Enough with the Theatrics!
"Well? What do you say?"
Rainbow Dash avoided Twilight's eager gaze and instead stared at the small, blue ticket she had been given. She didn't want to go to the theater. It sounded like a lot of sitting around and being bored while somepony else hogged the spotlight. But, she disliked the idea of disappointing Twilight even more. Theater tickets don't come cheap, and Twilight did seem excited about going. Still, Dash hated being put on the spot like this. Twilight had waited until the day of the play to invite her, and Dash had already admitted to having no plans for the night.
"Well?" Twilight repeated. Dash's hesitation had created an awkward silence that she tried to dispel with a cough.
"Uh," Dash started, still avoiding eye contact, "Why don't you try asking Rarity? Theater is more her thing, after all." Dash mustered a reassuring grin.
"Rarity's already going!" replied Twilight, cheerfully, "I was thinking it could be the three of us for once." She either hadn't picked up on Dash's intentions or was willfully ignoring them.
"What about Pinkie Pie?" Dash asked through her fixated expression.
"She'll be at the play too!” Twilight answered, “She's helping Mr. and Mrs. Cake cater the event."
Dash's grin faded. "Fluttershy?"
"Angel is sick, and she doesn't want to leave him home alone."
Dash furrowed her brow. "Applejack...?"
"Visiting her relatives in Appleoosa, don't you remember?"
Dash buried her face in her hoof and groaned. Twilight still didn't appear to be catching on. It was time to be more direct.
"Look, Twilight," Dash said bluntly, "I'm not a theater kind of pony. I have trouble staying in one place for ten minutes. Do you really think I could sit still for two hours? That just sounds boring!" Dash flapped her wings a few times to accentuate her point.
Twilight gave her a scrutinizing look. "Rainbow Dash," she chided, "remember last week when you promised you'd try new things?"
"No!" Dash shot back, defensively.
"It was just the other day," Twilight explained, "You offended Zecora by refusing to eat a traditional dish from her homeland that she made. We finally convinced you to try it and you loved it. Zecora forgave you, and you promised to be more open-minded from then on."
"Yeah, towards food."
"Rainbow Dash, you can't be open-minded towards just one thing! That's so close-minded!"
"But--" Dash sputtered.
"Have you ever been to a play?"
"Well, no. But--"
"Well then. How do you know you won't like it?"
"You don't! Because you've never seen one."
"Alright, fine," Dash huffed, "I'll go if you just get off my back about it, sheesh!"
"Yes!" Twilight grinned triumphantly. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll love it! After all, it's a classic." Dash rolled her eyes as Twilight turned away to lift a purple saddle bag onto her back. "Now, we'd better hurry. We still have to meet Rarity before the show starts." Dash blew a silent raspberry and followed Twilight outside.
The two left from Twilight's library-house for Rarity's boutique across town. It was a beautiful summer evening and the sky was just beginning to turn orange. Ponyville was casting long shadows across its central square, striped with bars of light where the sun peeked through in-between the buildings. Dash, of course, noticed none of this, being too preoccupied with scanning the sky for any rainclouds or thunderstorms or tornadoes or anything that might interrupt this pristine picture of a perfect day and close the outdoor theater. No such luck. Truthfully, this would have made perfect napping weather, a realization that made Dash all the more annoyed.
Twilight rattled on about the play while Dash followed in a hover close behind, pouting, her front legs crossed in a display of silent defiance. "Brave Little Filly is a very popular play in Canterlot,” Twilight explained, “I grew up seeing it performed year after year... It's been my favorite ever since I was a little filly myself!" Dash replied with a contemptuous snort. She wasn't convinced. Twilight ignored her and continued, "So, when I heard that the Equestrian Thespians were in Ponyville performing that exact play, I bought front row tickets!"
"Equestrian Thespians?" asked a disinterested Rainbow Dash. It was just her cue to ask the obvious question.
"Yes!" cheered Twilight, "They're a travelling troupe of actors and actresses that move from town to town in Equestria to do shows. They mostly visit the larger cities like Canterlot or Manehattan, but tonight they've decided to perform for Ponyville!" Twilight broke into a delighted trot as she squeaked with excitement. Dash sighed and picked up the speed to close the distance, trying to pack as much flying into the trip to Rarity's as possible.
