Class play, p.2
Leslie sighed. “I am sorry, Jannie. I guess we will. It is just that I wanted to be Alice.”
MEANIE MRS. GRAFF
Ms. Colman smiled at her students. Then she clapped her hands together. “Okay, girls and boys. It is time for the very first rehearsal of our play. Please line up and we will walk to the auditorium.”
The kids in Ms. Colman’s class lined up at the door. They followed Ms. Colman down the hall to the auditorium. They found Mrs. Graff waiting on the stage.
“Okay,” said Mrs. Graff briskly. “Please find seats in the front row. Natalie? That is your name, is it not? No talking while I am talking.”
Silently, the kids sat down. Leslie sat between Natalie and Tammy. She looked at Jannie two seats away. She pointed to Tammy’s seat.
Jannie stood up to switch places with Tammy.
“Girls,” said Mrs. Graff. “I said to sit down.”
Jannie plopped back into her seat.
Leslie sighed. She started to scowl, then stopped. She had a feeling Mrs. Graff would see the scowl. Mrs. Graff probably had eyes in the back of her head.
“All right,” said Mrs. Graff. “Today I would like to work with Alice and the White Rabbit. Karen and Sara, please come up on the stage. Bring your playbooks. Ms. Colman?”
Leslie glanced at Ms. Colman, who was standing at the end of the row of kids. Ms. Colman was frowning.
“Yes?” said Ms. Colman.
“Why don’t you take the rest of the students. They can start working on the scenery and costumes and props.”
So Karen and Sara went onstage with Mrs. Graff. The other kids went behind the stage with Ms. Colman.
“We have a lot of work to do to get ready for the play,” Ms. Colman said to her students. “But it will be fun. Together we will make the scenery for our play. And each of you will put together your own costume. Please ask me if you need help with your costumes. Your parents can help you, too, of course.”
From the other side of the curtain, Leslie heard Mrs. Graff say, “You are not listening, Sara. How did I just read that line to you? You must pay attention.”
“But I —” Sara started to say.
“No buts,” said Mrs. Graff.
Leslie looked at Ms. Colman. Ms. Colman was frowning again. Maybe she thought Sara was doing a bad job.
Jannie nudged Leslie. “Mrs. Graff is a meanie,” she said.
Natalie leaned over. “I do not think Ms. Colman likes her,” she said.
“Really?” whispered Leslie. Maybe that was why Ms. Colman was frowning.
Karen and Sara worked with Mrs. Graff for awhile. Then Leslie heard Mrs. Graff say to the girls, “Thank you. Remember — practice, practice, practice.” She paused. “Okay,” she went on, more loudly. “May I have Tweedledum and Tweedledee out here, please?”
Leslie and Jannie glanced at each other.
“Uh-oh,” said Jannie.
Leslie took Jannie’s hand, and they walked to the front of the stage.
“And you are … ” said Mrs. Graff, “Jannie and Leslie?”
“I am Jannie,” said Jannie.
“And I am Leslie.”
“Please start reading from page twenty-six,” said Mrs. Graff. “And remember to project. That means speak up.”
“Okay,” replied Leslie. She could not wait for the rehearsal to end. Leslie had decided she hated Mrs. Graff.
The next day, the kids in Ms. Colman’s class went to the auditorium. It was time for their next rehearsal.
“Everyone who is in the mad tea party scene, come to the stage,” called Mrs. Graff. “The rest of you go with Ms. Colman.”
Tweedledee and Tweedledum were not at the mad tea party. They went behind the stage with Ms. Colman.
“Goody,” Jannie whispered to Leslie. “I do not like working with Mrs. Graff. Mrs. Graff scares me.”
“Me too,” said Leslie.
“Me three,” said Ricky Torres.
“Shh,” said Leslie. “I think Ms. Colman heard us.”
Ms. Colman was frowning again.
Leslie was glad when the rehearsal was over.
