Sitting Twenty-Seven

Kidding Around

Harry and Shanisse were trying really, really, really hard not to be jealous about all the attention Golda was receiving for her musical. After all, the three of them started out as equal partners, and now it looked like it was Golda’s show, with two friends along for the ride to watch her success.

They hadn’t shown any outward signs of being disgruntled, but Chris noticed that they were definitely in pre-pout, ready to enter fully-fledged grouch. It was time for him to step in. He had been thinking about the situation for a day or two and decided to take a couple of ideas to Charrleen.

She was very busy, verging on hectic. But during a break in rehearsal, he found her backstage, and as they sipped their coffees, he shared the predicament. “Charrleen, you have two absolutely marvelous humans who are about ready to toss in the towel, because they’re not being bathed in enough attention.”

Charrleen smiled. “Ahh,” she said. “You mean Harry and Shanisse.”

“Exactly,” said Chris. “But I have some ideas. I know my ideas aren’t better than anyone else’s, except for those whose ideas are better.”

Charrleen really liked Chris—thought he was a special fellow. If she had more time…Well, she didn’t. That was that. “Explain it to me,” she said. “We have eight minutes before they call us back to the stage.”

Calmly and coolly, Chris gave her his plan. The music, he told her, was absolutely divine, and the idea of Golda wanting to take her special song all the way to the North Pole to see Santa Claus, to encourage him and uplift his spirits, was so cute and delightful that it surely was going to be an audience pleaser. He said he thought the weakness in the play was the means by which they traveled and a lack of extra characters to enhance it along the way.

So Chris suggested, to please Shanisse—and to put her clever idea into practice—that a huge game board be constructed onstage. It should be named, “This Way to the North Pole.” The spaces should be big enough that Golda could stand on them, pretending to be a game piece that gets moved around on the board.

Shanisse would also appear on stage with a gigantic foam die, which she would comically lift and toss, and the number on the die would motivate her to come over, pretend to pick up Golda and move her along the spaces of the board game. Wherever Golda landed would describe one of seven tasks she would have to do to get to the North Pole.

“You can pick your tasks,” Chris explained. “Helping out a poor person, dancing…whatever would add entertainment, and also inspire through the songs. So, she would do two of the tasks, and then Shanisse disappears. Golda doesn’t know where to go. Just then Harry, along with three friends, comes running by—dressed as elves. They squeal, ‘This way to the North Pole! This way to the North Pole!’ The next time they come in dressed as reindeer, and they call out, ‘This way to the North Pole! This way to the North Pole!’ Finally, they waddle out as penguins, and with squeaky voices they squeal, ‘This way to the North Pole! This way to the North Pole!’ Each time Shanisse appears with the die, rolls it and moves Golda along the spaces.”

He continued. “You, Charrleen, are along with Golda on the trip, because you’re Golda’s teacher, and you need to accompany the young girl to protect her from danger.”

Chris finished, looked at Charrleen, and said, “Well, you get the idea. I’m not a writer nor a producer, but occasionally I think cool.”

Charrleen was delighted and scurried off to make it so. She involved production assistants, stage hands and designers. Seamstresses worked on elf, reindeer and penguin costumes for four compact little actors.

Golda was so excited when Charrleen told her about Chris’s idea that she ran to find him and gave him the biggest hug he’d ever had in his life. It was measurable. Even though there had already been excitement onstage, the new ideas energized the entire cast, and put Harry and Shanisse back into equality—and also introduced a promotable and believable odyssey into the show, to propel the eight original songs, plus “Great Jubilation.”

Chris became the hero du jour.

Every day seemed to grant an opportunity for someone to step into the gap and make a difference. Nobody knew if the production would be great, but everybody wanted it to be great. Negotiations were still creeping along with the television network, for a seven o’clock live feed. But the optimism was palpable—giving credence to the good things that had already happened.

Chris was backstage and overheard Harry, Shanisse and Golda in a corner, screeching and clapping their hands. He saw them hugging each other over and over again. He smiled to himself. If the goal of Christmas was to bring glad tidings of great joy and peace on the Earth, he had certainly placed himself in the right cast.

