Lampwick had never really been a theater kind of guy. He couldn't care less about the subject – or school in general, to be honest. However, since he was stuck in school by the force of both the warden (known as the principal) and his mother, he had to take two elective courses this term. Now, being the slack-off that he was, he chose the two courses that he thought were the easiest.
The first was Art. The best thing about Art class was that Pinocchio was also taking the class. They had a pretty swell time and were once allowed to do a collaborative piece at the start of the term that had received a pretty good grade. Lampwick didn't mind Art class.
What he did mind, however, was Drama class.
Drama class was kind of a last resort. He couldn't sing a note, so choir was out. It was a little late to take up a musical instrument, at least for him. Didn't want to start something like that in the middle of high school with all them band geeks making you look bad. He had taken Woodshop last year and had caused enough chaos that Woodshop II was out of the question. Learning to sew was for wusses and girls, so Fabric Arts was actually the first thing off of Lampwick's list of choices. The best thing he could cook up was microwaved dinners and he didn't have the interest in taking Culinary Arts. The last thing he could possibly take was Drama.
The majority of his Drama classes were kids Lampwick didn't know and didn't bother to get to know, 'cause they were theater-nerds. (Although, he was familiar with Alexander, that shrimpy little kid that Pinoke sometimes hung out with.) Most of them congregated at the start of class in little swarms, belting Broadway and talking about their favorite shows, what roles they had gotten in past school or community theater productions. He had tried to socialize with them once, but when he asked who Stephen Sondheim was, they automatically shunned him.
It wasn't like he cared all that much, though. He wasn't interested in Les Misérables or Phantom of the Opera or Wicked, the things that their lives seemed to revolve around. So, he sat in the corner of the classroom when they were there or on his own, sitting with his arms crossed in one of the seats closer to the door when the lessons moved to in the school's auditorium.
So the other kids in his class weren't exactly his type, but at least the teacher was okay. Lampwick despised teachers, so to say one was okay was like the highest piece of approval he could really give anyone who worked in the field of education. Mr. Pavarotti was a pretty swell guy, besides being a teacher. Sometimes he even. . . enjoyed Drama class. Sometimes, you know.
One thing that did make Drama lame, however, was the fact that Pinocchio wasn't taking it this year. His electives were Woodshop II (goofing off with Pinocchio had been part of the reason why Lampwick was infamous with the woodshop teacher) and Art for his Sophomore year. He did like to sing, dance and act, however, and had mentioned a couple of times to Lampwick that he'd maybe like to be an actor one day. He had even played the Tin Man in last year's spring production of The Wizard of OZ. Did a pretty swell job at it, too, Lampwick admitted.
This first half of the semester they were studying the Bard – a title Mr. Pavarotti liked to use when referring to Shakespeare. They would be performing (for a grade!) one of his plays. They had reviewed over the plots of several of the most famous works of Shakespeare, although Mr. Pavarotti never revealed what the show would be until after auditions and it was casted. He didn't do that for the fall play and he certainly didn't do it for the spring musical. This left a lot of speculations about what it was going to be.
Somehow, someone learned by carefully worded prodding of the teacher that the Shakespearean play, though everyone hoped it would be a comedy, was to be a tragedy. And if it was a tragedy, everyone thought it was to be Hamlet, as this was the play they covered the most through the unit.
Lampwick had never been a person to try his hardest in school, but in Drama. . .well, he hated to admit it, but he kinda wanted the part of Hamlet. Who was he kidding? He really wanted the part of Hamlet. It'd be fun to play an insane guy on stage. It'd give him glory and grant him the opportunity to be the center of attention. As a kid who had been shoved under the rug by everyone since a young age unless he did something really bad (until they stopped caring) ,being on top was kinda important to him. He had always been a leader sort of guy, anyways.
In reality, he knew it wasn't likely that he'd get any other but a background citizen- no matter what they did. Mr. Pavarotti had his favorites-that jerk Antonio Mancuso, who excelled at anything and everything, was sure to get the lead. Of course, Pinocchio tried to feed him full of that "never give up" and "if you can dream it, you can do it" kind of crap, but Lampwick knew that he was just going to always be Citizen #3.
