31 Matchmakers might get burned

After dinner, I decided to put the finishing touches on my EuroLit paper. I had had a bit of trouble defending the idea that the women had to dress as men because society limited them. I kept running into ideas that seemed contradictory. On the one hand, the Church, which effectively set the social rules for medieval Europe, was categorical in stating that women were inferior to men. On the other hand, I kept running into statements that women worked alongside their husbands in the fields and were employed in workshops and were brewers and weavers and all kinds of things. I was having trouble understanding what “inferior” meant in those days, since it didn’t seem to mean what I had assumed. I suspected that I was trying too hard; this wasn’t a history paper, after all. I didn’t want to make something up, but wasn’t the point just to show that I understood the literature and could argue a position?

What I finally wrote was that it wasn’t as simple as I had initially assumed. Each woman seemed to have her own reason – for Rosalind and Zinevra it was simply to disguise their identities when they were fleeing from danger. Viola’s case seemed to be a lot less straightforward. She doesn’t seem to be in any danger at all, and it is far from clear why she couldn’t simply seek employment as herself. It seems that the whole purpose of the disguise is so that there could be a confusing plot. That was a very distressing conclusion for me to reach, as it made Shakespeare sound a lot like the writers of horror movies; if their characters acted intelligently there would be no story. But the text seemed to support the conclusion. All the same, I think my paper would go over better if I could have supported some kind of anti-female prejudice as the reason.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I finished, and decided that I would reward myself by delivering the jobs I had completed and collecting payment for them. My customers were quite pleased to see them done so quickly and thanked me effusively. I could definitely get used to this.

Geoff sat next to me again the next morning. “Good morning, Marsha!”

I had to laugh at his enthusiasm. That, at least, was still familiar. “Good morning, Geoff!” I answered him.

“Did you give Lee Ann my number?”

“Yes, and she saved it in her phone.”


I was feeling a bit guilty about seeming to participate in what I was pretty sure had to be a charade. “You know, Geoff, I’m pretty sure that you’re wasting your time, there.”

He just grinned. “Well, if you want me for yourself…”

“No!” I said as strenuously as I could without raising my voice. I felt myself blushing and that just embarrassed me even more.

He laughed at me, and told me that I would have to “wait my turn.” At that moment I decided not to interfere any more in his little flirtation with Lee Ann. I had never seen him in action, flirting with a girl before, and being the target didn’t make me comfortable. I was pretty sure, though, that he could handle himself, and besides, his attentions to Lee Ann would probably keep him from making a serious pass at me.

I’m afraid my discomfort at interacting with Geoff spilled over a bit into Bio lab, as I snapped at Ron several times, and didn’t laugh at anything, even though he was clearly trying to be funny. He even whispered to me, “What’s gotten in to you? Are you on your period?” which just made my mood even more sour.

I think part of my mood was probably due to my worry about what Alvin had in mind. What if he had decided that the solution to my discomfort with kissing Jared was to have us kiss over and over until we were desensitized, or something? I was committed to doing a good job with this role, but the prospect was somewhat sickening.

I couldn’t do anything about that now, but I could try to make as good an impression as possible by working on my lines. If I showed up already knowing scene one by heart, might that make him cut me more slack? At the same time, I understood that I did have a real problem that had to be solved. I just wanted to find a painless way to do it.

At rehearsal that evening, I carried my script with me, but referred to it as little as possible. And Alvin noticed. He didn’t say anything in front of the cast, but as we took a short break between working through scene one and starting on scene two, he walked passed me and said, “Good job on learning your lines so quickly, Marsh.” I had been a bit shaky the first time we did my scenes, but was definitely starting to gain confidence as we went on and it felt very good to have my work acknowledged; I was even able, for the moment, to forget about what was going to happen at the end of rehearsal. But rehearsal ended all too soon.

“Good job again, all,” Alvin said. “I’m starting to see your characters develop. On Sunday, we’re going to try a full run-through of act  one  so that I can see how far we’ve come. Please remember that you are expected to do it without your scripts, but with prompting.” And then, just as I was hoping he might have forgotten, he added, “Jared and Marsh, could you please stick around for a bit?”

Jared had obviously not been warned. “What’s up, Alvin?” he asked as the rest of the cast started filing out, chatting as they went. Jo gave me a curious look, but said nothing.

“Hold on a sec, Jared,” Alvin replied, as he held a quick conversation with some of the departing actors. Jared looked at me to see if I knew what was going on, but I didn’t have any real answers for him. I was busy trying to keep myself calm and hoping that my imagination was just running out of control.

