Written by Teresa Toten & Eric Walters
The noises in my head got louder. It was like I was a walking construction site. Metal crashed into concrete and a relentless hammering pounded “Run, Katie, get off the stage, freak, hide, hide.” Instead I clutched my script tighter. I was projectile sweating. I knew from auditions last week that gripping the pages with my wet hands would end up moulding my script into a rock-hard and useless bow tie. “Cut and run, Katie. Go! ”
I focused on my most important audience member. Ms. Cooper smiled at me like I’d just discovered penicillin. “That was lovely, Katie. Nice tone and perfect clarity. I’m sure our director would agree.”
Travis nodded and gave me his signature A-OK sign.
We were in the middle of our first read-through in our first script meeting. Travis hadn’t taken over the reins from Ms. Cooper yet. That would happen in first rehearsals, starting tomorrow. It should have been more reassuring that the director was an actual friend. Thing is, Travis was just as surprised as I was that I got the lead. So how was he going to save me when they realized the massive mistake they’d all made when they gave me Katherina, the shrew, the lead role? It could get ugly.
Ms. Cooper flipped through her manuscript. “Katie, page thirteen of your script, please. Everybody else just pay attention to Katie’s rhythm here. I want you all to think about her pitch and near-perfect feeling for the language.”
Oh dear God, why would she say that? Now they were all looking and would feel compelled to hate me. Even I felt compelled to hate me.
I didn’t unfurl my mangled Taming of the Shrew script. I knew the speech she meant. The rest of the cast, including Josh, my Petruchio, sat and faced me. I searched for signs of contempt and couldn’t find any. It was confusing.
“Centre stage, dear. Josh, pay attention,” Ms. Cooper said.
I stepped forward into the key light and prepared to respond to Ms. Cooper’s reading of Petruchio’s lines. Josh looked like he’d rather be performing surgery on himself. Everyone said that Josh had been tapped for the lead because of his physical presence, which, in all honesty, was significantly smouldering. I think Ms. Cooper and Travis both hoped that Josh would magically develop actor chops through rehearsals. At the moment, our dumpling-ish, fivefoot- nothing, pastel-wearing drama teacher was a more convincing Petruchio than Josh was. And Josh knew it.
“Ready, Katie?” she asked.
I nodded and listened for my cue. This part was bad, the waiting for my cue part. The construction noises stopped just in time for my new obsession to take over. I scanned the stage searching for the horror-movie machinery. This was where the vat of pig’s blood
would tip over and drench me and my colossal actor pretentions and everyone would hoot and laugh and . . . wait a minute. What pretensions? I hadn’t asked for the lead. I was never gunning for the part of the fi ery and crazed Katherina. I was going for costumes and crowd scenes. It was Ms. Cooper who’d insisted I read for Katherina on the last day of auditions. I’d wanted to die, kill her, and blow up the school, in that order . . . until I read that first speech out loud.
Standing in the middle of the stage, under a spotlight, facing a motley audience of our future director, Travis, and Lisa, two of my best friends—okay my only two friends—plus a few teachers, six detention students and a couple of straggling stagehands all with
their eyes trained on me, waiting . . .
And my head exploded. I loved it. Acting hit me like a sucker punch and I loved, loved, loved it! I was someone else, but as that someone, I was heard and I was seen. Invisible Katie became visible Katherina. Every nerve ending fired and I came alive. You’d think I would have choked and screwed up my speeches. But I didn’t, not once. Unbelievable. I liked being up there, and it immediately became very, very important that I stay up there. Somehow I was more me on that stage than I was anywhere else. I didn’t understand it, but there it was.
The first miracle was that when the cast list was posted yesterday, Katie Rosario had been picked for Shakespeare’s shrew.
The second miracle was that no one laughed or rolled their eyes when the list was posted. Josh was really pissed. Not at me being picked as his Katherina, but at his being picked for Petruchio. “No offence, Katie, you’re brilliant.” He shook his head. “But you’ll be dragging my sorry butt from one end of the stage to the other. I apologize in advance. I just needed the credit. I don’t know what the hell Cooper and Travis were smoking.”
The most popular boy in the entire school, a star basketball player, not only saw me, but he was asking forgiveness for as yet unspecifi ed crimes. I may have been in a fog, but I was clear enough to recognize that my life had just been turned on its head.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied. “You’ll be a perfect Petruchio, Josh.”
Now Ms. Cooper was prompting me. “Anytime, Katie, starting at line 280.”
“Call you me daughter?” I spat.
It was the speech that a furious Katherina throws back at her father. She knows her father doesn’t love her and is only interested in getting her off his hands. I got that—just exchange my mother for Katherina’s father.
Now I promise you.
You have showed a tender fatherly regard
To wish me wed to one half lunatic,
madcap ruffian and a swearing Jack
That thinks with oaths to face the matter out.
I spaced out again for a bit while Josh fumbled for his response. He had real trouble following the language. I don’t know why I didn’t, but I didn’t. Shakespeare made sense to me. From grade nine on, I’d been reading the plays in secret. I loved the way that Shakespeare’s words felt on my tongue, and I trusted him. I got him, and now look where that had got me. What would be the price I’d have to pay for this? There was always a price.
As soon as my lines were done I was Carrie in the Stephen King movie again, the 1976 one with Sissy Spacek, not the 2002 poseur version. I’d been YouTubing the pig’s blood scene ever since I got the part. Red rivers of blood stream daintily down Sissy Spacek’s stunned face until it eventually obliterates her shoulders, her arms, her prom dress. Poor thing, she thought her life had changed too.
“Katie?” It was Travis, our, my, director. I turned to him. “Remember that by the time you get to ‘I’ll see thee hanged on Sunday first ’ you have to have established yourself as loud, crude. Katherina is a wild animal that has to be tamed. Give Petruchio something to tame.”
Josh turned a paler shade of grey.
“Don’t let this be your ‘tameness’ be your Achilles heel, Katie,” Ms. Cooper interrupted. “You are rage and power personified, you—”
“Will love it,” I whispered.
“Pardon, dear?” asked Ms. Cooper, who kept forgetting that she was not the director.
“Nothing, excuse me.” I turned to Travis. “I’m ready to peel wallpaper, sir.”
Travis nodded, pleased with himself and, more importantly, with me. Travis saw me. He usually did, but now, because he was a director and I was on stage, everybody looked. Everybody saw
me. And somehow, in the seeing, the horror-movie machinery dissolved. There was just me, and everybody looking at me.
I’d spent a lot of time and a whole lot effort trying to blend into the walls in my last couple of schools. Being invisible kept me safe in the hallways and with the last two of Mom’s boyfriends. But that was over now. I was starring in The Taming of the Shrew and it hit me that, at least on opening night, just about everyone in the school would see me. And, sweating on stage, waiting for Josh to recover his lines, it also hit me that being invisible was good, but maybe now being visible was going to be better . . . so, so, so much better.
Excerpted from The Taming by Teresa Toten & Eric Walters. Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Toten & Eric Walters. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Books. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.