That night, Leslie looked around the dinner table at her family. Her mother and father each sat at one end of the table. Leslie sat on one side. Across from her sat her sister. Barbara was eleven years old. Leslie had heard her mother say that Barbara was eleven going on sixteen. She was not sure what that meant, since everyone knows twelve comes after eleven. She was sure that Barbara could be a big fat pain.
Just as Leslie was taking the second to last bite of her fish, the telephone rang. Mr. Morris reached for it. But Barbara sprang out of her chair.
“Let me get it!” she cried.
“Honey —” said Mr. Morris.
“It might be Dave! Claire told Emily to tell me that he might call tonight. And Dave is a boy.”
“Duh,” said Leslie.
Barbara grabbed the phone. “Hello?” she said. “What? … Okay, just a sec.” Barbara sighed. She handed the phone to Mrs. Morris.
“Hello?” said Leslie’s mother. “Oh, Ms. Colman. How are you?”
Barbara glared across the table at Leslie. “What did you do wrong?”
“Nothing! Nothing,” said Leslie.
Leslie listened carefully to her mother. She heard her say “The play?” Then she heard her say “Mm-hmm” a lot. Finally she said, “Well, let me think it over. Let me talk to Leslie, too.”
When Mrs. Morris hung up the phone, she was smiling. “Guess what Ms. Colman wanted,” she said. Leslie could not guess. “She wanted to know if I would be interested in directing your class play.”
“You?” replied Leslie. “But Mrs. Graff is directing it.”
“I guess she cannot do it anymore. What do you think, Les?”
“Do you want to direct it?” Leslie asked her mother.
“Sure. It would be fun. But only if it is okay with you.”
Leslie went to her room to think. She did not really want her mother to direct her class play. That would be almost as bad as if her mother were her teacher. Her mother would come to school every day. She would tell Leslie’s classmates what to do. That would be so embarrassing. What if the kids hated Leslie’s mother? What if —?
Leslie had been sitting on her bed. Suddenly, she leaped to her feet. She had just had a great idea. If her mother directed the play, then she would get to decide who had which parts. Just as Mrs. Graff had done. Surely Mrs. Morris would let her own daughter play Alice.
Leslie ran downstairs. “Mommy,” she said, “I have been thinking. It would be great if you directed the play.”
“Really?” said Mrs. Morris.
“Really,” said Leslie.
Leslie smiled. Her mother would probably give out the new parts at the very next rehearsal.
“Girls and boys,” said Ms. Colman, “I have some news for you about our play.”
It was the next morning. Ms. Colman was sitting at her desk. She looked around at her students.
Leslie smiled. She knew what Ms. Colman’s news would be.
“We have a new director for our play. Mrs. Graff is very busy right now. She decided it would be better if someone else directed Alice. So I have asked Leslie’s mother to take over. She has directed many plays.”
“In New York,” added Leslie.
Then Leslie turned around. She looked at Karen. She felt a little sorry for her. How sad that soon Karen would not be Alice anymore.
That afternoon, the kids in Ms. Colman’s class went to the auditorium again. They sat in the first row of seats.
Mrs. Morris stood in front of them.
“Hi, kids,” she said. “I am very happy to be directing your play. I know you have already been working hard. That is great. But I want us to have some fun, too. Putting on a play should be fun.”
Leslie looked up and down the row at her classmates. They did not seem to hate Mrs. Morris. (
“Now,” Leslie’s mother went on, “Ms. Colman told me you are working on the mad tea party scene. So let’s start there —”
“Um, Mommy? I mean, Mom?” Leslie raised her hand.
“Yes?” said her mother.
(Leslie was glad her mother had not called her honey.)
“What about the auditions?”
“The auditions?” repeated Mrs. Morris. “You already had the auditions. The play has been cast.”
“Oh. But … I thought you would want to start over.”
“Heavens no. I am just going to pick up where Mrs. Graff left off.”
“You mean I —” Leslie stopped herself. She had almost said, “You mean I cannot play Alice after all?” Instead she did not say anything.
