|Hayden Berger (a.k.a. Cyrano de Bergerac)|
Cyrano de Bergerac-- Hayden Berger
Christian de Neuvillette-- Christopher Newville
Comte De Guiche--Matt Pucker
Le Bret--Lee Briton
Setting--Ballard College of the Arts, Albany, NY
The mysterious beauty disappeared as Chris turned to face Professor Leon Guerre, an old family friend and the man largely responsible for Chris' presence at Ballard College of the Arts.
"Professor Guerre, hello," Chris said politely, but the portly gentleman did not pause.
"Quickly, the performance is about to begin!"
Chris followed the man, "What performance? Will I be late to my class?"
Professor Guerre stopped. "What class?"
Chris brought out his class schedule and pointed. "It says I have History class in one half-hour."
Guerre squinted at the schedule. "Oh! Special dispensation; that class was postponed two hours. You won't want to miss it. Now, come with me!"
The professor led his young charge to Ballard Theater. A large poster out front proclaimed,
"Selections from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', performed by critically acclaimed dramatist, Montreal LaFleur."
"A professional?" Chris inquired, pointing at the playbill.
Guerre snorted, "No more professional than you or I. Montreal is of the sort whose sense of greatness is over-indulged to the point of preposterousness. Yet he is a moderate specimen of the breed, and the head of the drama department, so you'll be taking some of your cues from him."
They entered and sat in two vacant seats at the many tables set before the stage. The theater was nearly full, but most of the audience was from outside the college.
Chris gazed around. He saw a hesitant freshman directing the concession stand. "Who is that?"
Guerre twisted in his seat and peered through his thick glasses. "That is Edward Regan, a promising young man, though perhaps a bit—shall we say—distracted by verse? You will find him a very loyal friend, though."
Presently, a kind-looking man with light hair and a neat suit crossed to them and shook the old professor's hand. "Good to see you, sir. Have you heard whether Hayden Berger will attend?"
Guerre shrugged, "I do not know, Lee. You know how much Hayden loathes Monty. I imagine he would not bear to be in the theater when LaFleur is onstage."
Lee Briton nodded, "True, but do you not recall the incident two weeks ago, at the end of last quarter? Monty tried to perform Shakespeare then, too, and did so poorly that Hayden took the liberty of banishing him from my theater for a full month! Would Hayden make such a ban in public if he did not intend to monitor the theater during the month, to enforce his word? LaFleur is either very brave or very foolish to appear on stage so soon!"
"Lee, you speak as if you did not bill him in your own theater!"
It was Lee's turn to shrug. "I didn't! He must have billed himself, and I did not notice until it was too late to cancel!"
Guerre shook his head. "Then there is nothing we can do but wait and see. Enjoy what you can of the show." Lee nodded and returned to his seat.
The lights dimmed, the curtain opened, and there on the stage stood the sorriest sight Chris had ever seen at Ballard!
Montreal LaFleur, as the name might suggest, was a youth of ponderous frame, compounded by his highly-inflated ego. He stood before "his public" now, clad in the full regalia of seventeenth-century Danish robes, a most (he thought) dramatic expression on his face. In reality, he had drawn the corners of his mouth so that he constantly looked like he had somehow swallowed a frog. He began his piece.
"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!"
Chris could not help noticing the way the rotund young man's bulging eyes constantly roved to a particular table at the far right of the room. He followed Monty's gaze, and there she was: the beauty from the library!
Chris grabbed Guerre's arm. "There she is!" he hissed in the old man's ear. "Quick, Guerre, for the love of grace tell me who she is!"
The old professor raised his eyebrows discerningly. "She is Madison Robbins. See that woman on her right? That is Donna Steele, her guardian. Madi works in the Library."
"Yes, I know." Chris felt his face warm as he remembered the meeting in the library. "Why does Montreal look at her so often?" Chris demanded in a whisper.
Guerre chuckled. "Montreal LaFleur fancies himself a ladies' man. Madison has charm and beauty to her credit, but there is only one man with true love for her, and another who will probably have her in the end."
"Who will have her?"
"His name is Matthew Pucker, and a more formidable student by way of monetary influence you are not likely to find in this institution. He has designs for young Madi. He has made no secret of his desire to marry her this coming semester, but so far his forwardness has only bred aversion in her. Madison Robbins is not one who would allow herself to be forced into situations, much less marriage. She has also stated that money would never buy her love, which makes wealthy students like Matt all the more disagreeable to her."
Chris sighed and watched her adoringly. "I am not above her in that respect! Would that we could be introduced!"
Professor Leon shrugged. "Perhaps after the play I can introduce you two."
Christopher brightened and returned to watching the arrogant actor perform.
"In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel!" Monty attempted to emphasize his words by "gliding" about the stage, brazenly edging closer to Madi's side of the room.
"I wonder at your gall, LaFleur! Or perhaps it is your utter contempt for the stage that compels you to appear thus!"
All noise within the theater immediately died at the piercing comment. Two seconds later, the buzz of whispered commentary echoed about the room.
LaFleur vainly attempted to recover his composure. However, his words had lost their loftiness. "In apprehension how like a god…the beauty of the world…the paragon of animals…"
"You are a disgrace, Monty! Your rebellious image is severely eclipsed by your elephantine girth!"
Monty stopped and spluttered. "I am an actor, and I will be dictated to by none save my superior!" he finished in a shriek.
From a table in the very center of the room rose a figure impeccably dressed, mouth set in a firm line, a resolute glint in his eye. He stood upon the table and spoke.
"Very well, then! Nearly everyone in this room is your superior in morality and intellect! What say you all to this imponderable ponderosity?"
The air filled with mixed cries of, "Out, LaFleur!" and "Quiet, you Philistine!"
Guerre nudged Chris and pointed to the impeccable gentleman. "It is Hayden Berger!"
After people's words disintegrated into boos and catcalls, Hayden pointed a dagger-like finger at his blubbering, fantastically dressed victim.
"Vox populii, vox Dei!" He intoned. "Montreal LaFleur! Melt in the presence of their heated wrath like the mass of lard you are!" Hayden clapped his hands, and there was an explosion of smoke as a trapdoor opened and Monty collapsed into it with a hideous scream.
Everyone rose to their feet en masse.
"For shame!" someone cried, "It's only Shakespeare!"
Hayden stepped off the table and ran to the stage, leaping to it amid the assembling crowd.
"Only Shakespeare?" he repeated, "You might have said 'only Moses' or 'only Paul'! Good people! These are the finest works penned by man since the Bible and you are content to have them cast off the stage like vomit? Where is your sense of decency? Where is your pride in the fine arts you so ardently profess to support by your presence here at Ballard? Will you insist upon such idiocy, this parasite I endeavor to protect you from?"
A man raised his hand. "I don't know about anyone else, but I know Monty as a friend, and anyone who insults him insults me, too! As for you, sir!" he pointed at Hayden, standing like David over the goliath audience. "Who made you lord and king of the theater, that you should be the one dictating who and what goes on?">>>>>>
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