38 Past Tense

I don’t think I have ever approached a rehearsal with less enthusiasm. I had spent the morning reviewing my lines for the first act, just to make sure that I at least looked good on that score. I figured that my probable clash with Jared was going to make me look bad enough without stumbling over lines when I was supposed to be off-book. I had spent an hour before the rehearsal in one of the open rooms, working on my screaming. I figured I could give a reasonable account of myself all around – except, of course, for the scenes alone with “my husband.”

While we were waiting to start, I sat next to Jo on the extreme stage left side of the rehearsal room. Jared saw me and made it a point to sit on the opposite side. Jo noticed me watch him come in.

“Is something wrong, Marsh?” she asked, following my stare.

I turned to her with a rueful smile. “Jared and I had sort of a… disagreement outside of rehearsals.”

“Really? About what?”

Now I didn’t really want to talk about it any more, at least not to somebody I hadn’t already told – or who had otherwise not been let in on the secret – but I had decided by that time that stonewalling wasn’t going to work well in the kinds of friendships Marsha had. With one of my buddies, I could just say that I didn’t want to talk about it and he’d understand. In fact, he might even be relieved. But that wasn’t going to work, here.

“We… were trying to… to get to know each other better. And he… well, I wasn’t comfortable with one of his ideas.”

“Which was? Tell me!”

“He suggested that we should… um, become intimate.”

She raised her eyebrows at that. “How intimate?”

I looked away. I had already made things worse by telling Nikki; I felt as if I were tattling on Jared, now. But I wasn’t sure what I could say to Jo that would satisfy her. I really should have asked Tina to give me some pointers on girl-to-girl communications. But I took a deep breath and answered.

“He thought we should just hook up. That we should have sex.”

“You’re kidding.”

I shook my head.

“He really doesn’t know you very well, does he?”

“Well, that was sort of the point. He was trying to get to know me better. To break the ice so that we could be more comfortable on stage together.”

“Oh yeah, that worked really well, didn’t it?”

It surprised me that she was more scornful than outraged on my behalf. Was it because she hadn’t seen me crying, as Lee Ann had? And didn’t know about my situation to the extent that Nikki had? I was beginning to be even more certain that I had overreacted to his proposition. Nikki had said that his approach was wrong – but what if it was more that he was clumsy than that he had been inappropriate?

“OK, let’s get started!” Alvin called out. “We’re going to be working bit by bit. Nikki is standing by with a copy of the script, so if you get stuck, just call ‘line’ and she’ll prompt you. First bit is the beginning of the show until Giles’s exit. Marsh and Jared, please.”

We came face to face very quickly, as I had only a couple of lines before his entrance. Alvin must have really reamed him out, as the resentment in his eyes was plain, and at times he almost spat his lines at me. He didn’t even pretend to try to kiss me when the script indicated it. I didn’t too much better; trying to play ‘loving’ under these conditions was impossible, and I felt more timid – or intimidated – than anything.

We slogged through the scene pretty much perfectly on our lines and blocking, but the acting was a disaster. Oh, I could tell he was trying. Every so often he would catch himself and try to speak gently to me, but it didn’t last. The murmuring from the rest of the cast indicated that they had noticed, but Alvin didn’t stop us. I wasn’t really sure what he could do, even if he had.

“O… K.” was all Alvin said when we had finished. “Marsh, why don’t you take a moment to collect yourself, and we’ll add Tom. We’ll go until Mollie and Christopher exit together.”

I thought that both Jared and I needed to sit down while somebody else worked, but there isn’t a moment in the first scene when we’re both offstage. So I took a deep breath, tried to get into the mindset of a new guesthouse hostess and smiled at Tom when I thought I was ready.

I might have overdone the cheerfulness a bit, but the interaction with Tom, in the role of Christopher Wren, felt much more comfortable. I only needed to ask for a line once, and I thought I was doing reasonably well on my character, at least until Jared came back onstage. He is supposed to be cold to Christopher and then pleasant to me, and he even stopped himself for a moment to change his mood, but then delivered his line to me, ‘Oak Room, did you say?’ to me with clenched teeth.

Tom and I finished the bit, and Alvin gave us notes.

“Marsh, don’t forget to turn off the radio before you go to greet Tom. Tom, I’d like to see you a bit more flamboyant when you enter and a bit more scornful about the taxi giving up at the gate. Excellent greeting to Giles. Jared, look at his hand for a moment before deciding to take it. Let us see from the start that he’s rubbed you the wrong way. Marsh, a bit colder on the line about being ‘married just a year.’ You should have noticed that Giles didn’t like Chris. Let that influence you, as well as his prying questioning. OK, let’s try that again.”

The bit ran a bit smoother the second time, although Jared didn’t even make eye contact with me when he addressed me, and this pattern continued throughout our rehearsal of scene one. When we were on together, the hostility was palpable. When I was onstage without him, I was able to perform well enough, given the early phase of rehearsals. When I wasn’t onstage, I had the opportunity to watch him interact with the other actors, and I have to admit that I was impressed. He didn’t miss a line, and he seemed perfectly in character. It was only when I was onstage with him that he seemed to have a problem. Fortunately, we only had one other extended interaction in scene one, and we were supposed to be arguing a bit. But of all the bits we worked on, the two in which we were onstage alone together were the only ones that Alvin didn’t comment on and run again.

We finished the scene with Paravicini’s ominous closing speech and I wished once more that I had just gone to the experimenters and had them change me back so that I could do that role. It had none of the complications I was now facing. It wasn’t as big, of course, but it had its memorable parts, and I wouldn’t have had to deal with this conflict with Jared. It was too late for that now, and holding on to the role I had was uppermost in my mind. Given Jared’s performance, what if Alvin decided to keep him and drop me?

