The Return Of The Army Of Light – Excerpt – Inspired by Girl Of The Moment
It was 1986 when Gareth started at Victoria University; he was attending the Anthropology programme while Frances was majoring in Theatre with a minor in Digital Media, a new field of study at the time.
Prior to their winter season, the theatre department posted an audition notice for their production of Lady in the Dark, the 1941 musical by Kurt Weill and Moss Hart, originally starring the legendary Gertrude Lawrence.
The lady in the title is Liza Elliott, an editor of a fashion magazine whose lack of fulfilment in her personal life and career leads her to psychoanalysis. Lady in the Dark is essentially a straight play with three musical dream sequences interjected. Frances auditioned for the lead and easily won it, she was familiar with the play, and her parents often played the Gertrude Lawrence record.
Gareth’s main motivation to audition was to check out his father’s new girlfriend, Eloise, who was choreographing and directing the show. He was not into musicals or had a great voice, but as a young man, he had the chiselled healthy looks that made him stand out in the crowd. Gareth played it safe, he did not reveal his identity at first, but Eloise recognised him instantly, she had seen few photos of him. Surprisingly, Gareth liked Eloise; he was reaching the point where he had stopped resenting his father’s girlfriends for his old man’s actions. He eventually came to realise that they had nothing to do with his father walking out on him and his mother.
Trying to win him over, Eloise not only cast Gareth in the ensemble, she gave him the solo of the Marine during the Girl of the Moment number. He was surprised and annoyed; having a solo meant he could not quit half way through rehearsals as he had planned. Nonetheless, it was not all bad; he was able to make a deal, so this play would count as a credit for one of his courses.
Rehearsals began shortly after he was cast. Gareth reluctantly came to the first rehearsal and thought about feigning an illness, so he could leave right away, but he quickly changed his mind when he saw Frances. He thought she was strikingly beautiful, there was something about her that made his eyes wondered in her direction.
Frances had a similar reaction; however, she knew instantly there was a possibility that Gareth was not straight. She knew how to read all the signs.
The connection between Gareth and Frances seemed peculiar. Gareth had been out since he was 14, so it was unusual for him to feel any kind of attraction for a woman.
On that first day of rehearsals, while doing a table read, Gareth kept stealing glances at Frances, and smiling every time she caught him looking at her.
“Although we are partial to men that are martial, ” the ensemble read the lyrics from the score; at this point, they had not learned the songs yet. “What reason brings you to the scene?”
Everybody turned to Gareth, waiting for his line. He swiftly reacted.
“I bring a message for Miss Liza Elliot. ” Gareth said as the Marine character.
“From? ” Frances as Liza Elliot.
“The President of the United States. ”
As the scene progresses, the Marine informs Liza that the President has requested her portrait be painted and her likeness used on a new three-cent stamp. The Marine himself is to paint the portrait. After he finishes the painting, Liza is shocked; she does not recognise the woman in the painting.
At the end of the reading, Frances approached Gareth and introduced herself.
“By the way you’ve been looking at me for the last two hours, I would love to see what kind of painting you’d come up with.” Frances was aware she might have sounded a bit arrogant and forward.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to stare…” He was lost for words but swiftly extended his hand. “I’m Gareth.”
Frances smiled, looked at Gareth’s hand, and shook it.
As rehearsals progressed, Gareth and Frances developed a friendship. They began to spend time together outside the rehearsal hall. Eventually, Gareth told Frances about him being gay, and naturally, she did not seem surprised. Their bond grew so tight that when the show opened people thought that Gareth and Frances were dating. In a way, minus the sex, they behaved like any young couple in love. From then on, they tended to behave like that; people who did not know them always assumed they were a couple.