The Wizard of Oz
Miriam knew at the audition that she’d gotten the part of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. When she recited, “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself,” she felt like she was giving herself that message. She said the words with just the right amount of warmth, sincerity, and certainty.
And getting the part of Glinda changed her life. She went to daily rehearsals in an old church hall on Tremont Street directly after school. She was the only person from the West End and the youngest, except for the girl who got the part of Dorothy, but people in the production came from all over Boston. There were many nationalities and ages represented in the cast—Italian, Irish, Jewish, and Negro.
Miriam loved being part of the acting troupe. This was the beginning of her real life. Nothing that Ma could do or say would hurt her anymore. She would not feel sorry for herself, no, not ever again. She was soaring, like the freest bird in the sky, every day an adventure.
Since she also worked part-time for Morris Maxwell’s law firm after school, she arranged to finish all of her work in one long afternoon and miss a day of rehearsals. She regretted that, but had come to rely on making a little extra money so that she could buy lipstick, rouge, or hair pomade whenever she wanted to. And Morris was so kind to her. When he heard she was to be in a play, he applauded, as if she’d already performed.
On the second day of rehearsals, Miriam met Minerva Rossetti, a tall, elegant girl, whom she noticed at the tryouts. Minerva played the part of Locasta Tattypoo, the Good Witch of the North. The two looked like opposites: Miriam blond, short, and curvy, and Minerva a foot taller, with olive skin and short, wavy, jet-black hair tied back in a bright scarf. To Miriam’s astonishment, Minerva approached her with a shy smile and introduced herself.
“I’ve never done anything like this before. Have you? I’m a little worried that I won’t be good enough.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be great,” Miriam offered. “Richard chose us both. There were lots of people trying out for these parts, so we must be good enough, don’t you think?”
“You have just the right look for your part. So gorgeous. Your blond curls. So voluptuous. I’m more boyish, you know. I never look feminine enough.”
“Oh my gosh, when I saw you, I thought you were the most sophisticated girl I’ve ever seen. How can you say you’re not feminine?”
The two girls swiftly became inseparable, chatting about everything on their minds. Miriam was in seventh heaven.
“Minerva, what’s it like to smoke those cigarettes? Doesn’t it hurt your throat? I love the way you hold your fingers on that beautiful silver holder.”
Minerva balanced her cigarette holder in an alluring fashion, waiting for a man to light it for her. At home later, Miriam mimicked this gesture in front of Ma’s mirror. Can I replicate that glamour? She so wanted to be like Minerva.
Miriam always gushed when she spoke to her new friend. She hoped she didn’t overwhelm Minerva with flattery, but she couldn’t help herself. Minerva dressed in pantaloons under flowing, gauzy skirts, and big showy earrings. Miriam loved that Minerva paid so much attention to her, just to her, and no other person in the cast, although her friend would hug some of the young men whenever she entered the rehearsal hall. She even offered a hug to Richard, the director of the whole play. The man lingered in Minerva’s embrace. So romantic.
The part of the Tin Man was played by Ethan Bing. The Tin Man was supposed to have a fake heart stuffed with sawdust. The character wasn’t able to love but learned to show affection when it was expected. Miriam wondered if Ethan resembled his character at all, the way she felt she resembled Glinda.
Miriam was impressed that Ethan was from Brookline, a town just west of Boston but right on the trolley line. Miriam had never been out there, but she was acquainted with a couple of Brookline girls at school. They must be rich, because their parents, or even a chauffeur, picked them up in motorcars rather than leaving them to take the trolley.
Ethan was such a handsome boy. He had thick, dark hair, a straight, small nose, and deep-set eyes with heavy lashes. He was shy about speaking to her, but she felt his presence and his frequent gaze. Accustomed to attention from men, she only flirted with him a little bit, just for fun. She really didn’t want a boyfriend. She was much more taken with Minerva and their budding friendship.
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