From September 2018 to June 2019, on the last Wednesday of the month, I will post one brief chapter of a continuing story I will be writing throughout the year called THE SHOW MUST GO ON. Set at no less than the Starborn Revue Theatre itself, it will feature a stellar cast including
Starr and Starla, twelve-year-olds who have been a part of the Starborn Revue Theatre’s kids’ program since they were seven years old. They’re represented here by artists’ wooden mannequins. I assure you that their acting isn’t wooden at all! Some kids at their school think it’s weird for a boy and girl to be best friends, as Starr and Starla have been since kindergarten, but the two of them don’t care what others think. Well, they mostly don’t care. They absolutely love being involved in theatre. Starla’s specialty is serious dramatic roles, while Starr is a budding song-and-dance man. They’re looking forward to doing a star turn in this story.
Lady and Sir, the Revue’s theatre cats. They fulfill many roles in the Starborn Revue Theatre, lending their paws wherever they are needed, and they will definitely have more than mere walk-on roles in this story.
Ms. Starborn, the leader of the Revue’s kids’ program (and everything else). She is portrayed in the story in a totally fictional manner — unlike her real life, which only sometimes seems like fiction.
Many other characters will make guest appearances, have cameo roles, or even ongoing parts.
On the last Wednesday of each month, a chapter will be posted as a regular blog post. It will also be posted here. There will be a glossary of theatre terms for each chapter, which will be posted below each chapter, and will also be included here on this page. Eventually, the whole story will be available on this page.
CHAPTER ONE — GHOST LIGHT OFF
Starla pulled open the heavy stage door, took one step into the theatre and stopped.
Starr thudded into her. “Starla! Move!”
Starla didn’t respond.
Starr pushed past her, letting the door slam behind him.
Starla wailed, “What did you do that for?”
“Why? Whoa! It’s dark as night in here!” He hit the light switch. Nothing happened. “What’s with the lights?”
“Don’t ask me,” Starla said. “Just open the door again. Then at least we’ll get some light from outside.”
The door wouldn’t budge.
“This is creepy,” Starla said, rubbing her arms as if she was cold. “And it’s so quiet. Where’s the stage doorman?” She looked around, although that didn’t help because she couldn’t see a thing. “Hey Matt! Where are you?”
“What’s going on? Matt’s always here.” Starla’s voice caught in her throat. “We’re trapped.”
“We can’t be trapped,” Starr said, trying to sound more certain than he felt. “The door’s just stuck. And the power wasn’t out anywhere else on the way over here. We’d have noticed. It’s probably a blown fuse. This theatre is getting pretty old. I’ll go see if I can find the fuse box. That’ll be where Matt is.”
He took a few steps and thudded into Starla again. “Sure wish I had a flashlight. Memo to self: always carry a flashlight. Oh wait! Duh. My phone!” He turned on the flashlight app. “That helps.”
Starla said, “I’ll go see if Ms. Starborn is onstage.”
“Turn on the light on your phone.”
“Can’t. My phone died. I haven’t had a chance to recharge it. I was busy studying…” she lowered her voice to a whisper. “Lady Macbeth!”
“Don’t say that!” Starr shrieked. He shone his phone light toward the door. “You know what you have to do.”
Fueled by desperation, Starla shoved against the large metal door with all her might, and stumbled outside as it opened. She dashed into the alley, letting the door close behind her. She spun around three times, spat on the ground, shuddered in disgust, said a quick curse under her breath, then ran back to knock on the door. When Starr shoved it open, she said, “I did them all. We should be okay, right?”
“I sure hope so. I’ve never seen a theatre curse in action, but you’ve done everything you can. Besides, it’s just a silly superstition, right?”
“SHHHHH! Don’t say that!” Starla quickly spun around and spat again, just in case.
“Okay, okay, forget I said anything. Now we need to find Matt, and Ms. Starborn, and get the lights turned back on before the other kids get here. Bring on Theatre Class and stardom!”
“I’m with you on that.” They high-fived then went back into the theatre.
The door shut behind them with a clang, plunging them into darkness. At the same moment, an unearthly yowl echoed through the building.
Starla screamed, then covered her mouth. “What was that?”
“I don’t know, but it came from the direction of the stage.”
Squaring her shoulders and pretending she wasn’t just scared out of her wits, Starla said, “I’ll go find out what it was.”
“Are you sure? I could come with you…”
“You need to find Matt. And you need to find the fuse box! I’ll be okay.” I hope. She didn’t say the last two words out loud.
Starla headed through the darkness toward the stage. Starr held up his phone and walked the opposite direction in search of the fuse box, or Matt, or Ms. Starborn, or with any luck, all three. Before he found any of them, he heard another yowl and a CRASH!
Phone light held high, he ran toward the stage. Starla was climbing out of the orchestra pit. “Are you okay?” he called.
“I have a few dents in me to match the ones I gave the music stand I landed on, but I think I’ll live. It was pitch black in here. The ghost light wasn’t even on.”
There was another yowl.
She continued, “And look at that!”
The ghost light lay on the stage, its bulb shattered. Lady, the pure white longhaired theatre cat, stood on the stage, yowling. Sir, the theatre cat who always wore a pristine tuxedo, stood next to her, staring past the broken ghost light, his back arched, his mouth drawn back in a long, loud hiss.
There was no one there that Starr or Starla could see.
From behind them, the wobbling beam of a flashlight panned over the scene. Ms. Starborn cried, “What on earth is going on in here?”
