"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" Bess Marvin exclaimed with an exaggerated sweep of her hand. Turning to her friend Nancy Drew, she asked, "So, what do you think?"
Nancy smiled as she shielded her eyes from the bright sunshine. "Well, you probably shouldn't give up your day job," she said teasingly.
Bess giggled and tossed her long blond hair. "I guess I just got carried away. This Elizabethan festival makes me feel so . . . so . . ."
"Festive?" finished Bess's cousin, George Fayne, as she guided Bess back into line.
Bess made a face at her cousin. "Well, it does. Admit it," she said to George. "Doesn't just being here make you think of crowns and royalty and England and ladies with long dresses and -- "
"Okay, okay," George said, throwing up her hands.
Nancy smiled as she listened to the two cousins. Bess was right, she thought as she moved up in line. There was definitely a feeling of old England in the air. The outdoor pavilion on the outskirts of River Heights had been transformed to look as though it belonged in sixteenth-century London. Its dark wood had been painted to look as if it were made from large stones. From where she was standing, Nancy could see an outdoor theater, part of a backstage tent behind the theater, and a town square with fake building fronts.
There were two rows of trailers parked on the far side of the pavilion. Nancy saw a man in knee-length pants, a vest, stockings, and a hat step out of a trailer. Then a woman in a high-necked dress with puffed sleeves, a tight waist, and full skirt hurried into the trailer. Beyond the trailers was the parking lot, where Nancy's blue Mustang was parked.
For the third year in a row Her Majesty's Players, a traveling acting troupe, had come to River Heights for a week-long festival. This year Nancy, Bess, and George had decided it might be fun to sign up as volunteers for the week.
"Earth calling Nancy," George said, interrupting Nancy's thoughts.
Nancy turned to find herself at the sign-up table at the front of the line. A woman wearing a deep blue, high-necked dress sat at the table, smiling at her. On the table were several sheets of paper -- each with a different job description. Most of the jobs had already been taken by other volunteers.
"Good morning, ladies," the woman said pleasantly. "Take a moment to look at the sheets, and then let me know which job interests you."
"Oh, look!" Bess exclaimed, pointing to one of the lists. "'Ladies-in-waiting.'" She looked excitedly at the woman. "Do ladies of the court get to wear dresses like yours?" she asked, admiring the Elizabethan dress.
The woman laughed. "Yes, they do," she answered. "And there are a couple of openings left."
Bess grabbed a pencil and signed her name on one of the lines. "Won't this be fun?" she said.
George rolled her eyes. "Walking around in ruffles and layers all day? No, thanks." But then a different list caught her eye. "Look, there's an opening here to help out the props coordinator. Now, that could be interesting," she said, signing her name.
"Props?" Bess said in disbelief. "What do you want to do? Carry a hammer around all day?"
Though Bess and George were cousins, they couldn't be more different, Nancy thought. George, with her short, dark hair and dark eyes, was slender, athletic, and always ready for adventure. Blond-haired, blue-eyed Bess, on the other hand, would rather be watching the action from a safe distance. Bess was forever battling to lose five pounds from her slightly plump frame. And both girls looked completely different from Nancy, who had reddish-blond hair and deep blue eyes.
"So what are you going to do, Nancy?" George said, ignoring her cousin's remark.
"I don't know," Nancy said, scanning the sheets. "There's not much left."
"There's room for one lady-in-waiting," Bess suggested .
Nancy looked at the ladies-in-waiting sign-up sheet. The job description sounded fun. Ladies-in-waiting had to wear Elizabethan dresses and attend all events as members of Queen Elizabeth's court. The events included a hunting party picnic, staged duels, dances, the evening play, and more.
"Why not?" Nancy said, signing her name. "It'll give us a chance to see the whole festival."
"Oh, good," Bess said. "It'll be fun to do this together. But just remember," she said, looking concerned, "we're here to have fun -- not to look for mysteries."
Nancy laughed. "Don't worry, Bess," she said. Nancy had become known in River Heights as an amateur detective. But while her interest in sleuthing had brought her a good deal of recognition, it had given Bess more than one nervous moment.
"Thanks for volunteering," said the woman at the table. She handed the girls volunteer badges. "Please wear these at all times," she said. "Now you can head over to the theater, where the director, Philip Schotter, will be meeting with the volunteers. And I hope you have a wonderful week." She looked at her watch. "Quick, he'll be starting any minute."
The three girls hurried over to the theater and sat down just as a tall, friendly looking man began speaking. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, he looked to be only a few years older than the girls. His brown, curly hair hung down to his shoulders.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," he said to the group of about thirty volunteers. "I'm Philip Schotter -- better known as Schotter -- and I'd like to welcome you to our Elizabethan festival as official members of Her Majesty's Players."
A few people clapped, and Schotter continued with a smile. "We want you to know that we truly appreciate your volunteering. We're a small group, and every bit of help counts.
"The festival officially begins today at noon. It will run for seven days, ending Saturday evening," he continued. "But all volunteers will have a day off on Wednesday. The gates open at noon, and we expect everyone in the troupe -- and that now includes all of you -- to be in costume by then."
Schotter went on to explain the different spectator activities. They could attend sixteenth-century duels, Shakespearean sonnet readings, hunts, and concerts. They could also learn dances, songs, and games. Every day, in the late afternoon, there would be a performance of Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.
"We're very proud to be joined this year by respected actress Martine DeVries, who will be the festival's one and only Queen Elizabeth. The queen and her procession -- the ladies-in-waiting and courtiers -- will attend meals, the hunting-party picnics, and every play performance. If you're a lady-in-waiting or a courtier, you have a choice of being part of the procession or intermingling with the spectators."
