Darth Maul and the Fourth Wall
(Maul does Community Theater)
[Read jedimom's author bio]
DISCLAIMER: The Sith and the Jedi belong to George Lucas, may he live forever. Dartha Stewart belongs to the Plaid Adder. Also, if you think you recognize someone from your local community theater group, forget it. Due to a strange effect of the Force, the same personalities crop up in community theater in all times and places. If you don't believe me, read A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Darth Maul sat on his newly-refurbished black leather sofa, wearing only his black silk boxers. Scowling with Sithly intensity, he drew on the Force to anticipate the movements of the three Jedi facing Darth Lara Croft on his screen. Behind the sofa, My Apprentice purred as she rolled over in a basket full of clean clothes, skillfully applying an even coating of white hair to Maul's Sith robes. So finely honed was Maul's concentration that he didn't even flinch when Sidious flung open the door--but Maul's Apprentice leaped straight out of the basket, over the back of the sofa and behind the TV, yanking the PlayStation controller cord out of its socket in her flight. Darth Lara, left defenseless, was reduced to coleslaw.
"AAAAAARRRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!" Maul's lightsaber flew into his hands and ignited, but a moment's hesitation over which to kill first, his apprentice or his master, allowed his sense of self-preservation to kick in. He sullenly deactivated the saber. "What is thy bidding, my Master?" he grumbled.
Sidious was glancing around the apartment. From the black carpet (new) to the garnet-red walls (freshly painted) it was spotless. Even My Apprentice's best shedding efforts had been limited to the laundry, and the familiar odor, a combination of slaughterhouse and waste treatment plant, was missing.
"What has happened to your apartment, my apprentice? Not that I'm complaining, you understand..."
"I lost a bet with Darth Mary Sue," snarled Maul. "So I had to clean up her place AND my place." He concentrated fiercely on his resentment. Must keep him from asking what happened after that.... With all his might he firmly slammed mental doors on the memory of an eight course dinner and an equally elaborate, sensuous and lengthy evening's entertainment.
"Good! Good!" cackled Sidious. "Housecleaning is an excellent means for getting in touch with your hatred. But I have another assignment for you; one that will get you out of the house for quite some time."
Maul was so relieved that Sidious hadn't detected his residual smugness that he almost missed that last remark. "Yes, my master?" he said with a sinking feeling.
"I'm sure you have noticed how necessary the art of deception is in our line of work," Sidious purred. "I've decided you need to hone your acting skills. The Jedi Community Theater is planning a production of Sith Wars as their season opener. Auditions are tonight. Be at the theater at 7:00."
That doesn't sound too bad, Maul thought cautiously. "Of course, my Master. But will the Jedi allow me to participate?"
"Leave that to me," smirked his master as he wafted out the door.
I have a very bad feeling about this, Maul thought as he pushed the door shut.
The Jedi Community Theater was housed in a decrepit old building in a run-down warehouse district on a level much closer to the (possibly theoretical) surface of Coruscant than Maul's apartment. The shabby theater lobby was packed with Jedi and padawans of all ages, species and genders, all busily filling out forms with print the size of subatomic particles. The crowd was surprisingly quiet. Most of the beings were silently doing the paperwork without directly acknowledging anyone else in the room. But Maul noticed them sneaking glances at each other, while the stale, overheated air seemed to hum with the resonance of the Force they were using to surreptitiously check out the competition. His appearance sent a ripple through the Force that caused everyone in the room to look up, then quickly back down again. Their stubby, eraserless pencils picked up speed as Maul sneered contemptuously. Fools! Only now do you understand what you are up against. The role of Supreme Lord of the Sith shall be mine!
Seizing an audition form from the pile, he began filling it out. Previous experience? Hmm. He would make something up later. Height, weight, clothing sizes...voice range....list all conflicts here? There is no conflict. Maul handed over the completed form with a smirk and stalked into the theater.
"Hi, neighbor! Isn't this exciting! It's so cool that you're trying out too! Maybe we'll both get parts!" Of course. Obi-Wan Kenobi sat down next to him, bouncing up and down with enthusiasm. The elderly folding seat squeaked with a sound reminiscent of--NO! Maul resolutely refused to go there. The thought of spending nearly 2 months in close quarters with the padawan, surrounded by other Jedi, made Maul's horns ache. Just like the Grey Side of the Force. Except without the music. And the alcohol. And it goes on and on night after night for weeks on end...