Too soon, they arrived at the Carousel Boutique. The two girls let themselves in and Twilight announced them both. "Just a minute, darlings!" sang Rarity from somewhere out of view. Fabric was strewn about the boutique, draped over every available work-surface. The floor was littered with cloth and ribbons and bobbins and threads and, in at least one place, a pile of balled-up dress design sketches. The boutique only got this cluttered whenever Rarity was too inspired to follow her usual regimen of keeping the place spotless.
"Man, Rarity's really let the place go," remarked Dash. She nudged a nearby ball of yarn with her hoof and watched it roll across the floor before it was tackled by Opalescence in a fit of flying feline fury. As if to spoil this solitary moment of excitement, Rarity emerged. Dash had to avert her eyes as Rarity's silver tiara glinted obtrusively in the light. Hazarding another look, she was greeted with an eyeful. Accompanying the bejeweled tiara was a regal-looking ensemble with enough garnishing to put the lace and ribbon ponies out of business. Its deep-red color reminded Dash of cherries. She hated cherries.
"Sorry about the wait, girls,” said Rarity, ostentatiously, “but as I'm sure you're aware beauty like this takes time." She paraded herself around, showing off her handiwork before finally rounding on the two other ponies who were au naturel. "My goodness! Oh no-no-no-no, no! You are not thinking of going to the the-ay-ter looking like that!" Rarity gestured vaguely in Rainbow Dash's direction, to Dash's slight chagrin. "Well! Luckily I have just the outfits you two need. Come on back, dears!" Rarity started towards the back of the shop.
Fortunately, Twilight interrupted Rarity before Rainbow Dash could tell her exactly what she thought of having to spend the evening in something frilly. "Actually, Rarity, the performance is being held outside, and we don't really have all that much time..." Twilight trailed off, not seeming too keen on dressing up either.
“Speak for yourself," Rarity retorted, "But as a lady it is my responsibility--neigh, my duty--to always look my best." Rarity continued into the back and disappeared behind a curtain.
"What are you doing now?" shot Dash.
"I'm changing!" Rarity replied, her voice became clearer as she poked her head around the edge of the curtain, "If we're going to be outside, I need a dress that looks good outside." She disappeared behind the curtain again as Twilight and Dash exchanged weary looks. "Do I have time to design something?" hollered Rarity.
Both girls responded flatly, "No."
"Okay! Just checking!"
Twilight took to browsing the boutique while Rainbow Dash sat and stewed in her own indignity. Despite what she had said earlier, she still wasn't planning on going to the theater. But, given the short notice before the play, she hadn't been able to formulate any sort of escape plan. Until now.
There wasn't much time. "Hey, Twilight?" Dash asked, tentatively. She only had one shot at this.
"Yes, Rainbow Dash?" Twilight replied in turn.
Dash would have to improvise.
"I... left something at my house. And I need to go get it." Flawless excuse.
"Really? What did you forget?" Almost flawless. Dash thought hard. What do ponies bring to snooty plays? She let loose the first thing that came to mind:
"Binoculars." D'oh! Dash cringed.
Bewilderment crossed Twilight's face as she slowly turned and replied, "You mean opera glasses?” Dash nodded emphatically. “But we're sitting in the front row!" As if Dash’s alibi wasn't lame enough already: front row tickets! Of course. Twilight had only been bragging for ten minutes about her front row tickets.
Dash couldn't give up now, though; she had come this far. She knew she would have to use the one word Twilight wouldn't argue with. "It's tradition," said Dash with a sly grin, watching Twilight's suspecting look give way to something more inquisitive-looking. Dash continued matter-of-factly, "You probably remember from back in Canterlot, but nopony goes to the theater without her opera glasses if she can help it! I mean, come on." Twilight looked a little preoccupied, probably trying to remember if all that many ponies had opera glasses back then. Seizing the opportunity, Dash started to excuse herself, "So, I'll just fly over to my house real quick and pick 'em up! Then I'll meet you at the play?" If she could just get out that door, she would have enough time to come up with a more permanent solution to her theater problem.
