"We have a problem."
Anna sighed. Of course there was a problem. Extraordinary crises were pretty ordinary for New Burbage. It was just that she'd been hoping to make the most of Richard's meeting with the Arts Council and get through the stack of papers in her inbox while she was needed for neither crisis management nor coffee fetching. Apparently that time of the day was over already.
She neatly piled the papers she'd been working on and looked up. Maria stood by Anna's desk.
"Darren just walked out of rehearsal."
"Oh," Anna sighed again, this time in relief. "Darren's walked out of rehearsal every day this week. He'll be back in a few minutes."
"Right. Only today he didn't so much walk out as walk up."
"To the roof."
"The roof? Why would he go on the roof?"
"Something about not appreciating his artistic freedom, not having the intellectual capacity to understand his vision, and that if we insisted on thwarting his directorial intent, he might as well throw himself off the roof and leave a stain at the entrance to remind patrons of how we tried to tarnish and sully his reputation. What a drama queen. I thought actors were bad, but directors! Directors want to-"
Anna gasped, raising a hand to her mouth. "He's going to jump?"
"Maybe? Probably not. Well... maybe? Who knows with Darren?" Maria shrugged.
"And you didn't try to go after him?"
Maria winced. "He might have been trying to get away from me."
"Maria! What did you do?"
"My job," Maria said defensively. "I told him that his latest changes to the staging would be impossible to build, impossible to light, impossible to mic the actors, and would have broken multiple safety codes."
"My God! What does he want to do?"
"Like with a cannon?"
"A water tank. A big water tank that covers the entire stage and he wants the actors to do the whole thing swimming and treading water."
Anna's mouth gaped. Any time she thought she could no longer be surprised by Darren, he turned around and attempted something even more outlandish. "Do the play in a pool? With swimming?"
Maria nodded. "Show the separation and isolation of the characters by turning them into islands or something."
Anna mentally switched over to mediator mode. "And you couldn't just go along with it? It is his direction and vision."
"Right, right. Sorry."
"So somebody should go check up on him," Maria prompted.
"Yes! Right!" Anna stood and headed down the hall, calling out for Nahum. He joined her as she reached the stairwell. "Darren's on the roof threatening to jump," she explained.
"I will go call 911."
"No, wait. We found out the last time the ambulance was here that Basil listens to a police scanner. I don't want him coming over here making notes and taking pictures."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Push him," Maria yelled from where she waited back at Anna's desk.
"Mats," Anna said firmly.
"Crash mats, foam pads, anything you can find. Take them outside in case he jumps or falls."
Nahum took off, sprinting over to storage. Anna climbed up to the roof.
Darren stood by the edge, arms held out in a dramatic pose. "Well it's about time. Don't come any closer. I am prepared to die for my art."
Anna stopped in her tracks, about halfway across the roof. "Okay, I won't."
"I presume you've heard. I'm supposed to direct with my hands tied behind my back."
"Maria told me there were some safety concerns with your latest vision," Anna said diplomatically.
"Yes, and what good is being artistic director if I can't veto those concerns?"
"What's wrong with the vision you had yesterday?"
"Yesterday's vision was a vision yesterday. Today it is garbage."
"Well, maybe you'll have a newer, more practical vision tomorrow."
"Impossible. I have stripped the play to its very essence and this is the only staging that will work."
"Richard III will only work if it's in the water?"
"Precisely. The men have to be islands and the women must all be mermaids."
"Mermaids," Anna repeated, dumbfounded.
"Genius, isn't it? It would be inspired. But this refusal to accede to my staging is an offence up with which I will not put!" Darren turned to look over the edge. "Which do you think would be more effective in spreading my message that the insistence on soulless, cookie cutter stagings is akin to clipping the director's figurative wings: if I land in front of the theatre sign or the main entrance?"
"Darren, why don't you—"
"Which?" Darren demanded.
Darren dropped his arms as he considered her response. "Why the sign?"
Anna gulped. Usually Darren just wanted an answer, any answer; he didn't ask for an explanation. "Because... Because it makes a better photo opportunity?" Darren started to nod so Anna decided to push her luck. "It would be even better if you waited until the posters for the play were up though. Maybe you could wait to make your statement?"
Darren continued nodding then suddenly stopped and pointed a finger at Anna. "No, you're wrong."
"Completely wrong. You see, this is why you work at a desk." Darren said the word with disdain. "The entrance would be better."
"I would be the dirt on the ground that people literally stepped on as they came to consume the pablum that New Burbage likes to serve."
"Oh," Anna said lightly, uncertain how she was supposed to respond. "That does sound better."
"Doesn't it? If only there were..." Darren trailed off as a whirring noise carried up to the roof. "What on earth is that?"
With Darren apparently completely engrossed by whatever he saw on the ground, Anna was free to approach him. She leaned over the edge beside him. Nahum was by the entrance with something strewn out around him. A large motor was attached to the something, but Anna couldn't make out what it was for.
"I have no idea what he's doing," Anna said.
Nahum spotted them and waved. Anna waved back. Nahum shouted at them but the motor drowned him out.
Slowly, slowly it became apparent that the thing on the ground was starting to inflate. It had an unusual shape, though, and Anna couldn't tell what it was until a turret section suddenly popped up and she could see 'Elsinore' painted across it.
"Oh! That's the bouncy castle we got for the children's workshop when we were doing Hamlet!" Anna exclaimed. "They had so much fun jumping around on it. I forgot we still had it."
"People can jump on that?"
"Yes, it's kind of like a trampoline."
"A trampoline," Darren repeated back to himself then turned quickly and made a beeline for the stairs. "Are you coming? I have work to do," he called back to Anna.
Anna had to jog a few steps to catch up. "So you're not going to jump off the building?"
"Why would I jump off the building when I have a play to restage?"
"You don't need the water anymore? The mermaids?"
"Don't be ridiculous. That was the old interpretation. Water is completely the wrong medium for them to move around in; I see that now. No, Richard's grasping to ascend to the throne must be accompanied by actual attempts at ascension. Jumping in the air. Tell Nahum to bring your children's toy to the stage; I need it to be my palace."
Anna followed Darren back down the stairs as he prattled on about wings and whether trampolines would suffice or if he'd need to rig up harnesses. Darren's new plans didn't sound much safer than the water tank, but that seemed like an issue that could wait until Richard returned to the office.