“Ok, good work, folks,” Alvin announced when we had run that last bit twice. Lets take a short break. Jared and Marsh, come with me.”

He left the rehearsal room without even looking back. Jared looked at me and then hurriedly followed him, carrying his script, while most of the cast got up to grab sodas or chat on cell phones. As I reached for my book bag, afraid that I might not be coming back, Jo grabbed my arm and whispered, “Good luck.”

I saw Alvin standing outside a room, holding open a door, which he closed once we had joined Jared inside. The two of us waited nervously to see what he was going to say.

He took his time, staring at us both, scornfully. “OK, I hope you two know that this is not acceptable. Jared, exactly what the Hell were you thinking?”

“Hold on, Alvin,” Jared protested. “We already spoke about this!”

“Yeah, and I’m not seeing any effects of that. Poor Marsh is still looking at you as though you’re a potential rapist. I’m not sure it’s safe for me to keep you in the show.”


“Hey, Alvin,” I interjected. “That’s not fair. Jared’s doing a great job with his part. We’re just… having a rough moment or so. We can work this out. It’s not as if he tried to force me or anything. He just made an improper suggestion.”

“And why did he do that?” Alvin asked, rounding on me. “You led him on, didn’t you?”


“Maybe I need to bounce both of you.”

“You are out of line, Alvin!” Jared said. “Marsh didn’t do anything wrong! I… may have… oh, Hell. I’m really sorry, Marsh. This was my fault.”

I couldn’t say anything. To my shame, I had just burst out into tears yet again. I couldn’t help it – I had been unfairly accused, and now faced ejection from the best role I’ve ever had the chance to do.

“You two work things out,” Alvin snapped at us, and slammed the door as he left.

“It’s just not fair,” I sobbed. “He didn’t even give us a chance.”

“I don’t know what the Hell he’s doing,” Jared agreed. “And, by the way, Marsh, thanks for standing up for me.”

“You, too,” I sniffed.

“Yeah, well, I was watching you. You’re doing a great job and I don’t know how he’s going to replace you. He’s out of his mind.”

“How about you? You were right on character, line perfect…”

“Uh huh, except when we were on together. Bastard. He–“ Jared suddenly interrupted his rant and stared at me. “I don’t believe it!”


“Do you realize what just happened? We defended each other!”

“Yeah, so–“ Then I got it, and my tears stopped suddenly. “He tricked us!”

“Or something.” He started laughing. “It’s a classic maneuver. How do you unite people? Give them a common enemy!”

I laughed along with him, more in relief than anything else. “Oh, he’s good, isn’t he? He never meant to bounce us in the first place!”

“Well, at least he gave us a chance, to…” He stopped. “Marsh, I meant it. I am really sorry. I, uh… I talked it over with one of my roommates, and he said it was the stupidest come-on he’d ever heard. He shrugged. “I’ve never actually done one before, but I really wanted to, and… Oh well. Um, have you?”

“Absolutely not,” I told him. “I think hook-ups are pretty stupid, actually.”

He looked embarrassed. “At least when I do them, apparently.” He sighed. “I guess I’m not the kind of guy that girls swoon over.”

I wasn’t going to reply to that point. “You know, you said you wanted to run for office one day, but you don’t strike me as the charismatic, vote-for-me type aspiring politician.”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I’m probably gonna wind up as a behind-the-scenes policy wonk or something. “I’d just really like to be the guy out front. I think I understand politics a lot better than half the people in office.” He looked at me sideways and grimaced. “I guess I really demonstrated charisma with you, didn’t I?”

“I didn’t do any better,” I pointed out. “I went crying to my roommate, and you hadn’t touched me, or anything.” I tilted my head. “Did you really think that was going to help?”

He chuckled. “I don’t know. I figured that if we had sex, a kiss would seem kind of like nothing by comparison. Besides, you’re really attractive, and… meh..”

He was being really friendly and I no longer felt threatened by him at all. Marsha probably would have thanked him for the compliment, so, I simply said, “Thank you.”

“So are we friends, now?” he asked, offering his hand.

“Friends,” I agreed, shaking his hand. Then with another laugh, I impulsively hugged him. After a moment, he hugged me back.

“I guess we should go back in there and tell Alvin his trick worked,” I said, when we unclenched after a few seconds.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Oh. Actually, why don’t I go ahead while you fix your makeup?”

My makeup? I put my hand to my face, where I could still feel the after-effects of my tears. “OK, thanks,” I told him. Fix my makeup, huh? Tina never told me about that one.


  1. von says:

    Overall I like those changes you did make. My other previous comments still apply.

    >>I wasn’t going to reply to that point.

    Two things:
    1) He does answer it.
    2) The line isn’t necessary.

    I am wondering if you mean to imply that Alvin planned *the whole thing*?
    IE: see the problem, force them to interact knowing or hoping (having seen Jared’s looks)that Jared would overstep and Marsha would overreact, knowing he would find out, etc.

  2. Harri says:

    I LOVE IT!

  3. Harri says:

    “von says:

    I am wondering if you mean to imply that Alvin planned *the whole thing*?”

    It doesn’t look that way to me, he just used it to fix the situation, so he planned the argument in this scene but not the date…

  4. von says:

    Well, I am not saying it definitely does look that way. But it would really be a notch on the belt of the whole ‘great director’ thing if he did.

  5. Maiden Anne says:

    Well, I still don’t like Jared, but Alvin is a pretty clever director. I wonder how Marsha would have handled the whole situation.

    >>I didn’t too much better;

    Should be:

    “I didn’t do too much better”?

  6. Michael says:

    “When we on together” missing a word

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