Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I

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9780312380960: Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I

All her world's a stage.

Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

That is, until now.


Enter Stage Right

NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE'S sidekicks.

ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie's weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE. Our heroine.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.


Open Curtain

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About the Author:

Lisa Mantchev is the author of the Theatre Illuminata series, including Perchance to Dream and Eyes Like Stars. She grew up in the small Northern California town of Ukiah. She wrote her first play in the fourth grade, and has been involved in theater ever since. She received two scholarships to study drama at the University of California, Irvine. She won the Chancellor's Award For Undergraduate Research in Drama her senior year while studying in the Campuswide Honors Program. After graduation, she taught English at the Lycée Internationale de Los Angeles and created their Drama After School Program. In between report cards and drafting scripts for Winter and Spring productions, she wrote fiction. Her first professional short fiction sale was in 2002, and her debut trilogy sold in 2007. Mantchev makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with her husband Angel, her daughter Amélie and four hairy miscreant dogs. When not scribbling, she can be found on the beach, up a tree, making jam or repairing things with her trusty glue gun.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE
Presenting Beatrice
The fairies flew suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, busy assessing her reflection in the looking glass and thinking perhaps she shouldn’t have dyed her hair blue on this particular morning, turned to glare at them when they rocketed past the end of her nose for the third time in as many minutes.
“If you make me spill this stuff on the stage,” she said, “I’ll squeeze you until your heads pop off.”
Unperturbed by the threat, Mustardseed swung by her like a demented pendulum. “Going in there with fairy guts on your hands isn’t going to make a good impression!”
“Nervous about your call to the Theater Manager’s Office?” Moth asked, chasing Peaseblossom in circles.
“Not the best of timing,” Cobweb singsonged, hanging upside down at the end of his line, “mucking up your head right before a ten o’clock summons.”
“I’m not getting called on the carpet with my roots showing.” Bertie coated another section with Cobalt Flame liquid concentrate, pilfered just an hour ago from the Wardrobe Department. “Do we like the blue?”
“Better than Crimson Pagoda,” Peaseblossom said. “Your entire head looked like it was on fire that time.”
“Maybe I should have taken Black Cherry.” Bertie stuck her tongue out at the Beatrice-in- the-mirror. “Maybe Cobalt Flame will encourage the Theater Manager to get creative with his punishment.”
“He’ll probably just remove the desserts from the Green Room again,” Peaseblossom said.
The others groaned at the prospect, then Moth perked up to suggest, “He could make you scrub out the toilets in the Ladies’ Dressing Room instead.”
“Or scrape the gum off the bottoms of the auditorium seats,” said Cobweb.
“Ew.” Bertie wrapped another strand of hair in aluminum foil and crimped it against her head. “An excessive punishment for whistling a scene change, don’t you think?”
“ ‘Whistling a scene change’?” Peaseblossom giggled. “That’s a euphemism and a half! You set off the cannon, blew holes through three set pieces, and set the fire curtain on fire.”
“Quite the valuable lesson in emergency preparedness, I think,” Bertie said.
Moth twitched his ears at her. “Pondering our recent criminal history, I must admit there have been more pyro-technic explosions than usual.”
“Maybe the Theater Manager thinks you’re doing it to impress Nate,” Cobweb said.
Bertie felt the blood rush to her face until her cheeks were stained Shocking Pink. “Shut up.”
“It is like you’re acting a part for the dashing pirate lad’s benefit,” Mustardseed said.
Bertie snagged his wire, reeling him in until he reached eye level. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The fairy twitched. “You know. The hair dye, the black clothes—”
“The clove cigarettes!” Moth added from below.
“The drinking and cursing,” said Cobweb.
“Is it method acting?” Mustardseed asked.
“This is a theater.” Bertie, annoyed by the inquisition, dropped him onto the stage. Several feet of slack cable landed atop the fairy in a slithering heap.
“Oh!” Peaseblossom said. “You’ve buried him alive!”
“I told you it was silly to use the wires when you can fly perfectly well without them,” Bertie said.
“But they’re fun to swing on!” Moth protested as the fairies shed their harnesses and went to investigate the tomb of their fallen comrade.
Indefatigable, Mustardseed emerged from the pile, rubbing his bum. “If it’s not for Nate, is it because of your abandonment issues?”