Maul's miserable reverie was interrupted by a loud thumping. Yoda stood on the stage, banging it with his stick. "Your attention! Welcome to auditions for Sith Wars. Your director I will be." Maul groaned inwardly. "Fabulous show this is, all about Sith arising again, a thousand years after Jedi kicked their evil asses. Many good parts there are." He waved a thick stack of forms. "Noticed I have, nearly all of you padawans desire to play Sith. Speak to your masters about this, I will."
Two hours later, Maul was torn between rage at the endless waiting for his turn on stage and amusement at the abysmal acting ability of most of the Jedi. Mace Windu in particular sounded like a nearsighted newscaster on Valium. This is supposed to hone my acting skills? Well, maybe my skill at keeping a straight face...
"Obi-Wan Kenobi," called Yoda. The twit padawan shot out of his seat like an ad for The Price is Right and vaulted onto the stage. Yoda rolled his eyes. "Read the part of Darth Venom you will. Begin here," he said, handing Kenobi a page of script.
Oh, Force, do I HAVE to listen to this? I should have struck my master down this morning, thought Maul. He picked up a discarded audition form and began folding it into a Sith Interceptor. A cold, menacing voice stopped him dead.
"The Jedi are weak. Their Council is blind. Soon we will arise against them and the galaxy will be ours." For a surreal moment Maul thought it was Sidious--but it was Kenobi, his puppylike face twisted in an evil sneer, blue eyes blazing with hatred and power. Maul sat up straight. The twit was good!
"Thank you, next," said Yoda. Kenobi dropped his Sithly persona like a discarded bathrobe, handed back the script with a little bow, and returned to his seat.
Maul, much to his disgust, was asked to read several minor parts, none of them Sith. He controlled his rage with an effort, restricting himself to a menacing growl as he returned to his seat.
"Tomorrow night callbacks we will have. Post the callback list tomorrow morning I will. Remember, if callback you do not get, still check the cast list the following day you should."
Maul was almost relieved when he did not receive a callback, but a check of the cast list on the following morning dashed his hopes of escaping from this exercise in frustration.
Master Lance Trugood, Head of the Jedi Council - Mace Windu
Roogelach, Wookiee Jedi Knight - Master Qui-Gon Jinn
Halllvah, Wookiee padawan to Roogelach - Maul
No! He refused to believe it. A padawan? A WOOKIEE padawan?? He glanced further down the list.
Darth Venom, supreme Lord of the Sith - Obi-Wan Kenobi
"Congratulations, my apprentice," smirked a hated voice in his ear. Damn Sidious, how did he always manage to sneak up like that??
"Congratulations are not in order, my master," Maul snarled. "I have been cast as a Jedi. As a padawan. As a WOOKIEE PADAWAN!!! I shall slay the director and use his little green head as a hood ornament!"
"You shall do no such thing," Sidious ordered. "You will act the part you are given, and you will like it. Unless you're prepared to take the matter up with me? Here and now?" Purple lightning flickered from Sidious's fingertips.
"Yes, my master," Maul growled. Sidious smiled slowly. Someday....someday very soon, you sadistic old...
His consideration of various methods of slow torment was interrupted by muffled shouts from inside the theater.
"How could you cast me as the Wookiee??"
"The only one tall enough are you!"
"And you gave MACE the lead?? He couldn't act his way out of a paper bag!"
"Dramatically challenged the man may be, but president of the theater guild he is!"
"And I have to have that...that tattooed FREAK as my PADAWAN?"
"Necessary the Wookiee costume is, to hide the horns and the tattoos. Very convincing growl he does, too. Trust me, you should. The director I am."
The dark waves of frustration welling up from Qui-Gon almost made up for Maul's own helpless rage.
That night, the cast was given a tour of the backstage area. Yoda began by showing them a pair of surprisingly comfortable dressing rooms. They had sturdy chairs, ample costume racks and prop shelves, clean sinks, huge, well-lit mirrors and private toilets. Maul's pleased surprise gave way to horror when they were taken from these, the star dressing rooms, to the chorus dressing rooms that everyone in the cast except Mace and Obi-Wan would be sharing. One room for men, one for women; both smelly, cramped, furnished only with rickety wooden benches, pitifully inadequate mirrors, paint-stained, leaky sinks, and filthy toilets surmounted by large signs reading, YOU FLUSH, YOU DIE!! THE AUDIENCE CAN HEAR THESE TOILETS!
