Over the Hedge
Poison River Players, Part Seven
1 June 2006
Work was progressing in Columbia Theatre, and today we were working on updating and expanding the fly system. I was standing on a scaffolding, running lines through the system in the ceiling and trying not to look down. Backstage, Marz was testing the lines that had already been finished and helping determine what we needed for counterweights and if we would need to order more. Neither of us was here when the pulleys were mapped out and installed, so it was also taking extra time for us to figure out where everything was supposed to be. We had been warned that some of it was not actually ready for our work yet, and we had taken some guesses about which parts of the system were affected based on the notes left for us. The possibility that we had been mistaken on some of those guesses suddenly occurred to me when I heard a crack, and then a snap, from my right.
Before I could react to the noise, a fly passing in front of me stopped in the air, its wings stuck mid-stroke. I breathed heavy and looked around, and found a heavy metal pulley that had broken off the ceiling and stopped in place about a foot away from my neck. I knew, immediately, that if it had continued on its arc either I would have died; either from the initial impact, or from the unavoidable fall that would have followed it. I swallowed hard and tried to step aside, but found that I could only move my head. I turned to my left again, and saw the Hound sitting on the scaffolding and watching me. I opened my mouth to speak, but a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye drew my attention away again. As I turned to look forward, I found Hecate. She was standing on the stage, but so tall that her eyes were level with my face. I took a deep breath. Why now, after all this time?
“Mistress,” I whispered, my voice unsteady. She smiled.
“Am I, still?” I furrowed my brow and tried to formulate a question about that, but nothing coherent came out before she smiled and continued. “I saw how you handled that ghost, and cleaning up the park afterward. You seemed confident in your ability to proceed without invoking me.” She looked to my left, and I followed her gaze to the pulley. “Yet you do not seem so confident now.”
“I had not heard from you in a year, Mistress. I didn’t know anymore if you were even listening.”
“I suppose I can understand such fickleness from mortals, a year must seem like such a long time to you. But you must know better than to believe that about me. Besides,” she blinked, and her eyes were replaced by the sight of me in Chicago, laying on that couch in John’s arms. “You clearly wanted some space from me. Am I not free to give my mortal instruments what they desire?”
“I’m sorry. I was recovering from a moment of weakness and just…” I sighed and lowered my head. “I’m sorry.”
“Will you show me?” Her eyes returned to normal, or what passed for normal from her.
“I want to see that you are sorry, not simply hear it.”
“I have a job for you to do. But not yet. For now, it will be enough for you to swear to me that you will do it. And your continued usefulness, of course, is a great encouragement to keep you around.” My eyes widened as I realized why I couldn’t move the rest of my body. I was being given a choice between power and death.
“I swear, Mistress.”
“Very good. I shall call on you when I am ready.” I felt my body unfreeze as she and the Hound vanished, and I quickly shifted around the pulley to stand behind it. As soon as I was in the clear, the pulley snapped back into motion and crashed against the wall, sending scraps of wood and drywall flying. I was breathing heavy, and the noise of the impact had left my ears ringing for a moment before I heard Marz calling to me. I pressed my hand to my heart, exhaled hard, then peeked down.
“I’m okay. But I think we should take a break.” They gave a few quick nods, and I began to climb down.
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Poison River Players, Part Five
20 April 2006
We learned this week that The Lube was going to let us put on a few short acts during Small Ships Revue. I had no idea what that was, so the rest of the group explained that every year there's a race down the Shenango River from the north side of town to the Lube, the only rule being that there could be no motors involved, and this largely took the form of wild floats made to drift down the river while crowds lined up on the streets and bridges above, everyone involved is drinking, and it ends with a massive block party. The theatre remodel group, which included most of us anyway, had commissioned a float already, but now we were actually getting the use of a stage area during some of the party.
We decided on a couple short comedy scenes, things that people could wander over and enjoy without following a whole story. I had Matteson come to the meeting today, and he informed the group that his band was willing to do music for us but needed to know what that would include so they could practice. So we dug out the musical scores for the one scene that had them, and worked out some idea of how the rest should work, and he left with that and copies of the scripts so they could start working on things, and we all agreed on a time to meet and practice with the actors and the band.
I'm very excited to see how this all plays out.
Poison River Players, Part Three
12 February 2006
We had finally managed to get a season scheduled. It wouldn't begin until August, but we had a great deal of preparation to do, so I was at a meeting with the other three stage hands we had managed to pick up. The issue of the day was getting a set together for A Winter's Tale that we could move off-site, since the venue we'd managed to secure didn't give us enough time to build our set there before the show. The backstage area of the Columbia was clean enough now that we could turn it into our workshop, so we at least had somewhere dry to build it and deal with disassembly after. Peter arrived, looking haggard as he always did these days, and lit up when he saw us arguing over designs. He called me over.