“OK, you two,” Alvin finally said when we were alone. “You are playing a couple who has only been married for a year, and I want to see some intimacy on-stage, but so far, you look very uncomfortable together.”

“Hey, don’t blame me,” Jared protested. “I’m perfectly comfortable with Marsh. She’s the one who’s not comfortable.”

“Well you see, Jared,” Alvin went on, “that reaction is exactly what I’m talking about. Even more than the rest of the cast, you two need to be a team. Don’t blame Marsh. For all you know, it’s you that is making her uncomfortable.

“Look, intimacy can be difficult on stage because of the normal tension – sexual and otherwise – between actors who don’t know each other very well. So I would like the two of you to become friends. If you could get to know each other outside of rehearsals, that might be helpful. I’m not telling you to date – in fact, that would be a very bad idea – but your scenes together will be easier for both of you if you are friends and can really trust and be comfortable with each other.”

“How is that going to help?” I asked. “What does it matter how well we know each other? Aren’t we just acting anyway?”

“Intimacy is something that tends to affect people at a visceral level,” Alvin explained. “Acting is not just counterfeiting feelings. As human beings, we cannot help but feel, and feelings can take control. Right now, what I’m seeing is feelings of discomfort. Those are very hard to conceal, so you need to get rid of them. Then you will have room to add the feelings that are appropriate for your characters.”

“So… if we’re supposed to be newlyweds, wouldn’t dating be a good idea?” Jared suggested, and I couldn’t help hearing a bit of a leer in his voice. It made me wonder how the real Marsha would have handled this. Would she have been attracted to him and eager to try the dating idea? I really couldn’t tell. I’ve never been able to figure out what girls look for in a guy’s appearance. Some of the weirdest looking guys seem to wind up with really cute girlfriends. Jared was… well, no more athletic than I had been, and shorter. My eyes were even with his chin, so he was probably no more than about 5’7” or 5’8”. He had bright red hair and a fair complexion, but hazel eyes rather than the green I would have expected. I would probably not have figured him for competition if he and I had been in pursuit of the same girl, but I’d been wrong about that in the past.

“No, it really wouldn’t,” Alvin said. “I’ve seen couples in productions before, and it’s dangerous, especially with new couples who are still working out their relationship. The worst I’ve seen was – and this was in a professional productions, actually – was a couple who were having marital problems, I think one of them had cheated on the other, and they had to play love scenes together. I’m sure you can imagine how much the resentment between them came out and utterly spoiled their performances. I don’t want that to happen, here.”

“But Naomi and Jack are dating, aren’t they?” Jared pointed out, apparently still intent on putting the make on me.

“Yes, they are,” admitted Alvin. “But they are not playing romantic roles opposite each other. Their interactions are supposed to be relatively stressful until the end. The risk is not nearly as great.”

“OK, we’ll do it,” Jared said, as if he had a right to speak for me. “Why don’t we meet at the Student Grill after classes tomorrow, say 2:00?”

I shrugged my acquiescence. I wasn’t really comfortable with the whole thing, but it was certainly better than the scenario I had dreamed up. And… I did have a problem that was affecting my performance. I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of intentionally meeting a boy alone somewhere, but the Grill is pretty public. I mean, how bad could this really be?


  1. von says:

    I like the middle of the scene best. I don’t know if it is me, or you, but I find you a much better read when you are doing dialoge. Maybe it is the ‘inner struggle’ issue you raised in your letter to me… I like to see it as it is played out extrenally, and less with the private thoughts.

    I believe that the whole second part of this scene would do much better as dialogue/action.

  2. Russ says:

    You mean after the rehearsal? I thought I mostly had. I’ll take a look to see if it can be expanded, but Marsh’s reactions will be pure narrative – not something mentioned to the others, since they contain observations of the change that cannot be shared.

  3. von says:

    If you really need to force the reactions out of him, then yes. I guess I don’t see the need.

    “Hey Jared, Marsh, come on over here for a minute.”

    When he had us alone, he said,
    “Listen, you two have some tough scenes, pretending you are newlyweds and all. So I have a bit of an out of class assignment. I would like the two of you to hang around each other whenever you can out of class. Not date… I don’t need to deal with a relationship in the middle of play rehersal. Just casual things, hanging around each others rooms, talking of trivial things, eating togeher in the dining room, that kind of thing. I really think that that will help you two to be at ease on stage.”