In fact, Leslie did not say a single word until the rehearsal was over. Then she tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy, can I talk to you in private?” she asked. “It is about the part of Alice. Do you think I could switch with Karen? I would really like to be Alice.”
Mrs. Morris looked surprised. “Play Alice? No, honey. That is Karen’s part. I already said that the play has been cast. We are not starting over.”
“But —” began Leslie.
“And I meant it,” said Mrs. Morris.
THE SNEAKY PLAN
Audrey Green raced into school. She slowed down and walked through the halls. Then she burst into Ms. Colman’s room.
“Leslie, hi!” she called. “I cannot wait for our play rehearsal today!”
“Me neither!” said Sara.
Leslie scowled. Her classmates said these things every single morning now. They had never said them when Mrs. Graff was directing the play. They had been afraid of Mrs. Graff. But they loved Leslie’s mother. Natalie had even said to Leslie, “You are so lucky. You get to live with your mother. We only see her at rehearsals.”
Leslie did not think her mother was so wonderful. But she did not say so. She knew she was the only one who felt that way.
Once, just once, Leslie had asked her mother about Alice again. Her mother had smiled. She had tried to look patient. “The play has already been cast,” she said to Leslie. “I told you that we were not going to start over. Karen is looking forward to playing Alice. And that,” she had added, “is the end — the very end — of this discussion.”
“Meanie,” Leslie said under her breath.
Leslie found herself muttering “meanie” quite often. Mostly during the play rehearsals. And mostly when her mother was working with Karen.
The play was coming along nicely. If Leslie had not been so mad, she might have had fun. Mrs. Morris usually worked on-stage with only a few kids at a time. The kids who were not onstage worked with Ms. Colman on costumes and scenery. They painted big cardboard cups and saucers and pots for the mad tea party. They painted an enormous tree for the Cheshire Cat. They painted the room inside the rabbit hole into which Alice falls at the beginning of the play.
“Isn’t this fun?” Jannie asked Leslie one afternoon.
“It is better than workbooks,” said Leslie.
Jannie glanced at her. She paused. Then she said, “I am almost finished with my costume. Are you? They have to look just the same, you know. Except for the DUM and DEE parts.”
“I will get to mine,” said Leslie.
“Did you start it yet?”
“Leslie! Don’t you care how we look? We have to be perfect. Our song is —”
“Stupid,” Leslie muttered. She and Jannie had to sing a song together — a duet — and do a little dance, too.
“What?” said Jannie.
Leslie peered between the curtains.
“Mrs. Morris?” Karen was saying. “See here in my playbook? See where it says I say this line sadly? Well, how sad should I look? This sad?” Karen looked as if she were about to cry.
“Not quite that sad,” said Mrs. Morris. “I think you are more thoughtful in this scene. And maybe a little worried.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks, Mrs. Morris.” Karen beamed.
“You are doing a wonderful job, Karen,” said Mrs. Morris.
“Meanie,” murmured Leslie.
“In fact,” Mrs. Morris went on, raising her voice, “you are all doing a wonderful job. Keep up the good work.”
“Meanie,” said Leslie again. She looked around at her classmates. Every one of them was grinning. Leslie hoped the play was a big fat flop. She narrowed her eyes. An idea was coming to her.
“Leslie?” said Omar. “What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing,” replied Leslie. This was a lie. Leslie had just thought of a very sneaky plan.
In Ms. Colman’s class, it was prop day. Each of the kids had been asked to find one or two props for the play. Karen was to find two bottles and paste a label on one that said DRINK ME, and a label on the other that said EAT ME. These were very important props for the rabbit hole.
Chris was to find a three-legged stool. That was also for the rabbit hole.
Everyone had an assignment. And everyone was supposed to bring the props to school on prop day.
“Well? How did you do?” Ms. Colman asked her students.
“Fine!” they answered.
“Did you find everything?”
“But the stool was really hard to find,” added Chris.
“So was this,” said Hank. He held up a large brass key.