Schotter then introduced Josh Forster, the company's creative consultant. "Josh is basically my right-hand man," he said, looking at Josh appreciatively. "You'll be able to count on his expertise in sixteenth-century England's history and literature. Spectators will be asking all sorts of questions, and if you don't know the answer, just ask Josh."
Josh Forster, in his wire-rimmed glasses and tweed jacket, reminded Nancy of a college professor. He began to explain the Elizabethan period to the volunteers. "Queen Elizabeth came to power in 1558. She considered herself to be chosen by God to be the ruler of England, and believed, as many did, that she was responsible only to God," he said.
"This is like being in school," Bess whispered. "Shh," George whispered back. She had always liked history.
Adjusting his glasses, Josh continued in a quiet, serious voice. "Most of you probably know of a famous citizen of London at that time -- William Shakespeare. This week our theater group will be performing one of his most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. This play -- "
Suddenly a booming voice rang out. "Josh, I think I should cover this part!" Nancy looked up to see a middle-aged man, whose hair was almost completely gray, appear from backstage.
"You?" Josh frowned. "What do you know -- " Schotter, the director, rushed to center stage to smooth things out. "Uh, thank you, Josh, for those important facts," he said awkwardly. "We're running short on time, and I still want to make one more introduction." He gestured to ward the man who'd interrupted Josh. "I'm sure most of you recognize the well-known actor Dean Batlan. He'll be playing the part of Romeo."
The man smiled and raised his hands to polite applause .
"That's Romeo?" George said under her breath. "I thought Romeo was supposed to be a young man. This guy looks middle-aged. And I've never heard of him."
"Well, Dean Batlan's not exactly a teenager," Nancy whispered back. "I think he played Romeo in some major productions a long time ago."
As if he'd heard Nancy's whisper, Dean Batlan began speaking in a loud, confident voice. "Yes, playing Romeo is second nature to me now. In fact, I think that by watching me perform you'll all learn a lot about Shakespeare."
"Thank you. Dean," Schotter broke in quickly. He turned back to the volunteers. 'Now, to find out which area you should report to first, check the lists at the edge of the stage. And thanks again for your help."
"Well, that Dean Batlan sure thinks a lot of himself, doesn't he?" George said as the girls went to check the lists.
"He sure does," Bess said, nodding. "I couldn't believe he interrupted poor Josh Forster like that."
"Maybe Dean was starting his theatrical performance a little early," Nancy said. She looked at a sheet of paper with "Ladies-in-waiting" written at the top. "C'mon, Bess. It says here that we have to head over to the costume trailer," she said. The girls said goodbye to George, who was to report to the backstage tent.
Nancy and Bess headed toward the trailer lot and immediately found a large white trailer with a sign on the door that said Costumes.
A petite, dark-haired woman with a clipboard was standing outside the door. "Are you Nancy Drew and Bess Marvin?" she asked, looking at her clipboard.
"That's us," Bess answered.
"Then you're at the right place," the woman said. "I'm Donna Vasquez, the costume manager. Go into the trailer and one of my assistants will help you find costumes."
Inside the trailer, dresses and petticoats hung on racks and on the backs of folding chairs. Screens had been set up to create dressing areas, and several full-length mirrors were propped against the walls. Two other volunteers had just been fitted and were picking out pieces of costume jewelry.
An assistant approached Nancy and Bess. "Are you two playing ladies of the court?" she asked. When Nancy and Bess nodded, she stepped back and eyed them critically. After a moment she turned to a rack of dresses and pulled off a green dress for Bess and an ivory-colored dress for Nancy. "You can change behind those screens there," she said, pointing. "Leave your clothes in the lockers against that wall."
A few minutes later Nancy and Bess came out from behind the screens. "Oh, Nancy, you look beautiful!" Bess exclaimed. The ivory dress set off Nancy's deep blue eyes.
Bess smiled. "I love this style," she said. "I can hide my legs under this full skirt, and the fitted waist isn't even tight on me." She admired herself in a mirror. "It's a lot more flattering than a sweatsuit."
"You two look great," said Donna Vasquez, entering the trailer. "Help yourself to some costume jewelry in those trunks over there. A generous elderly woman, here in River Heights, gave us some of her old pieces. We've added them to our existing collection. They're fakes, of course, but they look like the right time period. The festival regulars have already taken their pieces, but you're welcome to whatever's there."
A few moments later, each wearing a bejeweled pin, Nancy and Bess stepped from the costume trailer. "I feel like we've really stepped into the sixteenth century," Bess said.
"I know what you mean," Nancy said, glancing at her watch. "We have some time before the procession begins. Let's head back toward the town square."
Suddenly they heard a hoarse cry. "Hey, look out! Oh, no -- help!"
Nancy immediately ran in the direction of the voice, which seemed to be coming from one of the trailers. As she neared a larger trailer, she was joined by other men and women in costume. She stepped into the trailer and stopped in surprise. Sprawled out on the floor were three men in Elizabethan costume. And on top of them lay a large iron rack filled with spears, swords, axes, and long poles with sharp, oddly shaped blades at the end!
Nancy Drew Book
through our affiliation with Amazon
Nancy Drew is copyrighted and trademarked by Simon & Schuster Inc.
MysteryNet.com and its subsidiary site, NancyDrew.com, www.nancydrew.com, www.nancy drew.com,
nancy-drew.com are in no way
affiliated with or recognized by Simon & Schuster Inc. Newfront
Productions, Inc. believes that everything on this website falls within
the fair use clause of Trademarks and Copyrights and pledges full
cooperation with Simon & Schuster Inc. to protect its trademarks.