So began an ordeal unmatched even in Maul's experience. Night after night he suffered through Master Yoda's stupid warm-ups and improv games ("Smell the purple with your toes you must, yes, hmm!"). Night after night he ground his teeth at Mace Windu's incompetence (after Windu had asked "What's my motivation?" for the five thousandth time, Maul could swear he'd heard Yoda mutter "Your motivation I have right here," as he patted his lightsaber). Night after night he managed--barely!--not to slay the annoying Rodian padawan who knew everyone's lines and offered free and ample criticism to the entire cast.
But nothing prepared him for the shock of costume fitting. Almost before he'd opened the stage door, he sensed a familiar disturbance in the Force. Dartha Stewart held center stage, flanked by racks of costumes. The cast sat on the floor at her feet. Maul could feel the Force pouring off her in waves as she mind-whammied them.
"You will NOT eat, drink, smoke or sweat in your costume. You will NOT lean up against wet paint, dust or dirt. You WILL bathe every day immediately before coming to the theater. You will NOT whine about your costume no matter how much you dislike it." Maul felt his eyes beginning to glaze over and shook his head sharply. The movement attracted Dartha's attention. "Ah, yes, Maul," she simpered, with her most saccharine smile. "You will make the most adorable Wookiee padawan!" Just in time Maul noticed his master, in full Palpatine regalia, sitting on the front row. Tempting as it might be to rise up and slay one or the other of them, there was no way he could take them both. And there was a stage full of Jedi ready to intervene, as well. He gritted his teeth in what might have been mistaken for a grin, if the observer's blast shield had been down. "Now, there's just one little adjustment we need to make," Dartha was continuing. "We'll need to file down those horns so they don't rip the lining of the Wookiee head..."
Had there been an award for Best Performance by a Provoked Sith, Maul would have won it. His vision was completely blocked by swirling clouds of red, and the sound of his master's gleeful laughter in his brain reduced him to total incoherence. Only the fact that he was having trouble breathing saved him from foaming at the mouth. The only outward sign of this turmoil was the tauntaun-in-headlights look he gave Dartha as he slid down to sit on the floor.
If rehearsals had been difficult before, they were sheer torment now that he was required to wear the Wookiee costume. It smelled like a wet bantha, it was hotter than a lightsaber blade, and it restricted his vision and hearing to an unbearable degree. Moreover, it changed his usual predatory glide into an arthritic shuffle. Even the presence of Sidious in the front row at the dress rehearsal was not enough to quell Maul's rage when he tripped over an unseen prop for the umpteenth time. "DIE, Jedi scum!" he howled. "You will all perish miserably and your rotting corpses will be processed into mystery meat to choke generations yet unborn!!!"
Fortunately the Wookiee mask muffled his speech so much that the cast and director heard only "Aieee arrh rarrrh rwowwwr."
"Impressive your Wookiee growls are, but practice them now you must not," chided Yoda. "Wait for your cue you must."
And then it was opening night. "For the last time, Sith DO NOT give backrubs!" Maul hissed at Obi-Wan.
"But tonight I'm a Sith and you're a Jedi," the twit responded smugly, then groaned as Maul's thumbs dug viciously into his trapezius muscles. "Ooh, I could get used to this," he whispered wickedly.
"Hug the director you must. Bring you good luck it will," smirked Yoda.
"I thought there was no such thing as luck," muttered Obi-Wan. For once Maul was grateful for his Wookiee costume, since it defeated Yoda's concerted effort to grope him.
Maul stood in the wings, sweltering under forty pounds of Bantha hair, half-blind and half-deaf, buzzing from an overdose of Altoids and Pixy Stix (consumed in defiance of Dartha Stewart's whammy). Against all expectation he found himself wanting this theatrical nightmare to succeed. He gritted his teeth as Mace Windu lost his place in the script yet again. He fumed when the audience laughed at inappropriate times. And he gasped as Obi-Wan, pulling out stops Maul hadn't known he had, gave the performance of a lifetime. He even, Dark Side help him, gave Qui-Gon an encouraging pat on the shoulder just before the two of them made their last entrance. During the curtain call, Maul felt a surge of exhilaration as the Force emanating from the audience's applause swept through him. I am hot shit, he thought as he swept a surprisingly graceful bow. Even in a Jedi epic. Even in a Wookiee costume.