Still, he tried hard to ace the audition and get something- if not Hamlet, then an ensemble who was backstage most of the play. He had to read a soliloquy from A Midsummer Night's Dream about some guy named Nick Bottom who apparently had his head transformed into a donkey's for a period in the play. What an absolutely loony thing to write about. Shakespeare must've been on somethin' when he wrote it, Lampwick couldn't help but think. Despite the obnoxiously prolonged sentences and unpronounceable words, Lampwick really did try.
Partly because he wanted to be a crazed Hamlet, partly because he wanted to be the one on top for once, and partly because that jerk Antonio needed to be put back in his place.
The day that Mr. Pavarotti was to announce the cast of the play, Lampwick came to school in a better mood than he typically arrived in. Pinocchio seemed to notice as they had lunch together that sunny afternoon, sitting in their normal courtyard eating-spot.
"You're certainly cheerful today, Lampy!" Pinocchio noted as he walked over to where Lampwick was slouched up against the building. He sat down besides his best friend and balanced his cafeteria tray on his knees.
Cheerful wasn't the most accurate term, but Lampwick shrugged, the spoon from his chocolate pudding cup sticking out of his mouth as he dug through a paper sack. He took it out once he pulled out his sandwich and said, "Cast gets announced today. Kinda have the feelin' that I nailed it."
To be honest, he was a little uncertain. He was goin' up against kids who had been acting in plays since they were in kindergarten. And word in the hall was Antonio Mancuso had also nailed his audition. Still, Pinocchio was still a little naively under the spell that Lampwick was just as big and tough as he seemed to be. They had known each other since Pinocchio was six and Lampwick was eight- almost a decade of friendship- he had to have learned somehow that a lot of what Lampwick was made was made up of was strut and bravado. If he didn't, that kid was hopeless.
"I'm sure you did great," Pinocchio assured him. He then said, thoughtfully, "I wish I was in drama with you this year. It'd be a lotta fun." He snapped his fingers, his eyes lighting up like a theater marquee. "Hey! I got an idea! Maybe I could join stage-crew or something. I'm real good with my hands. Oh! And maybe I could help you learn lines and stuff."
"You'll have to talk that up with Pavarotti," Lampwick told him. "But I have a feelin' that Antonio got the lead. Always does."
"Oh." Pinocchio was quiet for a moment. He was very familiar with Antonio. Actually, Antonio did have credit with how Lampwick and Pinocchio became friends. Antonio was making fun of Pinocchio with his group of ever-faithful lackeys buzzing behind him. Deciding to play knight in shining armor, Lampwick pitied the new kid and gave Antonio a good wallop, right in the jaw. What resulted was Lampwick and Pinocchio in the principal's office and Antonio losing one of his baby teeth. Antinio may have gotten some glory for losing one of his few remaining teeth , but the best outcome was the fact that Lampwick gained a friend who granted him undying loyalty for saving him.
"B-but, you can't give up just yet, Lampy," Pinocchio told him. "You still got a chance."
Well, Lampwick wasn't entirely sure of that. He just had to wait until seventh period came around.
After a mind-numbingly boring off-topic lecture from the history teacher about kids today and their laziness or something along those lines as well as getting scolded by his English teacher for "lollygagging" in the library when he was supposed to be doing research for an essay, seventh period found Lampwick strolling into the school's auditorium.
He took a spot closer to the stage rather than towards the door. The drama geeks were all huddled in a circle talking hurriedly about something-probably the casting and who they thought was going to be whom. Though Lampwick could have probably been wrong and the geeks were talking about their favorite version of Les Misérables or something like that. Those were their two favorite subjects: the casting and Les Misérables, so Lampwick couldn't be too far off with either guess.
Thankfully, shortly after Lampwick arrived and took a seat, Mr. Pavarotti came into the auditorium with his usual coffee mug in hand, clipboard tucked under arm. It seemed like his arrival had cast a magic spell on the theater geeks because sure enough, they scattered like sheep and went straight to their respective seats in the front row, their talk of the cast or Les Misérables or whatever they had been talking about instantly silenced.
Their eyes were plastered to their teacher as he took his grand ol' time waltzing up the aisle of the auditorium and setting his coffee and clipboard down on the stage; despite their silent, matured facade, they squirmed like six-year-olds in their seats.
"Afternoon, class," Mr. Pavarotti greeted briskly.
"Good afternoon," the group chorused.