Twilight had obviously started to doubt herself and was now sifting through her somewhat patchwork knowledge of Ponyville's history and customs for anything on opera glasses. In the meantime, she defaulted to Dash's judgment. "Okay. Just make sure you make it back before the play starts," Twilight conceded.
"Oh, I will! Don't you worry!" said Dash as she backed slowly towards the exit, "I'll be back in no time!" Success!
"That won't be necessary!" cried a voice from behind her. Rainbow Dash froze. She'd forgotten about Rarity. Dash might have fooled anyone else with her brilliant ruse, but she happened to be within earshot of likely the one and only pony in Ponyville who would know anything about theater! Sheepishly, Dash turned to face Rarity--who had changed into a gaudy, white, bundle of lace--and prepared to get ratted out. "Ta-dah!" exclaimed Rarity as she produced a few slender, golden rods from behind her back, presenting one to Rainbow Dash. Opera glasses. The rod was topped with a miniature pair of silver binoculars which, in true Rarity-fashion, had been encrusted in multicolored jewels.
Twilight stepped forward and took the other pair. "Wow, thanks Rarity!" she beamed, taking a quick look through the magnifiers.
"Well of course, dear!" Rarity replied with a toss of her mane, "Like Rainbow Dash said, nopony should be caught dead without proper accessories for the occasion!" Rarity and Twilight giggled as Dash tried to work out what just happened.
The glasses were tugged away from Dash's hooves by Twilight's magic, who slipped them into her bag. "I'll hold onto these for you until we get to the theater," said Twilight. Dash managed to utter a "thank you" to both girls through her dumbfounded state. "Speaking of the theater, we'd better hurry!" stressed Twilight as she examined the setting sun, "The play begins at sundown and we won't want to miss a thing!" Dash nodded and silently followed the two ponies outside. She was out of ideas. Defeated. There was nothing left to do but grin and bear it.
It was going to be a long night.
A sizeable crowd had started to gather by the time the three ponies arrived at the theater. The stage had been situated at the bottom of a gently sloped hill in a field just outside of Ponyville. Some ponies had already taken their seats, arranged on the slope so that the back rows still had a clear view of the stage. From the front corners of the stage assembly hung purple velvet ropes that boxed off a relatively small patch of ground, which was designated by a small, black sign with fancy white lettering as "Front Row." A dark brown, surly-looking stallion in a black sports jacket was checking tickets and showing ponies to their seats while another--this one white and seemingly more stuck up--guarded the front row.
“So where did this come from?” Dash asked, gesturing at the massive stage assembly that she was sure wasn’t there that morning. Twilight was busy gazing into space, apparently awestruck. Dash cleared her throat loudly.
“Huh?” Twilight said with a start, “Oh, they set it up this afternoon. You didn’t notice?”
“No,” Dash said, defensively. She had noticed, now that she thought about it. The banging and booming and yelling had ruined a perfectly good cloud nap. Dash started to continue but noticed that Twilight was busy staring aimlessly into the crowd, then at the stage, then at the orchestra, a far-off and dreamy look in her eyes. “Twilight, you’re not going all sentimental on me, are you?” Dash warned.
“Oh, no,” Twilight giggled and blushed, “Just reliving a few good memories.” Dash mimed a gag behind Twilight’s back.
“Well, I’m happy for you, dear,” said Rarity, “It’s a bit romantic, isn’t it? Reliving your foalhood here and now, surrounded by the mystique and flair of the theater air...” Rarity continued but Dash wasn’t listening. A small orchestra section to the right of the stage were either tuning their instruments or warming up, collectively sending a deep, pervasive droning over the field. The dullness was choking Dash out. She flapped her wings a few times and brought herself to a low hover.
From her new vantage point, Rainbow Dash surveyed the audience as she followed Twilight and Rarity. Noticing something, she landed next to Twilight and asked, "Hey, why are there so many ponies?" The crowd was easily more than twice Ponyville's population.
"The Equestrian Thespians are popular all throughout Equestria! Some ponies are probably visiting from out of town to see the show!" explained Twilight, obviously swept up in excitement and anticipation.
