Will Leigh and Rachel find the ghost of George Bernard Shaw before he wreaks havoc on their musical? You’ll have to read on to find out! Join us as we return to the fabulous, library-inspired, time-travel, serial fiction romp through NYC that is The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans! Many thanks to the Grandview branch of Mid-Continent Public Library for reinventing serial fiction on their blog, and for sharing it with us each week!
The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 13: A Face in the Flowers
Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, February 22, 2012.
They arrived at the theater slightly before rehearsal was supposed to start in the hopes that it’d be easier to look around. Unfortunately, there were stage hands running around crazily, fixing last minute props. The costume mistress was going through the entire wardrobe, lamenting that the ruffles weren’t quite as authentic as she’d have preferred. The director was pacing the stage, talking up a storm to the assistant director who looked ill.
“Right…” Leigh took in the scene before them. “Where do you want to start?”
“You take the changing rooms, I’ll take backstage?” Rachel suggested.
They set off in different directions, trying to look nonchalantly inconspicuous. The trouble was…there was no sign of the ghost. Rachel asked a few stagehands whether they’d seen anything or felt cold spots, and they asked her if she were feeling all right. Leigh went through the changing rooms one by one in a methodical fashion, which led to the stage manager asking her if she would kindly desist from snooping. Leigh merely stared at him, and he retreated, muttering about ‘uppity actresses with no concept of privacy.’
By the time rehearsal started, Rachel had discovered precisely nothing valuable. (She’d learned two chorus members were sneaking off backstage occasionally to “rehearse privately,” but she couldn’t see how that would help lure a ghost.) Henry Higgins was threatening to repeat his behavior of the pre-Broadway tryout (he’d locked himself in his dressing room and refused to go on, only emerging an hour before the curtain was supposed to go up), and the director retaliated by informing him that he’d had all the locks removed from the dressing rooms.
“Very unprofessional behavior.” Rachel muttered. “The show must go on.”
“That’s why it was so easy to get into the dressing rooms.” Leigh told Rachel. “I didn’t have to pick the locks.”
“You’re like a scary Girl Scout, always prepared.” Rachel looked around as the rest of the extras were ushered onstage. “We’ll just have to hope he turns up during rehearsal.”
The hard thing about trying to track down a ghost during a dress rehearsal was that people actually expected you to rehearse. Normally, a Broadway rehearsal was something Rachel would enjoy. She was enjoying it, but it was hard to do so while you were keeping one eye open for a ghostly appearance. The stage manager kept corralling people and making them stay in sight. Every time Rachel started inching towards the curtains, she was told “to stay with the herd.” For once she didn’t argue. The stage manager had a very menacing voice.
Rehearsal itself was interesting as usual, and it was easy for Rachel to get mildly distracted from her purpose. Henry Higgins was striding around the London street set, talk-singing about the horror of Eliza’s speech while Eliza glared at him from behind her basket of flowers.
Finally, Rachel was able to slip away during a five minute break to have another look around the orchestra pit, which proved fruitless. By now she was ready to stand in the middle of the stage and scream. If they didn’t find him tonight, he’d probably show up during the opening performance, and god knows what havoc he would wreak then.
She made it back onstage before anyone could yell at her, and Eliza had just started singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” when a scream tore through the theater. One of the actresses playing An Elegant Bystander was sobbing hysterically and pointing at the flower cart. “There was A FACE! A face in the flowers! Right there, I swear, staring right up at me. It had a BEARD! ALL EYES AND A BEARD!”
Two extras led her away quietly to have a lie down while the director covered his face with hands muttering, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, oh my god, we’re DOOMED.”
“Break, everyone! Start again in ten.” The assistant director wondered privately if it was too late to become a dentist like his mother had always suggested.
Rachel ducked behind the flower cart looking for the bearded flowers. They looked innocent enough to her.
Leigh joined Rachel behind the flower cart. “Anything?”
“Nothing, but fake nosegays.” Rachel kicked a cart wheel in disgust.
“Well, now we know when he’s likely to appear,” Leigh pointed out. “The musical numbers.”
“It’s probably going to be opening night.” Rachel took a deep breath. “Told you.”
The rest of the rehearsal passed uneventfully, in spite of Rachel hoping that George Bernard Shaw would change his mind and appear at the last minute.
They stayed with Amanda again that night. After the drama of rehearsal the three of them were much too excited to go to bed right away so they drank hot, creamy coffee and ate cold apple strudel that Amanda claimed her mother wouldn’t stop sending her. “She thinks being an actress means I’m going to starve or something.” After the strudel she sat on the kitchen table and played her ukulele for them, singing numbers like “Adelaide’s Lament,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Something Sort of Grandish.” After a final round of “Memories Are Made Of This” and a final cup of coffee, it was finally time for sleep.
After the others had drifted off, Rachel lay awake due to too much caffeine and worrying. What if the plan didn’t work? What if they couldn’t get GBS to leave the play in peace? What if they were stuck in the fifties? She supposed she could always be a secretary, but she didn’t want to be a secretary the rest of her life. She wanted to have adventures and travel the world.
Besides that, she didn’t want to stay in this time. Sure, it was fun to visit, but Rachel liked where she was from time-wise. That the nice thing about being from NOW, you could look back and enjoy history without having to live with it day to day.
“Leigh!” Rachel whispered urgently.
“Whatsamatter?” Leigh flailed, groping under her pillow before realizing it was just Rachel. “Don’t scare me like that.”
“If we are stuck here forever, don’t let me settle down and become a housewife. I can’t do it. I’ll go crazy in suburbia!”
Leigh opened one eye and stared at her. “Nobody is going to let you become a housewife, least of all me. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay. “
“Okay.” Rachel tried to keep calm. Suburbia was not in the cards. It simply wasn’t happening. Everything would be fine, and they’d return home. Simple as that.
“Besides,” Leigh added. “We wouldn’t settle down in suburbia. We’d become cat burglars and then retire to an island paradise with our ill-gotten gains.” She rolled over and went to sleep.
That was a past future Rachel could live with. She closed her eyes and drifted off.
To be continued…
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