest on behalf of the teachers. They had been more interested in starting up and funding an astronomy club and geology club. The people who had anticipated joining the drama club this year either auditioned to get into the theatre school, took acting classes elsewhere, or put theatre on hold for another year.
Jessica knows at least fifteen people in Rock Hill High who attend the theatre school, Minnie and Sarah included. She wonders how Adam is going to compete with an organization that has been around for five years; one that’s quite successful. Are people going to join his story theatre troupe, and is he going to capture the interest of everyone in this school? In this town? Oh, whatever! I don’t care how many people show up to his workshops. This is my opportunity to get my foot in the theatre door, and I’m not going to let anyone stop me or tell me that I can’t do it. I am going to be a star.