CHAPTER 51. Epilogue.
The girl was dark.
I couldn’t put my finger on it. Something about countenance, posture, contraction of the forehead muscles.
There had only been one other student, over the two decades, to carry the color; a penchant for asking that his photo be taken next to the American flag he’d been arrested, in recent years, for going door to door impersonating a police officer.
I’d taken over the after school drama club, established by a beloved fifth grade teacher who’d handmade racks of full body felt and taffeta. Frustrated at the keyboard with the small tape recorder of musical selections played back stage I’d begun to provide live underscoring, followed by interruptive vocal coaching……within two years of dealing with me, our fearless leader – the long line of framed photos across the back of the auditorium her legacy, plus that room full of costumes – retired. By the next school season I’d given the club her honorary name, and assumed the position.
There were no kits, from theater companies, in my sphere of awareness. I’d been driven, as a child, to write, produce, cast, direct (and, star in) school plays; soon, I would be adapting classics, then shorts from Spanky and Our Gang DVDs, and casting dozens.
The auditorium stage, our classroom, had a band of colors – hot, directly above our heads. Blue; green; red. Lights, I would discover, set every mood and greatly supplanted the absence of scenaric backdrop.
Though self conscious and introverted in character, the girl had an eye. Beyond assigning a small walk on part wearing a hat with ribbons, I made her head of the lighting crew.
As leader of illumination, she was stellar. I could rely on her to flick those switches precisely aligned with the action. That countenance proved fully aware of every aspect of the scene and its underpinnings. Though only one other parent would ever play the role of backstage manager through some ten productions, behind the curtain this girl ran the show.
The drama club ballooned into an all consuming undertaking. So many students auditioning, the shows would be double cast. The district having chosen to consolidate school enrollments, progressively adding 6th, 7th then 8th grade to our building, within a few years those who’d repeatedly starred from childhood would reach middle school graduation. It took this tunnel visioned creative a couple of seasons to realize awards were both earned and deserved.
Menopause, care of one 90+ year old father, my response was dismal; only mustering one set of drama club certificates that can even be recalled, seems I’d promised lapel pins but had no memory of their ever being received by the office in mail. What repeats in a loop was the day, during class, I’d announced the winner of Most Outstanding Female, Drama Club.
Presiding in front of the students seated before me in the auditorium, I declared one of the other girls who’d played lead in a few productions the winner. One, singular reaction still plays in that tape. Expectation; momentary hopefulness; furtive glancing about; then, disappointment and, fleetingly, resentment. I had failed my best stage manager, the girl gifted in scenic lighting.
During the days following that moment and well past the graduation ceremony, curious events unfolded. My Gund hand puppet, a gopher, role played across all grades during music class, turned up missing. Parked in the school lot, my car was keyed. Unsettled, I mused; only one face floated into the firmament of suspicion, all too familiar.
In the decade following retirement from public ed, I would search out former students on social media. Amongst the thousands, dozens would appear. Astonishingly this girl, the only one from our entire history of cast and crew, would attend NYU. I perused her albums, discovering that she had focused on photography and stop motion animation. At the Friend Request button, my finger paused.
Copyright 6/8/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, who published moments ago before adding the copyright and whose name appears above this line. No translating, copying in part or whole, permitted; sharing by blog link, exclusively, with credit. Thank you for protecting original material. Cut!