"No," Maul growled adamantly. "Sith--I mean, I do not do hot tubs." Not hot tubs infested with Qui-Gon, Yoda and Mace Windu, I don't.
Obi-Wan pouted and ostentatiously slid into the hot tub right up against his master, shouldering several other cast members aside. Maul rolled his eyes and continued digging through the huge trough full of ice that held the drinks, finding that yes, indeed, they had Pete's Wicked Ale. It's going to take quite a few of these to get me through a Jedi cast party, he mused, closing his eyes as he savored the first hard gulp. He suspected his master had whammied him into accepting the invitation. Moodily Maul stalked over to the snacks table, searching for something high-cholesterol and ecologically unsound. All he found were organically grown carrots, dolphin-safe tuna with whole wheat crackers, and--he cringed--low-fat granola. The abysmal selection of food fit his mood perfectly. He felt like a wuss with his horns rounded off like this. It would be months before they grew out enough so that he could sharpen them. He finished off the Pete's Wicked Ale and searched for another.
Suddenly the room was full of dark-clad figures, armed with...what the hell were those weapons? Roughly the size and shape of lightsabers, but instead of metal hilts and luminous blades of energy, these were featureless black cylinders that looked like...plastic?
"All right, boys, you've had your fun," a calm voice announced. "Now it's our turn. Out of the tub, all of you." The Jedi and padawans didn't move. "Out, NOW!" ordered the leader of the mysterious invaders, and they rushed the hot tub, attacking with their unorthodox weapons. The plastic cylinders struck with a hollow musical PONK!
"OW!" cried the Jedi as one, and began scrambling out of the tub. Although certainly not lethal, the plastic weapons were apparently capable of raising significant welts. Maul filed this fact away for future reference while considering his next move.
Muffled giggles arose from the dark warriors as they drove the last of the Jedi from the room and locked the doors. Then they dropped their flimsy weapons and shucked off their Sithly robes.
Women. Jedi women. Clad in bathing suits that left very little to the imagination. Maul counted most of the female cast members, including Masters Adi Gallia and Deepa Billaba. A chilling thought struck him and he glanced frantically around the room at knee level.
"Don't worry," said the smooth alto he now recognized as Master Adi's. "Yaddle's out at the Grey Side tonight. Now, ladies, let us unravel the mystery of how far down the tattoo goes..." The women surrounded him and began backing him towards the tub. Maul swallowed hard. Even in his most detailed harem-girl fantasies he had neglected to specify that they should all be muscular, combat-trained, supernaturally coordinated, Force-strong and horny as hell from weeks without privacy or time for recreation. He barely had time to snatch a deep breath before he was submerged in the steaming, roiling water, entangled in slippery, grappling limbs, his t-shirt suddenly missing. I am indeed hot shit, he thought as he writhed and twisted, fighting more to make the struggle interesting than to escape. But some neglected piece of information was tugging at the hem of his consciousness, requesting his attention....
Searing cold struck his body without warning. The Jedi women released him and scrambled, shrieking, out of the suddenly freezing water. Maul followed, shocked and breathless, only to be blinded as one of the discarded Sith robes was flung over his head. Strong arms seized him and he was lifted in a fireman's carry. He heard a familiar voice whoop in triumph. Kenobi. Maul should have known better than to trust a locked door to stymie the criminally talented padawan. He shook free of the clammy Sith robe. Kenobi was laughing so hard he nearly dropped his prisoner. Maul could see his former captors meeting a similar fate at the hands of their straight male costars.
As Kenobi hauled him out to his waiting speeder, Maul grinned ferociously, enjoying the padawan's body heat against his chilled skin and the unusual perspective he now had on Obi-Wan's Speedo-clad form. Before the door swung shut behind them, he used the Force to levitate the last of the Pete's Wicked Ale out of the slurry of ice that now filled the (formerly) hot tub. It was, after all, Friday night.
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