Another extract of the book, where we are introduced to some more of the Am/Dram team and share in one person’s disappointment:
“All right people!” Gregory shouted. “Lets get started, shall we?”
Everyone in the hall stopped as they usually did when Gregory spoke and made their way towards where he stood, spreading out to effectively make a circle around him.
“Good to see you all here,” Gregory began. “I think we had a highly successful pantomime which ran through three sold out performances. I am correct that assumption am I not Marlee?”
“Two nights and a matinee,” she confirmed. “We raised two hundred and twelve pounds which is a record for the troupe.”
“Excellent!” Gregory boomed, raising his arms high in the air and bringing his hands around in a wide arc until they met just above his head. “Give yourselves all a big round of applause.”
As he clapped enthusiastically and brought his hands down in front of him, the rest of the ensemble did the same, albeit more conservatively. This lasted for a good thirty seconds.
Gregory stopped abruptly and allowed his hands to drop to his side. He closed his hands while the rest caught up with him and the clapping died down until there was silence once more.
“Excellent,” he repeated more solemnly, “But we should never rest on our laurels. To strive for perfection, is our God given right and we will not waiver in the pursuit of that right!”
John and Sonia looked at each other.
“Shakespeare?” John whispered.
“Sorkin?” Sonia countered.
“To that end,” Gregory continued, “I have something new for us; something that I myself have written and believe that we, as a community, are more than capable of delivering.”
He paused for a beat and followed up each subsequent comment with a punch and an almost personal pitch to each of them in turn.
“Delivering with style; delivering with majesty; delivering with hunger; delivering with hubris; delivering with pain; delivering with raw emotions.”
Another pause to ensure he had them all.
“Delivering with excellence.”
He closed his eyes once more and bowed his head.
The applause, and cheers of agreement, took a few moments to come but when they did they were rapturous.
Gregory drank the praise in for exactly two minutes and then smiled, raised his hands to signal the end of the applause and opened his eyes once more.
“So,” he began again. “Are we all up for this?”
The yeses were drowned out by further applause.
He leapt over towards the stage, breaking the circle of awe as he did so. With a flourish, he thrust his hands into the box of scripts and pulled out two fistfuls which he ceremoniously thrust upwards.
“Here!” he announced and then bounded back into the centre of the circle.
He passed the first one to Marlee, then moved around handing a script to each person until only one remained and Karen stood empty handed.
“Karen,” he began, tilting his head slightly, “Karen, unfortunately I think this production may be beyond you right now.”
Karen’s jaw dropped. She hadn’t been expecting this and certainly in all of the previous plays she thought; no knew that she had done well. To be left out like this was like a punch in the stomach.
“Now now, let us not get upset,” Gregory chided, “Such is the reality of the grand profession. One must learn to take the rough with the smooth and unfortunately… well, you have been more rough than smooth recently and I just couldn’t find a character who could benefit from your unique… voice.”
“No protesting!” Gregory boomed. “This is for the best of the ensemble, you understand? You wouldn’t want to make a fuss which could ultimately destroy this troupe that we’ve all worked so hard to grow and cultivate over the years, now would you?”
Karen said nothing. Her mind was awash with questions and doubts; mostly doubts, for she could not understand why she was being singled out for such treatment and especially in front of the rest of the group. She felt as though Gregory was chastising her in some way and this was a sort of verbal public flogging.
“But of course you are confused,” Gregory continued after taking a quick sense check of the situation and seeing the concerned looks on the rest of the faces around him.
He walked over to Karen and put a reassuring arm around her shoulders, before pulling her towards him.
“I’ll be more than happy to talk to you about it in private if you so wish,” he half whispered, “And you still have a part to play here. Goodness, this is a great life lesson which could propel you onto bigger and better things.”
Karen was still too stunned to speak and all around them, the group were beginning to be restless, shuffling from side to side or looking down at the unopened script in their hands.
“Tell you what!” Gregory said, stepping back into the centre of the throng, “Perhaps… perhaps there is a part you can play. Hmmm.”
She couldn’t bear to look at him, but staring at her feet was doing her no good and besides, all it seemed to do was demonstrate her poor taste in footwear once again.
All the while Gregory was working on damage limitation. He realised that sometimes his penchant for the flamboyant and showmanship could have a detrimental effect on the people around him, but he genuinely believed that this was for the best.
Karen, to him, was definitely the weakest link in this chain. Over the past few years her performances had been average at best, but at worst they were too horrific for him to even think about; her performance as Mrs Bucket in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was a particular low light strewn with forgotten lines, fluffed cues and when she did actually attempt to deliver a performance, her positioning was all wrong and she seemed to be addressing the floorboards rather than the twenty or so paying audience. Things had been so bad that for the second performance he had swapped her with Marlee and had her play Grandma Georgina which, that night, quickly became a non-speaking part.
Did she have talent there?
It was a question that Gregory had asked himself on many occasions and although the earlier answer had been firmly in the affirmative, of late he had to be honest with himself and reveal that there was little hope of her turning in any performance worthy of the ensemble, never mind treading the heady boards of somewhere of the likes of Chichester Local Theatre.