"How's it coming over there?" he asked, setting a stack of papers and folders down on a pile of milk crates that passed for a table.
"If we let Marz have their say, our sets will just be painted sheets we carry in with laundry baskets."
"Bah," Peter said, waving his hand dismissively, "it's always sheets with them. Look, I don't want to keep you, but you did the haunted house thing, yeah?"
"Yeah, Peter. We talk about this every other week."
"Right, right. Look, I need you to pick up a small part."
"Pete, if I'm doing stage-"
"A tiny little part, I promise, just...very little." I sighed.
"What is it?"
"You know that famous line, 'exit, pursued by bear'?"
"I need a bear," he said, handing me a script. I blinked a few times in surprise as I looked down at the script, then looked back up. He was already halfway down the hall.
"Thanks! Tell Marz we have a two sheet maximum!" I groaned, slapped the script against my hip, and went back to the designs.
Poison River Players, Part One
14 November 2005
We had mostly finished closing down the haunted house for the season. I was under the impression the staff did other things during the year, though I didn't know what; but I needed some time away from the whole scene and while no one knew why, they seemed to understand. Jerry asked me to consider helping out at the theater if I was interested in continuing at least some of the work I'd done at Ghoul Mansion.
On State Street, set back from the road behind what promised to be a beautiful garden and squeezed between two shops, was Columbia Theatre. I was informed that the building had been left to decay for some years, but was the subject of a spotty and generally volunteer remodeling project hoping to bring a new spark to the city. As part of the disputes surrounding the direction such a project should take, and in partnership with the largely defunct Vocal Group Hall of Fame, a group of actors and stage hands calling themselves the Poison River Players had formed somewhat unofficially and were hopeful they could get an actual play season launched soon. These would mostly happen in open-air environments and rented spaces, like the high school auditorium, but a portion of the money raised by such shows was designated to go toward Columbia Theatre with the hope of it being the eventual home of the troupe.
"Look," Jerry had said, "you seem to care about lost causes, and you did great work with makeup and some of the prop work here, and you aren't half bad at acting. I think they'd be glad to have you." Well. How could I turn down a glowing recommendation like that? And while I hadn't done it before, I really did find myself enjoying the work at the haunted house while it lasted. So now I was sitting on a stone bench in front of the theatre, waiting. It was about ten minutes before Jerry came walking around the corner with another man, talking among themselves until they noticed me. The other man stepped forward and extended a hand, smiling.
"Peter," he said, "and you must be the Jackie I've heard about."
"I suppose that depends on what you've heard," I said with a smile. He laughed and slapped Jerry hard on the back before sitting down on another bench. I retook my seat, and Jerry, stretched his shoulders a bit as if shacking off the sting.
"Well, you guys have at it, I've got paperwork back at the mansion." We both waved, and he was gone. Peter sighed as he turned to me.
"You understand there's probably no money in this."
"Probably?" I asked.
"Well. There is a small percentage of the income that's designated as pay for everyone involved in a given show, but between the cost of doing shows all over God's green earth and supplies and money for this," he said, waving a hand toward the theatre, "the percentage isn't as high as it would be in an established troupe. And being that we aren't established and have no idea how the community will feel about us, we don't even know if there will be any money to allocate."
"I have a day job," I answered. It was theoretically the truth; I had left the pizza shop to give the haunted house enough hours, and hadn't yet returned, but they did promise they would have me back as soon as I was free.
"That's good, that's good. Better than some. So Jerry tells me you kind of tried your hand at most of what we do. Was there some aspect of your work that you most clicked with?"
"The sets. I liked the part well enough, and they seemed to think I really took to the makeup, but if I'm honest it was adjusting the sets and props and maintenance of that stuff that I found myself really enjoying more than anything else."
"Well, we could definitely use that. I think most people that come to us forget that that position exists."
"Are there many people that come to you?"
"No," he said, laughing. I chuckled as well. He cleared his throat. "This really is an experiment. I don't know what will happen with it, if anything. But I'd be glad to have you alongside the rest of us giving it the old college try, if you're serious about it."
"I don't sit out in the cold for just anyone, Peter." He laughed again, stood, and offered me another handshake. I stood and accepted it, and then he reached into his pockets and pulled out a flyer.
"Okay, well, we have biweekly meetings on Tuesdays right now, hammering out the details for our first season. Up at the library. This has all the info," he said, handing me the flyer, "and I guess we'll see you then!" I thanked him, he thanked me, and we parted ways.
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