Deborah Abolo scurried backstage amidst thunderous applause from the audience after a bewitching performance to Dream Theatre’s presentation of the Rainmaker. As if responding to strict orders, the one-thousand-two-hundred-seat auditorium was all on their feet clapping in anticipation of a performance that had promised the best of costume drama in the city of Benin.
Deborah rushed into the actors’ room and received high-fives from her co-performers for the night. They had all over two months of night rehearsals worked hard for tonight’s drama presentation and were joyously relieved the lead character had given a most beautiful prologue to the play.
The Rainmaker was pre-colonial era novel written by Deboral Abolo herself. After a dismal performance of the book for fourteen months, twenty-four-year-old Deborah had adapted the story into a stage play and hired the services of some Theatre Arts students from the University of Lagos. Acting as lead actor, producer and director, Deborah had invested all the money she had made from publishing the Rainmaker into the production of this play. Mrs Abolo, her mother, had also assisted by donating about the quarter of a million naira to support the production.
Dream Theatre had recuperated all expenses incurred during production. The tickets had all sold out five days before the actual presentation of the play.
The beautiful Susan Ortega played the villain in the Rainmaker. All through the sixty days rehearsals, Susan had acted like the real bane of Deborah’s life. The duo had been engaged in over forty-three bust-ups through the training. Susan had severally dumped the script and threatened to refund the performance fee. Deborah on her part had publicly called Susan arrogant, decrying she was only working with her because the UNILAG finalist was extremely good.
Both ladies had ego problems, perhaps because they were both equally beautiful. Deborah was a bossy director while Susan was almost incorrigible. Deborah advocated punctuality while Susan felt she could stroll into rehearsal at any time, after all, she was seven months older. However, passion for the art succeeded in bonding these two proud ladies together for the Rainmaker project. Deborah regarded Susan highly as a fine actor. Susan, on the other hand, was certain the Rainmaker was the best script she had handled in her entire life, though she never made this known to the director.
Sighing excitedly, Deborah turned pages on the script as the characters for the first scene processed on stage. “Do good out there,” she admonished the actors as the curtain parted to unveil a scene of wildlife.
Another thunderous shout resonated from the audience at the remarkable scene on stage where a hunter and his wife laid in wait for an antelope. The improvisation of the scene was near real life. Deborah had spent a whole month coming up with the idea.
When Deborah turned again, she caught Susan at a dark corner of the room wearing cosmetics. Susan had taken off her costume and was hurriedly laying foundations of make-ups on her attractive face.
“What are you doing Sue?” Deborah demanded.
Susan turned with an unsmiling face. “What does it like I’m doing, Director?”
“Not again,” a member of the backstage crew moaned at Susan’s nudity. The villain had taken off every piece of her traditional accessories except for her panties. “It took over fifteen minutes to those on you Susan,” the costumier lamented.
Deborah grunted and moved closer. “You’re a native priestess from the mountains, Susan. You can’t go up there in cosmetics.”
“What are you thinking Deb?” Susan fired angrily. “There are over four hundred young men in the audience. You want me to appear without makeup?”
Only last night, the duo had nearly brought down the rehearsal venue when Susan came along with her boyfriend. Deborah thought the presence of a lover was a distraction but Susan insisted the young provided all the motivation she needed.
“You’re acting a play Sue,” Deborah said. “Everyone knows you’re beautiful.”
“Not the people out there tonight,” Susan sniggered.
“A village priestess from the mountain cannot wear cosmetics,” Deborah reiterated.
“I have memorized my lines better than anyone in this room, Director. That’s the most important thing.”
Deborah squinted at the wall clock plunging down the room. In four minutes, Susan would be required on stage. “You need to stop Sue. There’s no way you’re getting up there wearing those. Makeups would erase the very essence of the story.”
“Not with the language and the pre-civilization setting,” Susan said defiantly.
“It’s called conformity Susan,” Deborah asserted. “Everybody else is attired in the recommended costume. No one is getting on my stage wearing make-ups like an Italian prostitute.”
“Why don’t you go ahead and tell everyone how jealous you are of my beauty. I’m better Deb. You’re scared I might hook up with some rich guy tonight.”
“I don’t care who you hook up with Susan. The only thing important to me right now is that you wipe those off your face because you’re getting on stage in two minutes.”
Susan marched at the director with a mocking smile. “Face it, Deb. You do care about who I hook up with. Everyone knows you’re still a virgin at twenty-four. You cry about it every night because though you look good, no man is ever attracted to you. You’ve never had a boyfriend before. You’re cursed, dear friend.”
“This is getting too far Sue,” another actor bellowed at the villain. “We’ve come a long way for this. Let’s just get this over with and everyone goes their separate ways.”
“I’m not cursed,’’ Deborah said quietly. She appeared humbled by Susan’s claim.
Susan moved closer still. “But you are.”