 

Sitting Twenty-Eight

A Pregnant Pause

Charrleen decided that the name of the game Chris had dreamed up would be an even better title for the musical as a whole—better than “Golda’s Journey,” which was her most recent possibility. “This Way to the North Pole” was perfect.

Yet not everything was totally perfect. There were critics aplenty. Much of the criticism revolved around how quickly the show was being put together—how creatively irresponsible it was—even disrespectful—to other Broadway productions which often took two or three years to get up and running. Sometimes the cast members arrived for rehearsals depressed because they had spent too many hours perusing the Internet, reading all the negative posts by the naysayers.

Charrleen decided to address the situation. She made two rules: no Internet websites with comments and no attacks were allowed to be looked at by any of the team. And secondly, rehearsals would be closed to the public.

This became a problem for Dennis.

Dennis was one of the singers and dancers in the show, who appeared in three scenes with three costume changes. He was a very talented young man, who had found it difficult to find regular work in the big city, pinching him financially—especially now that his wife, Gwendolyn, was about to give birth to their first child. The sonogram showed them it was going to be a girl. They could hardly wait.

But the baby was late arriving. Gwendolyn was miserable. Her back ached, her ankles were swollen, and she felt bloated—above and beyond being pregnant. She felt like a Goodyear Blimp flying over a football game.

One morning before rehearsal, Gwendolyn begged Dennis to let her come. She promised to stay out of the way. She even used the word “unobtrusive.” He told her what the rule was, and why it was necessary. But Gwendolyn scratched his hair right behind his ears—something Dennis loved her to do, and whispered with her warm breath, sweetly into his face, “You’re so smart…you can come up with something.”

Dennis had already been thinking about it. He had scouted the theater and found an unused door near the loading gate, which had been blocked by a piece of wood. Pulling the plank free, the door actually opened. Because Dennis loved his Gwendolyn, and saw that she was so discomfited, he loaded her up into his car, drove to the back of the theater, and as he had prearranged, opened the door quietly, snuck her in, stealthily moved her down the hall, up a set of stairs to the balcony of the theater, where nobody ever went. He positioned her so she could see and hear but not be seen and heard. He brought along a comforter and a pillow, so she would be completely at ease and the baby would think they were at home on the bed.

Gwendolyn was so happy she broke into tears, which became sobbing. Dennis quieted her. Rehearsal began—a long one. It was so involved and intricate that Dennis forgot that Gwendolyn was up in the balcony.

All of a sudden, the side doors of the theater burst open. In stormed five policemen, guns drawn. Everyone stood stock-still, terrified. The cast held its collective breath.

One of the policemen came up on the stage and asked who was in charge. Charrleen stepped forward. “Well, sir, I guess that would be me.”

The policeman asked her to have everyone sit down. When they were all seated on the floor of the stage he explained.

“I’m the Chief of Police. Now, I want you all to stay calm,” he said in a fatherly way. “There’s probably nothing to be worried about at all. But we’ve received a bomb threat. A very specific one. The unidentified caller said that a car bomb had been placed into one of the cast member’s vehicles. Now, as I told you, most of these calls are just hoaxes—somebody bored or trying to get publicity. But I’m going to have to ask you all to stay here, with the doors locked, until we can go through every single car and make sure there’s no danger.”

Charrleen raised her hand like she was back in school. The Chief acknowledged her. “Yes?” he asked. Charrleen stood up and said, “How long will we need to be here?”

Mr. Police Chief smiled. “Well, I will tell you this. We’re working on it now. It’s slow. We have to function on the schedule of the bomb squad. You might want to call your friends or families and tell them that this might be an all-night thing.”

Out of nowhere, Golda spoke up loudly. “Neat! A sleepover!”

Everybody laughed—even the serious policeman. Charrleen raised her hand again. He smiled. “Just go ahead. You don’t need to ask permission to speak.”

“What about food?” she asked, blushing.

“We’ll get you food,” said the kind cop, “and we’ll keep you updated.”

With this, the five policemen left, locking the doors behind them. The cast members turned and looked at each other as if they’d landed on the moon and forgot their anti-gravity boots. Nobody was ready to go back to rehearsing. Nobody knew what to do.

For a few minutes Charrleen just let everybody chat and work off the nervous energy. It suddenly became church camp. People who knew nothing about each other except dance steps and lines from the show began to share little bits of their lives and stories with each other.