Pavarotti took no time into jumping right into the question that weighed down on everyone."I bet you're all eager to know what our Shakespearean play will be this semester," he began. "Well, I'll relieve you from your anticipation. This year, for our Shakespeare unit, we shall be performing-"
There was an audible, sharp breath of eagerness held in the auditorium.
"Romeo and Juliet."
Somebody shouted, " I knew it!" over the excited exclamations that had erupted from the class.
But Lampwick's reaction couldn't be more of a polar opposite Lampwick's eyes went wide in horror. He wanted to take back what he said about wanting the lead role, all of it. Forget it. He wanted to be Citizen #3. Heck, he'd take working back stage than. . .
"And I bet you're all wondering who will have the honor to play the star-crossed lovers," Pavarotti continued after managing to get the class's excitement under control, to what he referred to as a 'dull-roar' "Our Juliet will be Leona Renaldo-"
Gasps of "Leona!" swelled from the group of girls who looked over to the beaming girl sitting in the second row.
"And, ironically, our Romeo will be none other than Romeo 'Lampwick' Baldini."
Lampwick's mouth fell open and he could even feel himself pale, a little. He knew he should have felt honored to be chosen for the role of Romeo, but there was nothing that would make him feel better about this.
The classmates whipped their heads around to where Lampwick sat and stared at him for a moment until someone had the gall to pipe up, "Your name is Romeo?!" followed by an eruption of laughter. And what was worse, Pavarotti joined in. To think that Lampwick believed that dope was 'okay'!
"Isn't it perfect?" Mr. Pavarotti added. "Romeo playing Romeo."
Part of Lampwick wanted to punch the knucklehead who said that, but he was far too stunned to really say anything in retaliation. He just sat there, tasting blood from his buckteeth gnawing at his bottom lip a little too hard.
After their jolly little chuckle over the whole Romeo matter, Pavarotti continued class with announcing the numerous other roles and passed out scripts, urging all of them to start learning lines as soon as possible. Lampwick didn't hear them, however. It all was just noise that never reached full comprehension to him.
All he could focus on was the humiliation that he was going to face; once word got out of his real name, there went any respect he had ever got from the kids at school down the drain. Not only that, but he Romeo had a lotta lines to learn and all of them in that weird way Shakespeare phrased things. He was going to make a big idiot out of himself on stage, in front of the whole school, stumbling over Shakespearean dialogue in a geeky-looking costume!
Lampwick had never so eagerly looked forward to the bell, even if it meant drooling in the pit of boredom that was study hall. He grabbed his backpack, determined to dart out of the theater before he could hear anyone give any comments about his name or part in the play; he didn't even want to hear a congratulations. If they did, he was sure he'd slug 'em, not caring if that meant a visit to either the principal or to the guidance counselor, "Mr. Crickets".
But before Lampwick could make a dash to the door of the theater, Mr. Pavarotti stopped him.
"Lampwick, may I have a word?"
Lampwick groaned and turned around to see his teacher was waiting at the front of the stage for him. Following his command, the teenager shuffled towards him.
"Yus?" Lampwick said.
"Do you know why I chose you for Romeo?" Pavarotti asked sincerely.
"'Cause I got the same name as him?" Lampwick guessed.
"Although that is an ironic fact, no, that's not why I chose you. I chose you because I think you have a lot of potential, Lampwick. Potential that I don't think you realize you have or use to it's full advantage."
Lampwick rolled his eyes; it wasn't a new thing to be told about all the "potential" he had from and that he didn't apply himself. It was his mama's favorite topic, practically. Normally, he would have said something snarky in response, not carrying if his remarks gave him a one-way ticket to the "Breakfast Club". But he really couldn't afford another Saturday morning detention with this Shakespearean mess that had now been bestowed upon him. So he kept his responses to a minimum.
"I think, if you try hard," Mr. Pavarotti continued, "you'd be a fantastic Romeo. You already share a name, right?"
It took Lampwick a moment to respond.
"I guess so."
"So, can I trust you to be our Romeo Montague?"
"Uh. . . sure."
Ever the optimist, Mr. Pavarotti perked up and grinned."That's the spirit! Now, get crackin' on those lines!"
Lampwick left the auditorium, a chill rushing own his spin as he thought about exactly what he had gotten himself into. Though he felt he a more positive response should have been give to his teacher, Lampwick was unsure if he really had the balls to do this.