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Starring Role: Chapter 6    

Chani Schwartz, though, is another story. Honestly, I can’t understand why she was chosen in the first place


I hate Scene 7.

I hate it because it’s just us: Mindy, Chani, Baylee, me. Mindy and Chani, the two sisters, the starring roles. The scene is an argument, which mushrooms into a fight, which becomes Maria’s betrayal in Scene 9. Baylee and I are there to break the flow of the dialogue, and insert awkward tension, as the sisters try to keep their secret from us.

I slump down in one of the hard, plastic chairs near the stage, and my eyes glaze over as Miss Weller insists on hearing Mindy and Chani practice the same few lines, over and over.

“Come on, girls, bring it to life,” she says, waving her arms dramatically. “Pretend it’s real. Pretend it’s happening. Lucia, you need your sister to listen to you — you’re desperate! And Maria, concentrate on how the world has collapsed under your feet. You’ve just discovered that your parents are Marranos, and you belong to the nation you always hated. Let’s feel it!”

Mindy circles back to the wings, starts the scene again without complaint. Okay, fine, I also wouldn’t complain if I had the main part. But even I have to admit that she’s great, she knows her lines, moves gracefully, and is nice enough not to complain about doing it over and over even though she’s been doing it perfectly all along.

Chani Schwartz, though, is another story. Honestly, I can’t understand why she was chosen in the first place. Maybe because Miss Weller likes her.

“Sister dear, what a pleasure to see you,” Chani recites blithely. “Do you desire to—”

“Sarcastic! Make it sarcastic, snobby. Make fun of Lucia a little!” Shaindy calls out. I see her exchange a look with Chaya. I wonder if everything was their choice, or if Miss Weller overrode their decisions. Surely, they wouldn’t have chosen Chani for such a large part if not for…

“Maids! Where are you? You should be standing in the wings.” Miss Weller looks annoyed. “Come on, we don’t have time to waste.”

Baylee jumps up and heads onstage. “Whoops! Sorry, didn’t realize we were up to there.”

I follow slowly. “She seems to have plenty of time to waste on practicing with Chani,” I mutter.

I’m tempted to recite my lines as noncommittally as Chani does, no dramatic inflection whatsoever. Let’s see how patient Miss Weller is when it’s not her pet student. But another part of me wants to show my best acting skills. Let them see what a good job I’m doing — what a good job I could have done with a bigger role.

“Great job, maids, you got the scene perfectly,” Miss Weller tells us as we head offstage. Something bitter rises inside me: that’s all she can say? We did a great job? Why are we always lumped together, one of the maids, why don’t I ever get recognition for my own skills and hard work?

“What do you say — should we move on?” Miss Weller asks the play heads. She’s not really here to run the rehearsals, more to coach individual actresses. But she ends up taking charge of things anyway.

“Yes, let’s go, we’re a few minutes behind schedule,” Chaya says, checking her lists.

Shaindy opens the auditorium door, and several actresses troop in — Scene 8 is a long one, lots of action, lots of drama. Baylee and I aren’t in it, but we find ourselves seats in the front row — we need to stay in school anyway, we both appear in Scene 10, and it’s fun to watch.

Chani flops down to join us. She’s not in this scene either, for a change. Mindy stays up on stage, and a few others join her.

“Okay, let’s start,” Chaya announces.

“Wait a minute,” Miss Weller says. She’s looking away from the stage, at the three of us. “Girls, if you’re not in this scene, you can’t stay in here. It’s too distracting for the actresses. Please wait outside.”

I flush. I would argue, but Maid 1 is obviously not important enough to have a say around here, and Miss Weller is already facing the stage again.

Just before we leave, I glance back. Chani Schwartz is sitting right where we were, arms folded defiantly. Apparently, she’s not going anywhere.

And no one says a word.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 891)

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