“I found lots of four-legged stools,” Chris went on. “But not three-legged ones. Finally, my aunt let me look in her attic.”
“My mom had to call an antique store to get the key,” said Hank. “But the woman there let us have it for fifty cents.”
“You have all worked very hard. I can see that,” said Ms. Colman. “Thank you. We will bring our props to the auditorium today.”
Good, thought Leslie. That will fit right into my plan.
That afternoon, the kids in Ms. Colman’s class piled their props behind the stage. They looked at them proudly.
“My,” said Leslie’s mother. “You certainly have been busy. Good job.” (Leslie’s classmates grinned.) “All right, today I would like to see the March Hare, the King, and the Dormouse, please,” Mrs. Morris went on.
“The rest of you come with me,” said Ms. Colman. “You may continue working on the scenery. And I want to start checking on your costumes.”
The kids rushed for the paint cans and brushes. Leslie waited until Ms. Colman was talking with Nancy Dawes. Then she wandered over to the props. She looked through them carefully. At last she saw what she wanted. The brass key. She made sure no one was watching her. Then she slipped the key in her pocket.
A few minutes later, Leslie was busily painting a large cardboard teapot. She heard a yelp.
“Hey!” someone cried. “Hey, the key is gone!”
It was Hank. He was standing by the props.
“Ms. Colman,” said Hank. “I came to check on the key, and it is gone!”
“Oh, I am sure it is not really gone,” replied Ms. Colman. “Come on. Let’s look for it.”
Ms. Colman, Hank, and a few other kids looked for the missing key. Leslie watched them. She smiled to herself.
“I will never find another key like that one!” wailed Hank.
Good, thought Leslie.
Leslie peeped through the curtains at the kids onstage. They were saying their lines. Some of them were still reading from their playbooks. Some were not. Leslie saw Karen’s playbook lying on the stage. In a flash, she whisked it away and stuck it under a trash can.
The next thing Leslie knew, Karen was calling, “Hey! Where is my playbook? I need my playbook!”
Karen searched for her book. She could not find it. Finally, she had to borrow Ian’s. She started to say her lines again. “Now I do not remember where to begin,” she complained.
Mrs. Morris sighed. “Okay.
Leslie smiled to herself. She ducked behind the curtains. Everyone was busy. No one was watching her. Leslie found a bucket of red paint. She found a big brush. She stood before the Cheshire Cat’s tree. She aimed the paintbrush.
“Leslie, what are you doing?” exclaimed Jannie.
Leslie jumped. “Oh! Oh, nothing,” she said. “I was not doing anything.”
“Yes, you were. You were going to ruin our tree. You were going to splash red paint all over it. You hate this play. I know you do.”
“So what? So what if I hate it?”
“I bet you stole Hank’s key and Karen’s playbook, too.”
“So what if I did?”
“I am going to tell on you!”
“Go ahead, tattletale,” said Leslie.
“I said, go ahead…. Are you a fraidy cat, too?”
“No, I am not a fraidy cat. And I am not a tattletale. But you are a big fat thief. And you are a play wrecker.”
“Well, that is better than being stupid Tweedledee.”
“I knew it! I knew you did not want to be Tweedledee!” cried Jannie. “Why not? Why not, Leslie? Just because you wanted to be Alice, and you did not get the part? You are so stuck up! You always have to be the best!”
“I am stuck up? Look who is talking. You are the one who was so mean to Karen when she skipped into second grade. You did not like her because she is younger than us.”
“You were mean to her, too. And you are jealous of her!” cried Jannie.
“Well, you were jealous of Mary Washburn in first grade.”
“You were the one who stole Mary’s lunch. See? You were already a thief. Even back in first grade. And now you are stealing things just because you hate the play. That is not fair to the rest of us, Leslie.”
“Then maybe I will just drop out of the play.”
“Good. You should.”
“If I drop out, will you still tell on me?”
Leslie screwed up her face. “We-ell,” she said slowly. “I don’t know. Will you return the key and the playbook?”