“I am not cursed,” Deborah yelled. She was certain her shout was loud enough to trouble half the large auditorium. “I’m not cursed. I just don’t like men.”
“That’s the curse Deb,” Susan mocked. “You’ve never been friends with a member of the opposite sex and it doesn’t trouble you? Is there a greater curse than that for a woman?”
“I am not cursed,” Deborah bawled as loud as she could.
“What kind of woman is scared of men?” Susan ridiculed.
“The kind of woman who saw what my father did to my Mom. The experience had forced me to–– .” Deborah stuttered, almost in tears now.
“Let it out, Director,” Susan scorned. “The experience forced you to become a lesbian. You think nobody will find out?”
“What are you talking about Sue?”
“You’re a lesbian, Deb!”
“I am not a lesbian.”
“You are a lesbian!”
The director had endured enough from the villain. In one thoughtless moment, she lifted her right hand and dispatched a heavy slap to Susan’s face. “Are you crazy?”
Susan didn’t retaliate. She only staggered backwards, found her footing again and let out another unreasonable grin. “Lesbian bitch.”
“Are you well Sue?” the costumier intervened again. “Why are you attacking the director?”
“She’s a lesbian,” Susan panted. “She’s been pretending and deceiving everyone with her sermons on morality.”
The costumier was unimpressed. “Does it matter if she is a lesbian?”
“Then let her come clean about it. She can’t be lambasting those of us who have boyfriends while she indulges in something considered abnormal by so many people.”
“I am not a lesbian Susan,” Deborah roared.
“Stop lying to me,” Susan gave a louder roar. “You are a miserable lesbian.”
“Don’t pay attention to her ranting, Deb,” the costumier said. “Susan is hell bent on making you angry tonight.”
“I think she has succeeded,” Deborah sighed. “This is too much for me.”
The director grabbed the bucket of woad by the door and emptied the black liquid on the villain. She pushed Susan violently till both tumbled over the plastic chairs scattered all over the room.
Before Susan arose from the crash, the director took the master scene script and tore it in pieces. She ran off to the switch and turned the stage light.
It appeared Susan had swallowed much of the woad as she tarried on the floor coughing terribly. The other actors had gathered about her in bewilderment.
“Come, come on De––,” Susan stammered. “I was only––.”
But Deborah was no longer in the room. She had darted on stage and turned and kicked out the hunter, his wife and the animal they had caught. She grabbed the microphone and seethed.
An eerie quietness enveloped the hall as the hunter departed with his company. Mrs Abolo who was quite familiar with the story line developed apprehension. This certainly wasn’t part of the script. She knew her daughter very well. Deborah’s anger usually ran its full course of destruction and abuse. And often than not, she had regretted every action and reaction she had carried out in anger.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Deborah called into the microphone, “this event cannot continue due to security concerns for the lead actors. Your tickets shall be refunded. Good night.”
“No!” Mrs Abolo roared from the front and raced to the stage. “You can’t do this honey.”
Susan rushed behind the stage, in her panties which rained down the blue dye. She was visibly shocked by the director’s reaction to the whole episode. “How could you Deb?” Susan blurted.
“I hired you, Susan,” Deborah cried as the audience dissolved quickly in a melee. Her reference to security concerns caused many members of the audience to vault the back windows. The city wasn’t actually safe from kidnappers and armed robbers. “And now you are fired Susan,” the director added.
“It was a joke Deborah,” Susan gasped displaying a heavily decorated mid-size cake. “It’s your birthday Deb. December 17. You probably forgot because of the presentation.”
Deborah doused as with cold water. “You were telling a joke?”
Susan nodded. “An expensive one, I know. You shouldn’t have dismissed the audience. I have told you before. You need to do something about your anger. Look now, you’ve destroyed everything we worked for.”
“Do not play that blame game with me, Sue. You should have stopped when you had the time.”
“I had this under control till you gave me that punch and I passed out.”
The duo continued to stew over the misadventure till two suited gentlemen marched onstage to them. Deborah wiped her tears quickly. She recognized the taller man as her publisher who had failed woefully with her novel.
“What a night Deborah,” the taller man said. “This is Isong Ameyong from the Tinapa Studios. He had travelled down from Calabar to watch your show and hopefully pull through a TV deal. I was simply trying to redeem myself for the poor performance of the novel. How well you made good of this opportunity Deborah.”
Deborah forged a smile and put forth a hand towards the other gentleman. “I’m so sorry about tonight, Mr Ameyong.”
“He doesn’t wish to speak to you,” the publisher said and led his guest down the stage.
“Hope you can estimate the cost of your joke?” Deborah cried at the villain.
“You went too far Susan,” Mrs Abolo rebuked. “You should have kept the surprise till after the performance. All that rehearsals and hard work went like that now?”
Susan crashed to Deborah’s feet, the director’s tears raining on her. “I’m so sorry Deb.”
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