One member had become a dancer so he could eventually become a writer. Another lady was singing Broadway but aspired to become an opera singer. One young fellow admitted it was his first job—and was so nervous he was constantly twitching.

It was a beautiful time and ended up lasting almost a solid hour.

Dennis was so embroiled in the event that he completely forgot about Gwendolyn, in the balcony. They prepared to rehearse again, but just as they began, three policemen came walking in, carrying all sorts of goodies.

The chief trailed behind and stepped up to the stage to apologize for interrupting. “I just needed to let you know that the car bomb threat has been leaked to the press–maybe by the original caller, for all we know. But the whole city wants us to let you know that you’re being thought of—and people are praying for you. Luciano’s Pizza Parlor has sent over fifteen special pies for your dinner, and the Interstate Beverage Company sent over thirty 2-liter bottles of drink.”

Ice was brought in, cups and plates, and the factory known as “Sheets to the Wind” provided a small truckload of bedding. The rehearsal theater was turned into the best home anyone could ever expect to have, if they got stuck in an auditorium.

The cast ate, drank, sang, rehearsed lines. Dennis was so involved that he didn’t realize his wife was up there in the balcony, and that her water had broken. She was in labor. She had been that way for some time but decided to try to be quiet, so she wouldn’t get Dennis in trouble. But when her labor pains were only two minutes apart, she figured she had no choice but to speak up for herself.

As the cast was relaxing, eating and drinking, suddenly from the balcony came a scream. “Dennis! I’m sorry! I can’t be quiet any longer. I think I’m about ready to have the baby!”

Never had a room been silenced any quicker. Dennis slapped the top of his head, jumped to his feet and ran up the steps, discovering that his wife was on the verge of turning into a mother. He shouted down to his friends below.

“I’m sorry—I brought my wife here. I shouldn’t have done it. But she’s pregnant and she’s about to have the baby.”

Charrleen didn’t know how to get the attention of the policemen. The doors were locked. They were trapped inside. Reluctantly, she picked up her phone and called 911, and explained her circumstances to the operator. Before she could even hang up, the doors opened and in ran the chief. Charrleen explained that there was a woman in the balcony having a baby. The Chief looked at her, completely bewildered.

“I’m sorry,” Charrleen said. “I don’t know how to explain this. I just wondered if you knew anything about anything, because I know nothing about nothing.”

The chief ran up the stairs to the balcony. When he arrived, he uttered, just like a little boy, “Uh-oh.”

People giggled but Charrleen quieted them with a commanding, “S-h-h-h!”

“There’s not time to take this woman anywhere,” said the Chief. “Even if there was time, we’re not supposed to move any cars. My wife is a registered nurse. Let me call her.”

He placed the call, and the wife was on her way—but got caught in traffic. In the end, the Police Chief, along with a very shell-shocked new father, delivered the baby in the Pantheon Theater, as everyone on stage listened in, afraid to move. Then, all at once, there was a tiny little squall of a cry, followed by a more vigorous effort.

Everybody applauded loudly. Once again Charrleen turned to quiet them. Just about the time the baby made her entrance and was lying on Mama’s chest, the chief’s wife showed up. Two policemen brought in a stretcher, made the climb and transferred mother and daughter onto it, and carefully carried them down the stairs to an awaiting ambulance, which had been allowed to come in, as it was not suspected of harboring a bomb.

Charrleen excused Dennis to go to the hospital. He was nervously walking along beside the stretcher, when Charrleen called after him, “What are you naming the baby?’

He turned around, walking backwards. “We decided a long time ago to name her Golden. Part of Gwendolyn’s name and mine—Dennis.”

“It also sounds like my name,” Golda called out. “I’m Golda.”

Dennis nodded his head, and replied distractedly, “Yeah! That works, too!”

He turned and scurried out with his wife and new baby, as the doors were closed behind them. The cast was so excited that rehearsal was futile. But fellowship was sweet, bonding was evident and there was enough tenderness in the room to last for a lifetime.

Every afternoon from now until Christmas we will be posting sittings from the story, “Jubilators,” for your enjoyment. Good reading and Merry Christmas!