“Perfect!" cheered Rarity, "All the more ponies who get to see moi!" Dash shot her an incredulous look. As if to cover up her vanity, she added, matter-of-factly, "This will be great for business." Dash smirked and looked over the crowd again. Out of all the pretentious ponies at the play, Rarity still managed to be the most overdressed.
"Rainbow Dash!" a giddy voice cut through the sound of the crowd and orchestra. "Over here! Rainbow Dash!" Dash stopped turned to see Pinkie Pie jumping and waving crazily, trying to get Dash's attention from a concession kiosk. Desperate for any conversation not pertaining to fashion or theater, Dash broke away from the group to join her.
"Hey, Pinkie Pie!" Dash tried to match Pinkie’s enthusiasm, but was quickly overtaken.
"Ohmigosh I didn't expect to see you at the theater! Maybe Twilight or Rarity or Fluttershy or any other pony in Ponyville or maybe even Spike! But not Rain-bow Dash! I mean come on! But now you're here and I'm here and we're both gonna see the play!" Pinkie Pie grinned and started bouncing up and down. "I'm so excited! Are you excited? I've never been so excited! Well, except maybe this one time--"
"Pinkie Pie, sweetie?" interrupted Mrs. Cake from the opposite side of the kiosk, "Maybe your friend would like to buy some treats?"
"Oh, right!" answered Pinkie before turning back to Dash, "What can I getcha?" The kiosk had glass shelves displaying dozens of cupcakes, donuts, muffins, and various other sweet things covered in frostings and sprinkles spanning an entire confectionary rainbow. "Oh, just don't ask for the horse derves. We're all out," added Pinkie.
"For the what?!" asked Dash.
"She means hors d'œuvres," clarified Twilight. She and Rarity had finally caught up.
"Yeah, that's what I said! Horse derves. Those little-fancy-cakey things. We're all out," repeated Pinkie, smiling.
Rarity suppressed an already polite chuckle. "Well, if that's the case, dear," she beamed, "I'll just have one of those darling little cookies."
“Just one?" Pinkie asked, looking a little disappointed, "Okie-dokie-lokie!"
"And some popcorn, please," added Twilight.
"Coming right up!" replied Pinkie as she picked up a large scoop in her teeth and walked over to a large bin.
Dash followed her around the counter, leaving Twilight and Rarity to talk. "Hey, Pinkie Pie," she said in as hushed of a voice as she could muster, "I kinda forgot my money back at my house..."
"Mm-hmm?" replied Pinkie as she scooped popcorn into a red and white-striped box.
"But... we're cool, right?"
Pinkie put the scoop down and laughed, "Well, duh, you're only like the coolest pony I know!"
"Err... right," Dash continued, "so you’ll spot me a cupcake?"
Pinkie tilted her head a little before replying, "Of course, Dashie!" and pointing at a display under one of the counters. "They're right there, silly!” she giggled, “Oh man, I can't believe you didn't see them! Are your eyes okay? Maybe you need to get glasses! Or maybe you could just eat a bunch of carrots! They're supposed to be good for your eyes! You know, we have carrot cake--"
"I mean," Dash stressed, "can I have a cupcake now and pay you for it later?"
Pinkie's eyes widened with understanding. "Oh! Thaaat's what you were asking," she said with a laugh before her voice and expression fell uncharacteristically flat, "No." She grabbed a plate carrying a cookie and slid the cookie into a pink paper bag. Pinkie’s cheery demeanor returned as she continued, "I'm on the job! I can't just give out free sweets!" She balanced the popcorn and cookie bag on her back before leaning into Dash and finishing, "That just wouldn't be right!" She beamed knowingly at Dash before turning back towards Twilight and Rarity, who were still standing at the first counter. Dash stood for a moment, a little taken aback, before joining them.
"Okay, girls! That'll be three bits!" said Pinkie Pie, placing the snacks on the counter.
"What did Rainbow Dash want?" asked Twilight as she rummaged through her saddle bag.
"A cupcake, but she forgot her money," answered Pinkie.
"Oh, is that all? It's okay, Rainbow Dash, I gotcha covered!" said Twilight. She produced a couple of extra bits with a smile and dropped them on the counter. Pinkie scooped them into the register, ducked down to one of the glass displays below and emerged with a chocolate cupcake covered in swirly, blue icing.
