Evergreen Magazine

Evergreen Magazine

Evergreen Magazine

A Tragedy of the Arts

Vitalii Khodzinskyi

           Theater was a bore for everyone back then. They sat through Greek tragedies, clueless, as the characters droned on about pride and death. They tuned out monologues where characters professed their love for one another, viewing it as a waste of time or an interruption to their schedule.  They wanted to eliminate art they perceived as useless—so, they banned it. Almost every form of art became illegal. Why? Because no one knew how to appreciate it. But for me, for everyone in that theater—the arts were everything. 


           The door slammed shut behind me as I stepped into the dark theater. The air was damp, and I could only make out the shadows in front of me until my eyes adjusted. I didn’t need light to find my way around though because every detail of the theater was ingrained in my head.  

           I hurried down the hall, sidestepping frantic performers, until I reached the side hall stairs that lead to the wings of the stage with cubbies for our belongings. I hung my coat on the wall beside my two closest friends. One friend stood to my right, tugging his gloves off, and the other was on my left fumbling with a device in her hands.  

Story continues below advertisement

           As odd as it sounds, I didn’t know their real names. Everyone kept their names and lives secret from one another here. Outside of the theater, we maintained our true names and identities, but we took aliases inside because putting on plays and taking part in the performing arts—or any art—was illegal. It kept everything to secrecy, and taking part was our quiet protest.  

           “Late again, Ismene,” Romeo teased.  

           Of course, I didn’t know his name but that also meant he didn’t know mine. He called me Ismene because that was the first part I played with the company, which happened to be Antigone; his first role was Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. That was the system everyone used to assign aliases because if we were ever discovered by authorities then there would be consequences. It also served as another form of silent rebellion by using famous theatre figures. 

           “I’m not late, I just enjoy being the last one here,” I retorted as I was reaching to take my mask off, but Romeo stopped me.  

           “Not today,” he warned. 

           I glanced over at him and realized he was still wearing his. I had only recognized him by his voice. Slowly, I began to look around and I realized everyone around me kept their masks on as well. Elaborate designs adorned their masquerade ball masks to hide their identities. It helped to blend in with the wealthy people outside who were attending actual fancy balls and parties.  

           “What’s going on?” I asked.  

           “We’re nervous the government might know about us and the theater’s illegal productions,” Crea, my other best friend, explained.  Both of us joined the theater at the same time, so we had names from the same production. Her name was an adaptation from her role as Creon in Antigone. 

           “I’m sure it’s fine,” I replied. “It’s just a little disorienting to see everyone with masks on. Hard to tell who’s who.”  

           It was normal for everyone to wear their masks while traveling to the theater building, but we removed them inside so that actors could tell each other apart. We trusted one another enough to know each other’s faces.  

           This wasn’t the first time we had agreed to wear our masks inside the theater though. If we caught wind of the government possibly finding out about us, we would wear our masks indoors; this ensured a better chance of escaping anonymously and once the government was thrown off the trail, we would remove our masks again.  

           Crea shrugged, tossing the device she was messing with into her bag. “See you later. I’m on in the first scene.” 

           Romeo and I watched her go. “Does she seem off to you?” he asked.  

           “Maybe? It’s hard to tell and you never know with Crea,” I replied. 

           “I guess,” he said skeptically. “I’ll talk to you later. I’m on first surveillance watch during the performance.”  

           I nodded a goodbye and headed to the wings of the stage to watch the play. It went smoothly. There was no intermission to keep the play as short as possible, but by the second half I had almost dozed off in the corner waiting for my small role at the end.  

           “And now, you’ll pay for your actions,” one actor shouted. He pointed a prop sword at his opponent and then- BANG! 

           Everyone froze. No one dared to breathe and waited to see what would happen next. What was the sound? A gunshot? A car backfiring? I had a growing feeling that, in a moment, I was about to wish that prop sword was a real one.  

           The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop and then—chaos.  

           Doors burst open and people in uniforms swarmed the building. Before I knew what I was doing, I dove behind a curtain and peered around the corner looking for an escape.  

           Shouts and confusion filled the room as authorities tried to grab anyone they could. We were all breaking the law here, and that was becoming clearer to everyone by the second.  

           As I scanned the room looking for an exit, a figure was pushed to the ground in front of me. The attacker ripped the figures mask from his face and my hand flew to my mouth, silencing a scream. It was Romeo, beat up and scratched. He had clearly put up a fight.  

           He caught my eye and jerked his head ever so slightly.  

           At first, I thought he was telling me to escape, but when I followed his line of sight, I saw it. Her. Crea stood there looking completely unaffected by the terror and havoc around her. Which was when it hit me. She must have been communicating with someone in the government and told them that the whole cast and crew would be here today for the performance. That must’ve been what the device in her hands was from earlier. 

           “Run!” Romeo yelled. His voice shook me from my stupor, cutting my revelation short. 

            He looked at me pleadingly and I finally spotted a path to reach a doorway. The door hung from a single hinge. With one last glance at Romeo and his fate, I ran. I ran from the place I held most dear, from some of the most wonderful people in the world, and from the traitor I had called my friend.  

           And I didn’t look back.  


           “And that’s the story,” I concluded. 

           My four-year-old daughter looked at me with furrowed brows. 

           “That’s it? There’s no happy ending?” She asked.  

           “Well, for some people there was a happy ending. Like me, having you is my happy ending,” I explained, but I didn’t reveal that her question weighed on me. “But no, not everyone got a happy ending.” 

           We stood in silence as we stared at his grave. It was weathered with time and age, but the fresh flowers almost brought a bit of life back to it.  

           “Mom?” she questioned.  

           “Yeah?” I responded. 

           “What was Romeo’s real name?” she asked as she intently stared at the grave. 

           “I don’t know. I wish we could ask him,” I said, remembering his face on that fateful day. 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kimberly Strickland
Kimberly Strickland is a sophomore and this is her first year on the Evergreen Magazine staff. She joined because of her interest in writing and journalism as well as a passion to try new things. Outside of writing, she plays flute and piccolo and is also involved in the winter guard program. 

Comments (0)

All The Arrow Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *