Mackenzie awoke to the sound of the vacuum cleaner out in the lobby. She glanced down at her watch: 9:43 am. Reluctantly she willed herself to sit up, but as she opened her eyes the black curtains around her began to spin. She put her hand to her head. Then suddenly she felt her stomach start to do summersaults. Oh no.
A minute or so of throwing up in the backstage washroom later and Mackenzie’s head was feeling a bit better, even though the rest of her now felt as if she’d been whipped at the stake. She flushed the toilet, cleaned herself up as best as she could, then gingerly headed out to the auditorium.
Steven and LLG were both laying across several seats in the front row. Like Mackenzie, they had spent the night at the theatre after the strike. By the time the set was down, the props put away, the costumes washed and the lighting returned to the house plot the cast party had long since ended and Frank and the actors had gone to bed, so the Techies (along with Marlene, who had be deputized as an extra hand for the strike) had had a celebration of their own, and Mackenzie had been definitely been out of her league. She remembered Juan’s few feeble attempts to join her on the Equity cot, and that he’d been unsuccessful, but not much else. Oh yeah, and now she was a professional stage manager with a show that went into rehearsals tomorrow.
It wasn’t until Mackenzie got to the lobby that she put two and two together and realized that the vacuum cleaner had to be operated by someone. Sure enough, it was Bret.
Bret. Bret was the bartender and janitor for the theatre, the guy who fixed the drinks and fixed the toilets and was responsible for keeping the building in suitable condition for an audience night after night. He booked the volunteers, bought supplies and never missed a day, even coming in on a Sunday to clean things up before the box office opened on Monday morning. And he was just a two years older than Mackenzie. And handsome. Extremely, handsome. Way too handsome to meet with bed-head, no make-up and smelling like nachos and Peach Schnapps.
“Me oh me oh my, it must have been a party,” Bret sang when he saw her.
“Yeah, it was… fun.”
“You look like the bottom of Marlene’s ashtray. You probably wish I’d turn this vacuum cleaner off, don’t you?”
Bret turned off the vacuum.
“You want to come down the street with me for a coffee and a bagel?”
“Uh, sure. Do you mind if I clean up a little bit first?”
Mackenzie just made it into the bathroom before throwing up again. As she swore to herself never to drink again she heard Bret knocking on the door.
“You okay in there?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, I mean, I will be. Just give me a minute.”
“Don’t worry about the mess. The bathroom is next on my list, and I’ve cleaned up plenty of puke in my day.”
After a long, slow, often unsteady walk down the street Mackenzie was glad when Bret suggested they sit in the coffee shop for a little while. The Sunday morning crowd was mostly church-goers who were on their way to church: people who didn’t have the time to stop and chat until after the service, so while there was a line-up the tables themselves were pretty much clear. A bagel with some cream cheese, a cup of coffee and the time to enjoy it was just what Mackenzie needed. And sitting at a table for two across from Bret didn’t hurt much either.
“So the word on the street is you’re the new Marvin,” Bret said as he polished off his bagel.
“Yeah. I think I’m totally nuts.”
“You are.” They both laughed.
“I don’t even know what I should be doing today. I mean rehearsals start tomorrow!”
“I guess Frank didn’t give you crash course in professional Stage Management 101?”
“No. Maybe I should ask Steven. I mean he must know something about Stage Managing right?”
“You’d think that, wouldn’t you?”
Mackenzie still wasn’t fully awake, but something about the way Bret was talking made her suspicious.
“Do you know something about this that I don’t?” she asked.
“I know Steven couldn’t stage manage his way out of a paper bag. If you go to him and ask him for some ‘advice’ he’ll spend the rest of the day with you in coffee shops and bars telling stories about shows he’s worked on that he feels have some connection to stage management. The truth is he hasn’t got a clue about that part of the business, and the only reason he made it through last night’s show was because Marvin had left him an amazingly complete prompt book.”
“And how do you know all this?”
“I’ve been around.”
“Listen, do you want some advice you can actually use?”
Mackenzie leaned forward, studying Bret’s face. He suddenly looked more mature than he had a moment ago, and strangely confident.
“Okay, then, Mr. Smarty Pants, what do you think I should do to prepare for this show?”
“Finish your breakfast. Then go back to the theatre, get a copy of the script out of Steven’s Office and make a copy for yourself. Set it up exactly like Marvin’s. Then make lists of all the props, set pieces, costumes, lighting cues, sound cues and special effects that are in the script, and leave a copy of it on Steven’s desk. Take the set design that’s in the shop and make a copy of it, then tape out the floor plan on the stage. Find rehearsal props and furniture and set them up as per the set design, and then set up a table in the auditorium for you and Frank. Assemble your office supplies, set up a table on stage for the read-through and the go home and get some sleep. You’ve got a very busy week ahead of you. Now I’ve got toilets to clean.”
And with that Bret knocked back the last mouthful of his coffee, got up and walked back to the theatre, leaving a stunned Mackenzie to finish her breakfast alone.