"Wow, Twilight!" said Dash, "You know, you're really shelling out tonight!"
"Do you want a bag?" asked Pinkie.
"No thanks, I'll just carry it," replied Dash before grabbing the entire cupcake in her mouth, mustering a muffled "Thanks, Twilight!" Rarity was particularly horrified by this uncouth display, a hidden bonus to a mouthful of cupcake.
"You're welcome, Rainbow Dash. I just want everyone to have a good time," Twilight replied, "When you disappeared a minute ago, I was a little concerned that you'd gone home!"
"Are you crazy?" Pinkie Pie cut in, "Rainbow Dash would never do that to her friends!" Dash didn't want to lose any of her cupcake speaking so she nodded silently.
"Well," Twilight continued, "I was just worried that I was pushing a little too hard. I should have invited you before buying the ticket, but instead I just assumed you'd be willing to go and ended up putting you on the spot." Dash nodded and chewed her cupcake. "That's why it's okay if you want to leave. I shouldn't have forced this on you."
Dash nearly choked. This was the out she was looking for! She struggled to speak but her mouth was still blocked by frosting and cake. Instead, Pinkie Pie stepped in, “Wow, you girls really are crazy!”
No, thought Dash, frantically, shut up, Pinkie Pie!
Unfortunately for Dash, Pinkie couldn’t read minds or angry facial expressions, so she continued, “The Rainbow Dash I know would never walk out on her friends!”
Shut up, Pinkie Pie!!
“In fact, we were just talking about how excited we both were to be at the play!”
Twilight looked surprised and turned to Dash.“Is that true, Rainbow Dash?” Dash tried desperately to shake her head but instead found herself wrapped into an oppressive Pinkie Pie hug from over the kiosk counter.
“Of course it is!” Pinkie continued, keeping one leg draped over Dash’s shoulders and tracing an arc in the sky with the other, “She’s the most loyal pony in all of Equestria! Oooh! It’s just like in the song I wrote, ‘Rainbow Dash is the Most Loyal Pony in All of Equestria!’” Despite immediate protest from all three of the other ponies, Pinkie took a gasping breath of air and sounded off.
Rainbow Dash is my friend, loyal and true,
and if you’re lucky she’ll be friends with you too!
She’d stick by your side ‘till the very end!
Rainbow Dash is my bestest most loyalest friend!”
Pinkie Pie was bobbing back and forth with whatever imaginary music accompanied her little shanty. Rarity and Twilight exchanged weary looks and were just about to speak up when
Dashie’s the loyalest in all of Equestria!
I’m telling the truth, not trying to mess-with-ya!
Always by your side! Forever she’ll staaaaaaay...!
...And that’s why Dashie won’t be leaving this play!”
Pinkie punctuated the end of her song with a wide grin, leaving the other ponies more than a little dumbfounded.
“That was, uh,” Twilight struggled to find the right word.
“Quaint?” suggested Rarity.
“Yes,” Twilight agreed, “That was... very quaint. Thank you, Pinkie!”
Pinkie tilted her head a little. “Does that mean you want to hear it again?” she asked excitedly. Without waiting for an answer she took another gasping breath.
“No!” Twilight exclaimed, magically pinching Pinkie Pie’s mouth closed. Pinkie’s cheeks puffed out and she went cross-eyed. Wincing at her own harshness, Twilight gently let Pinkie go, who let the air dribble out with a buzz like a balloon. Twilight cleared her throat nervously and continued, “No, Pinkie. It’s okay! I’m convinced!”
”Okie dokie!” replied Pinkie, completely unfazed.
Twilight turned to Dash, grinning, and said, “I’m glad to hear you’ve come around, Rainbow Dash! You have no idea how much this means to me!”
Dash had long since finished her treat and had been sitting in stunned silence. “I...” she started to protest, but seeing Twilight’s sappy grin and those big, purple eyes wide with wonder and whimsy... it made her gag. Still, she couldn’t ruin Twilight’s good time at this point. “I... wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Dash finished, concedingly, but with a reassuring smile.
“Yes!” exclaimed Twilight, with a emphatic hoof-pump, “I promise, Rainbow Dash, you won’t regret this!” Dash wasn’t so sure.
