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Fiction || Shakespeare in Winnipeg (Michael Koenig)

In the third season of the show, Teddi fell in love with Brendan, just like the fans had hoped for ever since Season One. By then, the love between me and Ethan was gone, replaced at first by bitterness (on my part) and indifference (his). I was ready to leave the show because there were all these opportunities, but I was under a binding contractual obligation to keep saying stupid, teenage things.

When we first met, our characters were supposed to be in their senior year of high school. Ethan was 26; I was 24, and we were both experienced actors, though hardly well known.

He came up to me so casually the first time, but I knew exactly what was on his mind. We’d been making eyes at each other for weeks. We’d have to cool it down for the cameras.

“You were great in that scene” (pretending to swoon over him).

“Thanks.”

“Wanna hang out?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll come over to your house. Just leave me directions.”

“Okay.”

In the first season, they were keeping our characters apart, so we had to keep our relationship quiet. This suited Ethan perfectly; he would have made a magnificent spy. I’ve only been in love on a few occasions, and when I am, I want to tell the world.

In those days, the whole world would surely have listened. Photographers were far more common than debts. Whenever I opened the door they were there, looking inside windows, climbing on ladders, hurling themselves in front of the car. Eventually I came to see celebrity as a well appointed prison, apt punishment for the especially fortunate. The more people wrote about me, the less their comments seemed to resemble the person I am. The praise too, I suppose.

I was briefly considered to be the Most Beautiful Woman in the Worldä, but I only wanted to be with Ethan. So I’d spend all day staring at him longingly, and then go home and make him spaghetti, after undertaking various evasive maneuvers, cars travelling at high speed, on dangerous canyon roads.

But as the ratings began to soften, Ethan got tired of me. He couldn’t tell me exactly why.

“Look, this just isn’t working.”

“You’re not giving it a chance.”

“Get out of my face, Kathleen.”

“Goddamn you.”

Cue for me to pitch some random piece of glassware. Obviously this would be the perfect time for the producers to bring our characters together, right? The audience hated it. We disappointed them so.

I began spending more and more time in Mr. Greenberg’s office, eating jellybeans from the jar on his desk. (I had an amazing metabolism then.) He was the producer of the show, and at least two dozen more. Cheap bastard. I feel sorry for him having to deal with pretentious jerks like me.

“I’m tired of doing the show. I want to do Shakespeare.”

“Treat this like Shakespeare. Same situations, better jokes.”

Corniest advice in the world. I follow it everyday.

“All those crazy plot twists? That’s Shakespeare. You know how Mary’s character has just had her sister’s husband’s baby, and her husband’s mistress came back from the dead? That’s Shakespeare.”

“That’s not Shakespeare, Mr. Greenberg. That’s shit.”

When the show got cancelled after the fourth season, I was the villain in the press. At the time I was at least somewhat relieved, though I missed the ridiculous paychecks. I’d gotten used to tipping with $50 bills.

I disappeared for years, travelling alone through Europe, greeted by strangers with a smile, not sure if they recognized me because I was an American, or because of who I used to be.

I began speaking in a mock European accent. A series of boyfriends, each ten years younger than me, all of whom own restaurants, bars, or gyms. Lady Macbeth in Winnipeg. I really wasn’t that bad.

On several occasions, I was misquoted in European interviews. I just hope Mr. Greenberg knew I never meant them. Now that I’m nearly fifty, I’ve come to regret being such a little arsonist. I’m sorry that I never got the chance to say goodbye, and thank him for the jellybeans.

For a long while, the show was the topic of no one’s conversation, but younger people have adopted it as a kind of absurd landmark. Sometimes it seems as if they’re primarily celebrating the poor writing and acting and the music and how seriously we seemed to take it all. I used to pretend that I didn’t read every single thing that anyone had ever written about it. Now I just smile and say thank you. (It drives the mean ones crazy.)

A few months ago, they announced that they were reviving the series, and offered me the opportunity to play my own mother. I told them absolutely never, impossible, insulting, when do you need me there? It was like some insane auction where all I needed to do was say no, until I finally said yes. All in all life is pretty good but I’m ready to get back to working for money. (I’m tipping with $100 bills now, even when the service isn’t all that special.)

Over the years, Ethan and I have gone through every conceivable stage of our relationship: Unbearable to be around, pretending not to care, arms-length friendly, ill-advised reunion movie. I haven’t seen him for ten years. Interviewers ask if he was my one and only true love and I say sure because it makes a better story. And if I can make him sweat a little, why not?

Ethan’s coming to the set tomorrow. We have three scenes together. He’s married with six kids, said bad things about me in the press, went through a drug problem, lives in New Mexico, seems happy now. I’m nervous, of course, though I have no expectations. Whatever will we talk about, once the scene is over?


First Published: CultureCult Magazine, Issue Two: November 2015

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