by Rachel Leishman
Maren wielded the black crayon like a paint brush.
“Thank you so much for doing this Maren. I never got around to practicing it and you’re just so good at makeup and—”
“Yeah of course! And you’ve got beautiful eyebrows, by the way.”
The women fell silent again. Maren held the tip of her tongue between her teeth and drew a bit more on one eyebrow and then the other . . . back and forth . . . She took a step back to assess her work and smiled.“Okay! You’re all done!”
Nicole turned to the mirror and blanched. Her eyebrows were two coal worms that could challenge Frida Kahlo.“Wow. Thanks, Maren!”
Maren nodded and went back to her own mirror. Nicole rapidly sifted through her makeup kit and shifted her stance so that Maren could only see her back as she applied makeup remover to a cotton ball. She had just raised it to her eyebrow when the stage manager ran in—
“Five minutes till places everyone!”
Nicole let out a shaky breath and dashed the cotton ball over both eyebrows. Some of the makeup came off, but the rest of it smeared down her eyelids.
“Break a leg everyone!” called Dylan as he left out the green room doors.
Nicole bit back a squeal and checked the clock. There were still three minutes left. She doused another cotton ball with remover and wiped the offending smudges off one eyelid. She reapplied her silver eyeshadow as one castmate after another hollered “break a leg!” “good show!” “see you out there!” Her fingers grew more and more unsteady with each wish of luck. The eyeshadow on this eye was nearly . . . fixed.
“Alright everyone! Showtime!”
Maren was the only other actor left in the green room.
“Come on Nikki, let’s—oh crap!”
Nicole had faced Maren.
“You wiped . . . ? Never mind. How long until your first entrance?”
“Two minutes maybe.” Nicole’s voice came out thin and raspy.
“What?! Grab your kit. We gotta go!”
Nicole quickly obeyed and fought the nerves that threatened to rush up her throat. The two women slipped through the stage door just as Nicole heard her cue.
“God forbid! Where’s this girl? What, Juliet!”
Nicole froze in the wing and quietly began to hyperventilate.
“Nikki, listen to me,” Maren whispered as she grasped Nicole’s shoulders. “You’re going to be okay. Take your kit with you onstage and give it to Clara. She’ll fix you up during the scene.”
“Juliet?” Clara’s voice was only slightly tinted with worry.
Maren gave her a firm shove and Nicole staggered onstage.
“How now, who calls?”
Gasps and murmurs rolled through the audience.
“Your mother.” Clara kept a calm face as she wrapped an arm around Nicole’s shoulders and led her across the stage.
“Madam, I am here.” Nicole slumped onto the bed, her curls falling in her face. “What is your will?”
“This is the matter.” Anna’s voice was more panicked than when they’d rehearsed. “Nurse, give leave a while. We must talk in secret.”
Clara hobbled a couple feet away, drawing a laugh from the audience.
“Nurse, come back again. I have rememb’red me, thou s’ hear our counsel. Thou knowest my daughter’s of a pretty age.”
“Faith, I can tell her age unto an hour.” Clara took her place on the bed. Nicole handed her the makeup kit and Clara held it stupidly. Nicole cleared her throat expectantly and the audience gave an awkward laugh.
“She’s not fourteen.”
“I’ll lay fourteen of my teeth,” Clara rummaged through the makeup kit, “ and yet, to my teen be it spoken, I have but four”–—she couldn’t find the makeup remover—“She’s not fourteen.” So she opted for the concealer. “How long is it now to Lammas-tide?”
“A fortnight and odd days.” Anna held Nicole’s curls away from her face as Clara smoothed the peach cream onto her eyelid.
“Even or odd, of all days in the year, come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.” Clara dusted silver onto the eyelid. “Susan and she—God rest all Christian souls!—were of an age. Well, Susan is with God. She was too good for me.” Finished, she tucked the kit under the pillow and gave Nicole’s hand a hard squeeze.
“For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Dylan bowed his head in grief and the sniffling audience rose to its feet.
“Thank you so much everybody!” The audience members regained their seats. “I’m Nina, the Dramaturg for this production and we’d like to invite you to stay for a short, fifteen-minute talkback in which I’ll ask you guys a couple questions and then you can ask questions to the director or the actors and just have an open dialogue about the show.”
The cast and director slipped onto the edge of the stage and Nina began.
“Alright. As you could tell, we set our adaptation in the 50s and we were wondering if there were specific moments that worked for you guys or maybe didn’t work.Yes?”
“Well I thought the concept was great and just so well executed. The set, the costumes, the hair was fantastic. But one of my favorite parts was actually with the makeup.” The woman’s voice tightened on the last word, her eyes moist. “I just love the way that you guys addressed domestic abuse.”
Other audience members groaned in assent and the woman began fighting sobs. “I mean Juliet comes on with this black eye, which she presumably got from her father, and then the two women don’t even address it. They just help her cover it up and you know—it was just such a great depiction of toxic gender relationships which were huge in the 50s. Yes, men against women, but also women against women as well. I mean, her mother and nurse both knew what was going on, but they just covered it up and perpetuated this vicious cycle which finally culminated in the end when Romeo and Juliet die and it was just such a powerful demonstration of how abuse hurts both genders. One woman and one man had to pay in the end. And this message is still so relevant today and”—the woman took a second to catch her breath—“I just wanted to ask the director, what inspired that?”
Brianne was dumbfounded for a full five seconds and started into, “Well yeah, you know, we were really trying to get at domestic abuse and . . . ”
And Nicole slipped into a reverie as she talked, only broken when Maren whispered “good job” and held her hand out for a fist bump.
Rachel Leishman is from San Antonio, Texas. She is currently studying English and plans to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, she loves to do yoga and try new recipes with her husband Max.