Stage door: The stage door is often on the side or the back of the theatre, and is the door performers go through, rather than entering from the main doors that the audience uses. In some theatres, including The Starborn Revue theatre, there is a stage doorman who greets performers, makes sure everyone knows where to go, and is the one who opens the theatre and locks up after everyone else has gone.
Theatre superstitions: Theatre people have many superstitions. One of them states that it is forbidden to utter the name of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth in a theatre. It is always referred to as The Scottish Play, if it has to be referred to at all. As you saw from all that Starla went through, theatre people have developed rituals that are used to counter the results of accidentally saying the name. Here’s a link to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s explanation of the superstition.
Orchestra pit: For a musical, the orchestra is often situated between the stage and the audience, at a slightly lower level, thus it is called the pit.
Ghost light: Another theatre tradition, this one having both superstitious and practical roots, is the ghost light — a light on a pole that is moved to centre stage and left on through the night, both to ward off any theatre ghosts that might be lurking, and to make sure people entering the theatre can see where they are going. Since the ghost light was broken, Starla fell into the orchestra pit.
CHAPTER TWO — WAS IT THE CAT?
In response, Lady yowled again, and Sir raced off, stage right, in pursuit of … someone? Something? What?
Ms. Starborn repeated her question. Neither Starr nor Starla knew what to say. Finally, Starla said, “It was pitch dark when we got here, and Matt was nowhere around. When I heard Lady yowl, I came to check things out, and found the broken ghost light. Well, after I found the orchestra pit.” She rubbed her sore arm.
Stepping carefully through the broken glass, Ms. Starborn righted the fallen ghost light. “Well, we’re not solving anything standing here. There’s a broom backstage — it’s supposed to be one of the props for our show. Starr, you have a flashlight of sorts. Get the broom and clean up this broken glass. Then we need to find Matt and get the lights back on.”
As if someone had hit all the buttons on the control panel at once, every light, every spotlight, every floodlight came on at once. Lady raced offstage in the opposite direction to the one Sir had taken. Starr, Starla, and Ms. Starborn blinked to try to get their eyes to adjust to the sudden, overwhelming brightness.
Matt rushed onto the stage. “Sorry I’m late. Trouble with the bus, and they couldn’t get a new one to us to pick us up for half an hour. I was ready to walk to the theatre. What’s going on? Why are all the lights on? It was dark when I came in.”
Starla had to try twice before her voice would work. “You mean you weren’t even here? But the door was open!”
Starr said, “Right. It was stuck, but it wasn’t locked. And the breaker had been thrown or something. The lights wouldn’t work. We thought you were finding out what happened.”
“I only arrived as Starla crashed into the orchestra pit,” Ms. Starborn said. “I assumed Matt was here, too, or you wouldn’t have been able to get in.”
“I’ll go see about turning off some of these lights,” Matt said. “How could they all go on at once like that? There must be a short in the lighting board or something.”
“Or something,” Starla said. “I’m getting a spooky feeling about all this.”
“Relax,” Ms. Starborn said, sounding anything but relaxed herself. “How could there be anything spooky going on?” She rubbed her arms as if she were suddenly cold.
Sir slunk back from stage right, dragging something long and blood red, as if he were a panther in the jungle, dragging a kill.
Ms. Starborn, Starr and Starla all screamed. The unearthly sound sent Sir on a mad dash stage left leaving the thing, whatever it was, lying limp and lifeless on the stage.
Starla said, “I guess we’d better check it out.” She sounded as if she was waiting for someone to suggest they not do that. She took a step toward it. Starr and Ms. Starborn followed.
When they were close enough to see it more clearly, Ms. Starborn let out a whew of relief, and picked the thing up. “Relax, you two. Sir didn’t kill anything.” She held up a bedraggled red shirt, the flounces at the wrist hanging only by a thread. “This was supposed to be one of the costumes for our next production. The Pirate King was to wear this.” She looked at it in dismay. “I don’t think anyone will be wearing it until it’s had major repair work done.” She looked around. “Where is that cat? He’s supposed to kill mice, not costumes.”
Starr said, “Maybe it wasn’t Sir that wrecked it. And he definitely didn’t turn the lights off and on. Let’s check Wardrobe!”
Starla added, “Before the culprit gets away!”
The three of them raced to the room where all the costumes were kept.
Ms. Starborn’s hands flew to her mouth. “The costumes are GONE!”
Stage right, Stage left: Imagine you’re on stage, looking out at the audience. To your right is stage right, to your left is stage left. (Stage right is the audience’s left, and stage left is the audience’s right!)
Spotlights, Floodlights: There are many different types of lights used in a theatrical production. Some flood the whole stage with light (floodlights), some concentrate all the light on one performer (spotlight), some create soft glows, or color effects. In this story, everything lit up at once — lighting chaos!
Lighting board: All the lighting for the play — the spotlight, the other stage lights, are controlled from large boards covered with buttons. Here’s a video from the National Theatre in London, England, that shows you how large and complicated lighting boards can be. (The Starborn Revue Theatre’s lighting board is not nearly this impressive!)
Wardrobe: Although in houses, especially where there aren’t built-in closets, a wardrobe can mean a freestanding closet-like piece of furniture, in the theatre the term refers to the room (or rooms) where costumes are created, mended, washed, ironed and stored, along with wigs, hats and other such things. (In the Starborn Revue Theatre, it’s just one room.) Here’s a great video made by a wardrobe technician in New York City, which not only shows what the Wardrobe Department looks like, but gives you a good idea of all that Wardrobe does, and what it’s like to work backstage.