Suddenly, the orchestra ceased their warm-up, leaving a vacuous silence in place of the oppressive hum. “Oh!” Twilight cried, “It’s starting! We have to find our seats!” After a quick good-bye to Pinkie Pie, they hurried to the front row where the white stallion stood.
“‘Ey, ‘ey!” he shouted at them in a voice far too gruff for his sophisticated look, “Hold yerselves! I need to check yer tickets!” After some sheepish muttering and momentary rummaging all three ponies produced their tickets which the stallion read quickly before unceremoniously stuffing them into a plastic bucket near his feet. Unhooking the velvet rope with his teeth, he beckoned them to enter with a flick of his head. Leading the ponies to the last three unoccupied seats, he spoke monotonously. “Miss Twilight. Miss Rarity. Miss Rainbow. Thank you for your patronage and for supporting the Equestrian Thespians. We hope you enjoy watching this show as much as we enjoy performing it. Bow politely and leave gracefully.” With that recitation, he turned quickly and walked off. Whatever enthusiasm he had the first time he had recited this spiel had long since evaporated. Meanwhile, Rarity seemed much more interested in having a crisis.
“Oh no-no-no! This simply will not do!” she cried, melodramatically.
“What is it this time?” Dash snorted, impatiently.
Rarity responded with more theatrics, holding a hoof to her forehead as if she were on the verge of fainting, “Oh, whatever shall I do? How can they expect anypony worth her salt in grace and style to sit on that?!” Rarity gestured at the relatively ornate square of padded cloth. Unamused, Dash plopped down on hers and gave her a shrug. “Well,” retorted Rarity, “that might be fine for you, but if you’d ever had to worry about grass stains or bugs or the utter lack of comfort! Oh my!”
“Will you just sit down?” Dash pleaded, annoyed.
“No I won’t. If they cannot provide accommodations for a pony of my prestige...” Rarity stuck her nose in the air in a spectacular pout, “I’ll simply have to stand.” Dash buried her face in her hooves as Twlight offered up her bag as a cushion to remedy the situation. Rarity turned her town, intent on making a scene. Suddenly, a pillow, flung wildly from stage left, landed deftly behind Rarity, squarely on her seat!
Rarity turned to the stage and gasped, for what stood proudly before her was a dashing brown colt with a curled, brazen mane! He shot her a wry smile! So bold! She blushed. He spoke! “There you are, miss! I hope you’ll find that to your liking!” The voice of an artist! An actor! But so renegade! What intrigue!
“Why, thank you!” Rarity replied as she sat. She could barely keep her composure in the presence of such a legend! Surely, this was the star of the show, taking interest in the one and only Rarity!
“Always a pleasure, ma’am!” he continued, “My name is--”
“Handy!” a gruff voice called from stage right, “Handy Hoof! ‘Ey! Quit makin’ eyes at that dame and get back to work!”
The colt, Handy, winced. “Sorry, ma’am,” he whispered, “Enjoy the show!” Handy picked up some sort of prop with his teeth, lifted it onto his back, and disappeared from view. He was a stagehand. Dash snickered. It was always fun to see Rarity get taken down a peg. Rarity was looking a little too crestfallen at the moment, but at least she was keeping her mouth shut. Twilight, oblivious to all of this, was digging through her bag. Finally, she produced the three sets of opera glasses. Rarity employed hers as a feeble attempt to hide her face. Dash used hers to scan the audience instead, noting to her amazement the conspicuously high number of ponies carrying opera glasses themselves. Dash considered counting them, but was quickly interrupted as the stage lights went out, save for a single spotlight that a silver-haired mare stepped into from off-stage.
“Fillies and gentlecolts!” the mare cried, “The Equestrian Thespians are proud to present, for your viewing pleasure tonight, a thrilling reimagining of the classic play, ‘Brave Little Filly!’” A thunderous wave of clops came from the applauding audience.
Twilight squinted skeptically. “Reimagining?”
Dash pursed her lips, unimpressed. “Thrilling?”
Rarity sulked in embarrassment. “A stagehand?”
The applause slowly died off as the mare walked off-stage. The curtain began to rise and the lights flickered to life, opening the stage for a performance the three girls would never forget.