A C T II
“No—no, for Merlin’s sake, Miss Pinkstone, we’re not going to have the crowd kill Sir Luckless when he returns to the edge of the garden!”
“But, Sir, imagine the message it will send to link the play to the overthrow of feudal control!”
Herbert exhaled angrily and glared through his thick glasses at Carlotta, a seventh-year Ravenclaw whom he had assigned as Stage Manager—a decision he was now thoroughly regretting. She could not go a single rehearsal without trying to inject her so-called “social messages” into his script. It really was quite rude, and Herbert would have fired her if she had been a paid employee. And if he hadn’t been afraid that she might vandalize the greenhouses in protest.
“Miss Pinkstone, we cannot destroy the plot of The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” he said, teeth clenched. “Now go finish painting those trees for the set.”
“I did that already.”
“Then find something else to do,” he replied. He did not miss the roll of her eyes as she walked back to her group of assistants, probably to plan some other travesty that would give him a headache.
“Scene four, everyone, let’s run through scene four!” he called, his voice echoing in the Great Hall. “Take your places! Hornby, get off the stage, there’s no lines for the costumes director in this scene—or in any other, for that matter! Miss Prewett, you’re standing on Aria’s mark—no, now you’re on Miss Prewett’s—try your other left side, will you? Mister Llewellyn, I don’t see the word ‘sitting’ in your stage direction, do you? Yes, up, up, that’s it...”
When Herbert had held castings and selected the players, he had been very optimistic. His Sir Luckless, Drystan Llewellyn, had looked like the perfect handsome but humble knight. Even better, he had perfect chemistry with Muriel Prewett, who was playing Amata, for they were apparently each others’ sweethearts outside of the show. Then there was Aria Warbeck, who had practically sent Herbert into a giddy dance when she had sung during her audition, and had easily won the part of Asha. He had also cast Edith Kegg, a fifth-year Gryffindor, as Altheda. She had no remarkable talent, and a rather horrible habit of turning her back to the audience when she delivered lines, but she looked the part well enough. Herbert was learning that, sometimes, looks really were everything in this business. It was a superficial but honest fact: the acting world could be ruthless in that way.
He was, getting back to his point, feeling warier as every day passed. The only one of them that was living up to his hopes was Aria (well, besides Edith, but he’d had very few hopes for her in the first place). Drystan was proving himself to be unmotivated, showing up to rehearsals without memorizing his lines and sitting on the side of the stage holding court with a bunch of soppy girls from the chorus. He and Muriel were devoid of all emotion in their most intense scenes. Herbert was frankly getting fed up, but he was remained determined to put on a magnificent show.
“‘Oh, Sir Luckless, won’t you please join us?’” Muriel said tonelessly.
“Eye contact!” Herbert called out.
“‘Very well,’” Drystan answered. “‘I will not’—er—you know, er—”
“‘My quest will not be for myself’...” Herbert provided.
“Oh, right! ‘My quest will not be for myself, but for the good of you fair ladies three.’”
“‘Let us journey onward, friends!’” Aria said. Silence filled the hall. “I said, ‘Let us journey onward, friends!’”
Herbert waited for a few moments. “Chorus, I can’t hear you singing!”
The song was ill-started, a mix of voices all hitting different notes at a different time.
“Stop, stop!” Herbert yelled, waving his arms. “We’ll try it again, and please, this time, everyone pay atten—”
He stopped as he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was one of the second years that he had hired to run his show-related errands.
“Sir, I’ve just been to see Professor Kettleburn, and he says he’d be right pleased to charm up something to play the worm, just as you asked.”
He sighed. Well, at least one thing was going right today.
There was a cacophonous clanging and banging from the stage. Herbert looked away from his messenger hesitantly, only to find that Drystan had sat down again and caused the entire backdrop to collapse.
Oh, the woes of being a director.