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Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, ACT I (Theatre Illuminata)by Lisa Mantchev
The fairies flew suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, busy assessing her reflection in the looking glass and thinking perhaps she shouldnt have dyed her hair blue on this particular morning, turned to glare at them when they rocketed past the end of her nose for the third time in as many minutes.
“If you make me spill this stuff on the stage,” she said, “Ill squeeze you until your heads pop off.”
Unperturbed by the threat, Mustardseed swung by her like a demented pendulum. “Going in there with fairy guts on your hands isnt going to make a good impression!”
“Nervous about your call to the Theater Managers Office?” Moth asked, chasing Peaseblossom in circles.
“Not the best of timing,” Cobweb singsonged, hanging upside down at the end of his line, “mucking up your head right before a ten oclock summons.”
“Im not getting called on the carpet with my roots showing.” Bertie coated another section with Cobalt Flame liquid concentrate, pilfered just an hour ago from the Wardrobe Department. “Do we like the blue?”
“Better than Crimson Pagoda,” Peaseblossom said. “Your entire head looked like it was on fire that time.”
“Maybe I should have taken Black Cherry.” Bertie stuck her tongue out at the Beatrice-in- the-mirror. “Maybe Cobalt Flame will encourage the Theater Manager to get creative with his punishment.”
“Hell probably just remove the desserts from the Green Room again,” Peaseblossom said.
The others groaned at the prospect, then Moth perked up to suggest, “He could make you scrub out the toilets in the Ladies Dressing Room instead.”
“Or scrape the gum off the bottoms of the auditorium seats,” said Cobweb.
“Ew.” Bertie wrapped another strand of hair in aluminum foil and crimped it against her head. “An excessive punishment for whistling a scene change, dont you think?”
“ ‘Whistling a scene change?” Peaseblossom giggled. “Thats a euphemism and a half! You set off the cannon, blew holes through three set pieces, and set the fire curtain on fire.”
“Quite the valuable lesson in emergency preparedness, I think,” Bertie said.
Moth twitched his ears at her. “Pondering our recent criminal history, I must admit there have been more pyro-technic explosions than usual.”
“Maybe the Theater Manager thinks youre doing it to impress Nate,” Cobweb said.
Bertie felt the blood rush to her face until her cheeks were stained Shocking Pink. “Shut up.”
“It is like youre acting a part for the dashing pirate lads benefit,” Mustardseed said.
Bertie snagged his wire, reeling him in until he reached eye level. “Whats that supposed to mean?”
The fairy twitched. “You know. The hair dye, the black clothes”
“The clove cigarettes!” Moth added from below.
“The drinking and cursing,” said Cobweb.
“Is it method acting?” Mustardseed asked.
“This is a theater.” Bertie, annoyed by the inquisition, dropped him onto the stage. Several feet of slack cable landed atop the fairy in a slithering heap.
“Oh!” Peaseblossom said. “Youve buried him alive!”
“I told you it was silly to use the wires when you can fly perfectly well without them,” Bertie said.
“But theyre fun to swing on!” Moth protested as the fairies shed their harnesses and went to investigate the tomb of their fallen comrade.
Indefatigable, Mustardseed emerged from the pile, rubbing his bum. “If its not for Nate, is it because of your abandonment issues?”
There was a very long silence before Bertie told her reflection, “The only reason Im friends with any of you is because I outgrew the von Trapps, one annoying Austrian at a time.”
“You could have joined the Lost Boys,” Moth said.
“They did nothing but whiz on trees, and Im not properly equipped for that.”
“So youre stuck with us because of your innate inability to pee standing up?” Peaseblossom put her hands on her hips as she hovered nearby.
“Thats right.” Bertie used her brush to stir the dye.
“We can do lots of stuff besides pee standing up,” Moth said.
“Like sword fighting!” Cobweb slashed and parried with great enthusiasm.
“Call the pirates and the shipwreck scene!” Mustardseed flailed his tiny yellow boots in an improvised hornpipe.
“Im not supposed to make scene changes and thus Im appalled by the very suggestion,” Bertie said. “Youre a bad influence, Mustardseed.”
“The rules have never stopped you before.” Peaseblossom looked knowing. “You just dont want Nate seeing you with your head all slimy.”
Bertie put on her best Lady of the Manor air. “He neednt wait for an engraved invitation to pay a social call.”
“But he prefers you pin a note to the Call Board,” Peaseblossom reminded her.
The majority of the Players drifted in and out of existence according to the summonses pinned to the Call Board, but the more flamboyant, dashing, or mad the character, the more freedom they had to move about the Théâtre. The fairies dogged Berties every step, whereas Nate was one for protocol.
Probably all that rot about following the captains orders.
Berties entire head tingled as the ammonia burned her scalp. She tried not to scratch at it, because that way lay madness . . . madness and funky-colored fingertips. “It has nothing to do with Nate. I need to finish my hair before the Stage Manager gets back.”
“He should be thankful its only dye on your head and not paint all over the stage,” Peaseblossom said.
Bertie glanced at the walls of her room. The three connected scenic flats were part of the Théâtre Illuminatas enormous collection of backdrops, stored in the flies overhead and in the backstage scenic dock when not in use. “I havent painted my set in years.”
Lights up on BERTIE, AGE 7. She is painting over a dingy cream wall with something labeled “Violet Essence” as the STAGE MANAGER glowers at her.
Its my bedroom, and Ill do what I want with it.
(To prove her point, she splashes magenta and silver over the violet and smears it around with her hands.)
(grabbing for BERTIES ear and missing)
You can answer to the Theater Manager for this mess!
(The THEATER MANAGER arrives with MR. TIBBS, the Scenic Manager.)
(turning to the THEATER MANAGER)
Why you ever decided she needed to sleep here, on the stage, is beyond my powers of reckoning!
She needed a bedroom, and this is the best we could do.
(His face turns three shades of crimson and steam hisses out of his ears like a teakettle.)
But this isn̵
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