To the Moon and Back - Melissa Brayden

Chapter One

“No one died today,” Lauren Prescott said out loud to herself. It was a glorious statement, and she proclaimed it proudly. She hadn’t killed anyone, and no one had keeled over on their own. She punched the air a few times in a Rocky-like victory dance. That accomplishment was a pretty big deal for a Saturday night sold-out show with a cast who had a penchant for drama, hijinks, and tantrums. As she began her final stage managerial duties for the night, she longed to include that sentence on the performance report she would momentarily email to her entire production team, as well as the designers, director, and front office staff for The McAllister Theater. She decided, instead, to add that knowledge to the celebratory wine column. In other words, all the reasons she’d earned a great big gulping of a glass once she returned home to peace, quiet, and serenity. God, she longed for that wine. She might even chair dance like a boss once it was in her hand. After all, celebratory wine time was her most favorite of all the times, which was why she reserved it as her daily after-show reward. Lauren dreamed about it now, lustily. She could be in the living room she very much missed in under an hour if she played her cards right and was expeditious with her daily paperwork.

Thank God the tumultuous night was finally winding down, and only two people had cried. Well, two and a half, if you count misting up and fanning your face like it was on fire. Most of the actors were already out of costume and makeup and out the door following the performance, likely signing Playbills for the patrons who’d lingered for photos and a chat with their favorites. Lauren’s two assistant stage managers were busy tending to their nightly housekeeping responsibilities. Janie, who decked the show at the stage level, was busy organizing the props and giving Milky White, the cow puppet they used in the musical, Sondheim’s Into the Woods, a good brushing to get the makeup stains off her shoulder. At the same time, Trip Hooper, her right-hand man and the closest friend she had, swept the stage in that very methodical way Trip was known for. When he spotted Lauren watching him, he offered a playful salute along with a jovial dance.

“You’re totally Bert right now,” she told him and began to hum a few bars of “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

He spun in a circle with his broom.

“You need soot though, or you’re just the poor man’s version, and who wants that?”

He kicked his heels together in full chimney sweep mode and grinned. “I’ll work on that for ya, Mary,” he said in his best Cockney.

“Brilliant.” Lauren adored her staff. She was lucky, because this was not the kind of job you waded through alone. That’s actually how she and Trip had become so close. In stage management, you needed soldiers to help you crawl through the battlefield of high maintenance performers and irate designers. Later, you had a cocktail together and toasted days like today when nobody died and said all the things you could never say in the actual rehearsal room, even though you desperately wanted to. She and Trip had been through many such battles and were closer than ever because of it. They always had each other’s backs and always would.

“Night, Lauren,” Jesi, their wig mistress, said as she headed home. “Almost to the end of this one, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready. This group is a handful.”

“They’re definitely on their own journey. I pray for them,” she said with a wink. “One more to go, and we’re out. Oh, hey,” Lauren said, pausing Jesi’s exit. “Did Cinderella’s act two wig sit far back tonight, or was that just me?”

“It did.” Jesi shook her head ruefully. “All because Alicia keeps tugging on it when she’s gabbing with the princes in the wings. It’s how she flirts. I’ve talked to her, but I can’t hold her hand all night. She’s a man-crazy lady.”

Lauren nodded, knowing how much Alicia hated being wigged. She was a kind person, but the brand of actress who didn’t understand why everything wasn’t simpler for her specifically. When she’d asked Lauren to run lines with her, part of her gig as stage manager, Alicia actually asked if she could rewrite a few of them. Sondheim and Lapine would be so pleased. Alicia had also argued to use her own