Starring Role: Chapter 13| February 8, 2022
My voice bounces around the auditorium, harshly magnified. I sound awful
“How’s your voice?”
Devora, Chan, and Baylee clamor around me anxiously when I show up on the morning of the first performance, fashionably late. The plan is to use the morning to run through the entire production again, on stage, and then everyone will go home and come back in the early evening to get ready for the grand performance.
“Can you sing?”
“Can you talk?”
My voice is a rough, hoarse croak. “Yeah. Kind of. I hope so.”
Devora and Chan look at each other in alarm. “Uh oh,” Chan says. “You… don’t sound too good, Rena.”
Baylee eyes me sympathetically. “I’m so sorry, Reens. Such bad timing…”
“Tell me about it.” I feel miserable.
“What’s going to be with… you know, your part in the play?”
We go to find Chaya and Shaindy. They’re huddled with Miss Weller, discussing something in urgent tones.
“Rena’s here, but she can barely talk,” Baylee announces, thrusting me forward.
I blush tomato-red. “It’s okay, I can talk, kind of…” I say weakly.
Miss Weller surveys me critically. “I think with the mic, it’ll be fine. We’ll try it out now.”
The play begins. I watch the opening scene disinterestedly. Mindy, Chani, Hadassah, and Bruchy transform into a Spanish family of the early 1500s, incongruously dressed in their regular clothing while declaiming dramatic speeches and handling old-fashioned props.
“She does it so well,” Baylee mutters as Mindy concludes a particularly emotional monologue.
When it’s time for our first appearance on stage, I say my lines into a mic, self-conscious. Tonight, we’ll have small mics attached to our costumes, but now I use a regular handheld one. My voice bounces around the auditorium, harshly magnified. I sound awful.
For the first time, it’s a relief to escape the stage.
“It’s fine. We’ll make the best of things,” Shaindy says as I come backstage. “The main thing is that the audience can hear you.”
Making the best of things. I’m not very good at that.
Back in the audience, I watch the play. The next few scenes are ones I’ve never actually seen before, and I find myself intrigued by the storyline.
“Hellloooooo? Is anyone hooooome?” Someone flounces onto the stage with full drama, and I squint. Shuli Breuer? I hadn’t known she was in play.
“What’s her part?” I ask Baylee, who looks at me, baffled.
“You don’t know? This is the most fun part of the entire play,” she says. “Shuli’s this nosy neighbor who’s always trying to catch them and get them to admit they’re Marranos… She literally is only on, like, this scene and maybe a tiny bit at the end, but she has this whole cool song act… Oh, it’s starting!”
Song act? I don’t remember seeing that in the script.
“Oh, I have my sus-pi-cions,” sings Shuli, dancing around the stage.
The audience is loving it, snapping and clapping along.
“This is like, literally, the best song in the play,” Baylee says. “And she wrote it herself! She originally was supposed to speak all the lines, but she decided to make it into a whole song, and her sister did the music — you know she has a married sister with a studio and everything? — and Chaya and Shaindy loved it. It kinda breaks the tension of the play a little.”
“Wow,” I say. I’m not sure what’s bothering me. “Just… wow.”
Shuli takes a bow and prances back into the wings. My mind is whirling. She had a small part, too. Smaller than mine. But she made it… awesome.
Talk about making the best of things.
Baylee goes backstage to join the choir. I don’t bother. I tell Chan and Devora I’m resting my voice to give it the best chance of coming back by tonight. Yeah, right.
The choir heads exchange anxious glances.
“Sure, sure, do whatever you need to do,” Chan says quickly.
Devora lingers a moment. “Listen, in the meantime… we’re gonna give your solo to Baylee, but like, if your voice is okay tonight then of course it’s yours again, okay?”
Baylee. She deserves it, if anyone does. But I can’t help but feel another wave of self-pity.
“Your voice might be back tonight, or at least for the second performance tomorrow. You never know,” Devora says hopefully.
There’s no way my voice will recover from this in time.
I try to smile.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 898)
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