    He walked away and the two of us looked at each other.

    “He’s probably right.” Jared said.

    “Um, well, yeah.” I said, nervously, “that’s why he’s the director.”

    “When do you want to start?”

    “I don’t know,” I said, which was rather startlingly true. This sounded easier than what I was scared Alvin was going to say, but it still scared me to death, “when is good for you? I have this sewing business, and it keeps me awfully busy. But I want to do a good job on the play.”

    “How about we go over our schedules together. Say, at the Grill, tommorrow at two? Are you free then?”

    I nodded, and then forced a, “Yea, that would be OK, I mean, fine.”

    He looked at me, in a way that was a little more interestedly than I would have liked, or that I shared. Just then I heard a footsteps behiind me.

    “Are you going to be able to do this, Marsh?”

    I turned, it was Alvin.

    “I need to know I can count on you, Marsh. If you can’t handle this thing with Jared the play isn’t going to work for you….”

    “I’m fine.” I said in a panic, “It’s hard for me, as you have see. But I really want to do this play. I will make it work.”

    Even if that meant hanging around some boy that I was worried was interested in me, and kissing him in front of everyone.

    that kind of thing.

  4. von says:

    he looked at me as he walked away….


  5. von says:

    BTW. Just IMHO. I hate the Eurolit paper. From the begining, till now, all it does is distract me.

    I want to hear more from his sister, and his old best friend.


  6. Russ says:

    Tina and Chad will show up again in a couple of updates. I felt the EuroLit paper was something important for Marsh to agonize over, though.

  7. von says:

    Ah, well, if you enjoy it, I will just wait patiently for Teen and Chad to show back up.

    I am still meditating on my ending. It fits everything except one thing, and I think I could even manage that one thing. Tis fun, trying to imagine. (Not guess. I very much doubt you would choose my ending. Just imagine.)

  8. von says:

    Oh, BTW, I love the title of this chapter.

  9. von says:

    I so totally missed that you had updated this. What do you think? I think we are always going to differ on how much of the inward needs to be put forth (and quite a bit on what the inward is, obviously). But that is normal between people/writers.

    I think the whole ‘he was 5’7″ would go a lot better *after* they arranged the meeting… as he was walking back to his room, or something.

    I think the ‘let’s do *it*’ is a bit vague. If I was Marsh I would be confused as to what the ‘it’ was that they were going to ‘do’.

    I really liked my idea of him meeting with Alvin afterwards, but perhaps that went somewhere you don’t want to go.

    And I just viscerally dislike the line “I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of intentionally meeting a boy alone somewhere, but the Grill is pretty public. I mean, how bad could this really be?” I can’t even tell you why.

    But what do *you* think of your re-write? Does it move the scene where you want it to go? I am terribly handicapped by not knowing what you want to accomplish. I knew what *I* wanted to accomplish when I wrote that bit above… but the book has to end up making the points that you want made.

    (Kind of like how you hate the society I created in No Forwarding Address… but it is the reason I wrote the book, at least in part.)

  10. Russ says:

    I prefer the rewrite. I tend to have Marsh’s thoughts articulated when they happen, just because so much of the story, of necessity, is happening in Marsh’s head.

  11. von says:

    As you wish. Your book. I like your writing better then less you do of it… but it’s your book.

    keep writing.

  12. Harri says:

    I’m loving this. This chapter lacked a bit of, je ne sais quoi, I think it was a bit of a let down considering the big build-up with Marsha’s nerves and all, I would have thought at least a practice kiss, or maybe just getting used to being REALLY really close to kissing without actually kissing, so they could be comfortable that close without throwing them all the way in straight away.

  13. Maiden Anne says:

    >>as I snapped at Ron several times, and didn’t laugh at anything, even though he was clearly trying to be funny.

    >>I think part of my mood was probably due to my worry about what Alvin had in mind.

    These might be more readable and interesting if they were acted out together; if you had Marsh worrying about that evening, and thus missing what Ron said, or thinking about some possibility and so snapping at Ron. It’s just a thought. Sometimes I find the paragraphs were Marsh is just thinking difficult to work through. It is much easier if they are interspersed with dialogue or action.

    Other than that, interesting problem for Marsh. Her feminine emotions seem to be playing some part in how her masculine memories express themselves.

  14. Michael says:

    “Then you will room to add the feelings that are appropriate for your characters”

    Missing a word in there.

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