The Great Man
I watched Phil from the beginning. I don’t know why. There was something about him. He was big and handsome, all right. But something was a little off.
Of course, most of the actors were remarkable. That was because of the director. Aldon Tyrone hardly ever directed anywhere except Broadway. He was a legend. He had been successful when most African American directors could not even get hired. Now no one called him a good black director anymore. They just called him one of the best directors in the country.
I was a good director myself. But I was thrilled to be assistant to Aldone Tyrone. All the actors were proud to be in the show. They were also a little nervous about working with Mr. Tyrone. Phil was the most nervous of all. At the first rehearsal, Phil couldn’t even look Tyrone in the eye. It took him a week to stutter out a “Hello.”
The rehearsals went well. Tyrone worked well with the actors. He spent a lot of time with the lead actors, Bret and Fiona. They got better every day. He worked with the other actors, too–all except Phil and Edgar.
Edgar was playing Fiona’s father. He was a great actor. Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the awards. He’s won everything an actor can win. Watch him walk onto the stage. He’s not an actor playing a character. He is the character. Tyrone hardly ever had anything to say to him.
And, after the first few days, he never had anything to say to Phil.
Phil began to notice. At first he had his pencil out all the time, ready to make notes. After awhile, he put it away. He began to sit next to Edgar. Maybe he thought they were two of a kind. He got more confident. He started being more comfortable around Tyrone. He looked him straight in the eye. He said, “Good morning, Mr. Tyrone. Great day for a rehearsal.” Then he said, “We’re going to have a good rehearsal, today. I can feel it.”
One day, Tyrone was a little late for rehearsal. It was snowing, and the traffic was awful. Phil was sitting with Bret and Fiona when I came in.
“Obviously,” Phil was saying, “Tyrone knows I have what it takes.”
Fiona looked a little confused. “Oh? What makes you say that?”
“Haven’t you noticed? He hardly ever says anything to me in rehearsal.”
“Really?” said Fiona. “Hmmm. You may be right.”
“And he hardly ever says anything to Edgar,” said Phil. “I guess that proves it. I mean, Edgar is the best.”
“That’s certainly true,” said Fiona.
“So I guess that shows what Tyrone thinks of me.” Phil sat back in his chair. He put his feet on the rehearsal table and smiled.
Then, behind me, I heard a sound. All of us turned to see Aldon Tyrone in the doorway.
“Take your feet off the table,” he said. His voice was cold. “Let me explain something to you. I don’t say much to Edgar or to you. That’s true. It’s because I know you’re both doing the best you can. Edgar’s best is amazing. It’s remarkable. It’s great. Your best is barely okay. You have just about enough talent to manage your pitiful little role. If you were any better, I’d work with you. If you were any worse, I’d fire you. I’m going to get some coffee. We’ll start rehearsing in fifteen minutes.”
That was it. Tyrone went on as though nothing had happened. Phil tried to. It didn’t work very well. You have to remember one thing about great people and lions. They may let you walk past without eating you. If they do, don’t push your luck.
Copyright 2002 by Helen Tracy
Story Information and Discussion Questions