Stage Fright on a Summer Night
forget about the bear, so he read with lots of feeling:
The first theaters were built in old England. Because there was
electricity, plays were performed during the day, when it was light. Almost
could afford to go.
âNeat, huh?â said Jack.
Jack kept reading in a loud, dramatic voice:
Seating for the audience depended on how much was paid. The people who could afford the higher prices sat in galleries above the stage. Others stood in an area below theâ
âBoy!â someone shouted.
Jack looked up.
A man hurried over to Jack and Annie. He was long-legged, with a trim beard and twinkly eyes.
âI could hear you from across the way,â the man said. âYou read very well!â
Jack smiled shyly.
âNo, you are simply brilliant!â the man said. âAnd I am in
need of a boy who is a brilliant reader!â
âWhy do you need a boy whoâs a brilliant reader?â Annie asked the man.
âBecause I have just lost two fairies!â he said. He pointed at Jack. âYou can read both!â
And you are nuts,
thought Jack. âWell, bye, see you around,â he said. He nudged Annie to move along.
âWait, wait,â she said. She turned to the man. âWhat do you mean, my brother can read both fairies? Read them where?â
âTwo boy actors didnât show up today toplay fairies,â said the man. âBut your brother reads with such expression! He can save us all!â
Jack stared. Was this guy saying what he thought he was saying?
âYou mean you want Jack to be in your play?â said Annie.
âIndeed!â said the man. âThere are three thousand people here today, waiting to see the play I have written! We cannot disappoint them, can we?â
âThree thousand?â said Jack.
âYes!â said the man. âAnd one of them is the most important person in the world!â
âNo. No way. I canât do that,â said Jack. He had never liked being onstage. He always got stage fright.
âWait, wait, Jack,â said Annie. She turned to the man. âYou need
âYes,â said the man.
âWellÂ â¦Â â Annie tilted her head. Her voice went up. âI can read, too.â
âYes! Let Annie do it,â said Jack. âSheâs a great reader. She can be
âAh, but of course Annie cannot go onstage,â the man said kindly.
âWhy not?â asked Annie.
The man raised his eyebrows. âSurely you know itâs against the law for girls to go on the stage,â he said. âBoys must play all the girlsâ parts.â
âBut thatâs not fair!â said Annie.
âIndeed, âtis not. But we cannot change the law now,â said the man. He turned to Jack. âSo, Jack? Will you join our players?â
âNo thanks,â said Jack. He tried to walk off, but Annie grabbed his arm.
âWait, I think I know what Jack wants,â she said to the man. âHe will only be in your play if I can be in it, too.â
âNo, thatâs not what I want, Annie,â Jack said under his breath.
âBut, Jack, it would be so much fun,â she whispered. âAnd thereâs nothing to be afraid of. You get to read your part. You donât have to memorize it.â
Jack could tell that Annie really,
wanted to be in the play. And it was definitely a way to keep her mind off the bear.
âUh, okay,â he said, sighing. He looked at the man. âIâll be in your playâif Annie can be in it, too.â
The man looked at Annie. She smiled eagerly at him.
The man smiled back.
âWhy not?â he said. âBut Annie will have to pretend to be a boy. She can tuck up her hair, and weâll call her Andy.â
âYay, thanks!â said Annie with a grin.
A trumpet blasted inside the theater.
âHark, the play begins!â the man said. He took Jack and Annie by the hand.
âMy name is Will, by the way,â he said. âCome along, Jack and Andy! Be as swift as shadows!â
Will led Jack and Annie through a door into the back of the Globe Theater. Then he led them up a dark stairway.
As they headed upstairs, Jack heard laughter coming from the audience. His legs felt like jelly.
âThis way,â said Will.
He led Jack and Annie into a crowded, dimly lit room. Actors were rushing about everywhere.
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David G. L. Weiss