There was a very long silence before Bertie told her reflection, “The only reason I’m friends with any of you is because I outgrew the von Trapps, one annoying Austrian at a time.”
“You could have joined the Lost Boys,” Moth said.
“They did nothing but whiz on trees, and I’m not properly equipped for that.”
“So you’re stuck with us because of your innate inability to pee standing up?” Peaseblossom put her hands on her hips as she hovered nearby.
“That’s right.” Bertie used her brush to stir the dye.
“We can do lots of stuff besides pee standing up,” Moth said.
“Like sword fighting!” Cobweb slashed and parried with great enthusiasm.
“Call the pirates and the shipwreck scene!” Mustardseed flailed his tiny yellow boots in an improvised hornpipe.
“I’m not supposed to make scene changes and thus I’m appalled by the very suggestion,” Bertie said. “You’re a bad influence, Mustardseed.”
“The rules have never stopped you before.” Peaseblossom looked knowing. “You just don’t want Nate seeing you with your head all slimy.”
Bertie put on her best Lady of the Manor air. “He needn’t wait for an engraved invitation to pay a social call.”
“But he prefers you pin a note to the Call Board,” Peaseblossom reminded her.
The majority of the Players drifted in and out of existence according to the summonses pinned to the Call Board, but the more flamboyant, dashing, or mad the character, the more freedom they had to move about the Théâtre. The fairies dogged Bertie’s every step, whereas Nate was one for protocol.
Probably all that rot about following the captain’s orders.
Bertie’s entire head tingled as the ammonia burned her scalp. She tried not to scratch at it, because that way lay madness... madness and funky-colored fingertips. “It has nothing to do with Nate. I need to finish my hair before the Stage Manager gets back.”
“He should be thankful it’s only dye on your head and not paint all over the stage,” Peaseblossom said.
Bertie glanced at the walls of her room. The three connected scenic flats were part of the Théâtre Illuminata’s enormous collection of backdrops, stored in the flies overhead and in the backstage scenic dock when not in use. “I haven’t painted my set in years.”
Lights up on BERTIE, AGE 7. She is painting over a dingy cream wall with something labeled “Violet Essence” as the STAGE MANAGER glowers at her.
BERTIE
It’s my bedroom, and I’ll do what I want with it.
(To prove her point, she splashes magenta and silver over the violet and smears it around with her hands.)
STAGE MANAGER
(grabbing for BERTIE’S ear and missing)
You can answer to the Theater Manager for this mess!
(The THEATER MANAGER arrives with MR. TIBBS, the Scenic Manager.)
(turning to the THEATER MANAGER)
Why you ever decided she needed to sleep here, on the stage, is beyond my powers of reckoning!
THEATER MANAGER
She needed a bedroom, and this is the best we could do.
STAGE MANAGER
(His face turns three shades of crimson and steam hisses out of his ears like a teakettle.)
But this isn’t a bedroom! We can’t stop the performances for bedtime, which means she’s under-foot until the stage is cleaned! And look at this mess!
MR. TIBBS
(chomping his cigar)
We do not change the colors of the flats. We touch them up, or faithfully reproduce them down to the last paint stroke and bit of gilt. But we do NOT change them!
BERTIE
Just because you don’t change them doesn’t mean I can’t.
THEATER MANAGER
Bertie, this place isn’t about change. It’s about eons of tradition.
BERTIE
(crossing her arms)
It’s my bedroom. I should be allowed to do what I like with my bedroom.
THEATER MANAGER
(studying BERTIE until she squirms a bit)
That’s true enough. But I wonder what will come next. One day, it’s your bedroom and the next—
STAGE MANAGER
Utter chaos and pandemonium!
BERTIE
(curious)
What color is pandemonium? It sounds yellow.
THEATER MANAGER
Beatrice, this is a matter of utmost importance, so I want you to listen to me and answer very carefully.
BERTIE
Yes, sir.
THEATER MANAGER
You like living here, don’t you?
BERTIE
(bewildered)
Yes.
THEATER MANAGER
Do you want to remain at the Théâtre?
BERTIE
Of course I do! (stammering) I mean, it’s my home....
THEATER MANAGER
Then you need to understand that while we will tolerate a certain amount of....
(He pauses to search for the appropriate word.)
STAGE MANAGER
Wanton destruction?
THEATER MANAGER
No, I think perhaps the word I was searching for was “creativity.” While we will tolerate, even encourage, your creativity, you must limit it to your personal space.
BERTIE
(frowning hard and trying to understand)
So I can paint my room?
THEATER MANAGER
Yes, you may. But you’re forbidden to change anything else. In that regard, you will have to learn to exercisesomething called “self-restraint.” Do you understand?
BERTIE
I think so. I mean, yes. Yes, sir. Now can I have paint the color of pandemonium, Mr. Tibbs?
MR. TIBBS
(scattering cigar ash about the stage)
No, you may not.
THEATER MANAGER
(another long moment of contheatre-illuminatalation passes before he nods)
Gentlemen, let the young lady get on with her painting. Bertie, clean up after yourself.
(He begins to make his exit, pausing at the edge of the stage.)
Please do remember what I said about exercising self-restrain...

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