Seth Rudetsky's second YA novel is endearingly human, laugh-out-loud funny, and for any kid who's ever aspired to Broadway but can only sneak in through the stage door.
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All right, I have to admit it. I need a break from Spencer.
Not literally a breakup. More like a break(ish)-up.
Here’s the thing--I am about to go live in New York City!!! I can’t very well show up in the city of my dreams, a city filled with other sixteen-year-old boys who love theater like I do, and tell them, “Keep your Broadway show tickets. I can’t go on a date with you because I have a boyfriend back home.”
I mean, I guess I could say that, but I wouldn’t be taking advantage of everything the city has to offer me. And that’s the whole point of my time there in the first place.
See, every year in my school we have JobSkill, a two-week period where the juniors immerse themselves in what could be their future career. This has been a tradition at my high school since the sixties, when the school briefly had a hippie principal who decided homework was too “establishment,” so he adopted a “go at your own pace/do whatever you want” curriculum. The parents halfheartedly went along with his ideas until spring semester. That’s when they found out he had encouraged the juniors to go to a “be-in” instead of take their SATs and he had meticulously changed everyone’s grades on their report cards to either “Cool” or “Not Cool.” The school board called an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to fire him. Soon after, he was briefly institutionalized and is now leading a cult in Memphis.
Anyway, the one idea of his that’s remained is JobSkill. In the spring of 1969, he petitioned and got permission from the state to allow students two weeks off to experience what life would be like after high school. Or at least, that’s what he told the education board. In actuality, he called it “Jobs Kill” and told students it would be a chance for them to learn that taking any kind of a real job would destroy their souls. He claimed the only reason he had one was to “change a broken system from within,” but after he left, people realized he had become principal because it gave him access to the school greenhouse, which he used to grow hundreds of pot plants. Regardless, once the state education board approved JobSkill, the school board voted to keep it. Since then, all juniors apply in September for a two-week internship that takes place in January.
Most kids wind up at Franklin General Hospital or the big law office in Woodmere or wherever their parents work. I, however, have planned ever since elementary school to spend my two weeks as near to Broadway as I could possibly get.
Of course, I couldn’t wait till September to start applying, so last May I began researching my favorite Broadway directors, and by the time sophomore year ended, I had sent each of their agents a request to be an intern. Naturally, it wasn’t just a letter requesting an internship. I also conveniently included a forty-five-minute professional-quality DVD that featured highlights of my performing experience going all the way back to first grade when I did my shul’s Hanukkah musical and stole the show as the sassy but ultimately wise sixth menorah candle.
I was hoping that one of the directors would watch the DVD, skip the internship request, and immediately ask me to be in one of their shows. Unfortunately, I should have done more research because when I finally heard back from their agents (months later!), I found out that one director was now based in Europe, another was directing at a regional theater in Southern California, and the third was working on a television show. The most frustrating part is that all three of my DVDs were returned, and I could tell they had never been opened! Argh! How was I going to get to Broadway?
Then, out of the blue in early September, my dad mentioned that one of his patients, Irving Perlman, had a daughter named Sophia who recently started a theatrical publicity firm with her two college best friends called Big Noise Media. Mr. Perlman put in the good word for me and I called the next morning. Lou, their office manager/accountant/executive assistant, was so appreciative that I was willing to intern, because they really needed help, and he was thrilled with the idea of having an intern who loved Broadway as much as I did. He told me I’d be answering phone calls, forwarding emails, and scheduling publicity events.
I was disappointed to learn that the firm only represented a few shows and they were all off-Broadway, but at least I’d be in New York City working in theater! Yes, I wanted to be working inside an actual theater, but I’m only sixteen. I told myself I’d be getting my foot in the door and who knew where it could lead! I didn’t see exactly how it could happen, but I hoped that by the end of the internship, I’d somehow be performing on a Broadway stage. Sure, it was incredibly far-fetched, but not impossible. I began to get more and more excited and kept telling myself that there were very few steps between interning off-Broadway and performing on Broadway.
Then in mid-December, everything changed.
Spencer and I went into New York City to see a matinee. I remember thinking that he looked extra adorable that day. He had put some new cruelty-free product in his orange hair that made it look tousled yet perfectly styled, and he wore one of his signature New York Civil Liberties Union shirts (with the slogan you have the right NOT to remain silent) tucked into his organic denim jeans, which showed off his always-flat stomach. I, because of our completely different body types, had my shirt untucked. And, due to eight days of Hanukkah snacking, I had recently been forced to add an extra notch to my belt. Furthermore, like Spencer, I had put a new product in my hair that morning, but instead of straightening out my tight, uncontrollable curls as I intended, it simply fluffed out my entire head of hair. So, even though Spencer is much taller than me, we both blocked the people sitting behind us equally, he with his natural height and me with my extended Jewfro.