Putting a Face on Theatre
We all have them. Funny stories, horror stories, scarring stories, inspirational stories. Part of the joy of theater-making is the amazing people and bizarre situations and exciting escapades we find ourselves in.
Here is a menagerie of some of my memorable moments and thoughts from 7 years of theater.
Toot Terrible to Tell
I'm in the audience of Billy Elliot on Broadway. It's reached the emotional climax of the show, where Billy is asked by the panel why he likes dancing, right before his big song "Electricity." He is scared, nervous, alone.
"Well," Billy says. "It's because..."
A pregnant pause suspends, just before the orchestra starts in --
And then someone in the middle of the orchestra seating lets out a loud, loud fart.
...And like a room full of fourth graders, the audience starts snickering. And laughing. Just as the little boy playing Billy starts into the most emotional, heart-wrenching song and scene for him in the musical.
To the credit of the boy playing Billy, he did not once break character or become distracted. He maintained his character and emotional place in the scene for the entire duration, even as audience members, full grown adults, gaffawed like a bunch of 6 year olds at a fart through the first minute of the song.
Totally Meant to Do That
In a production of Firebugs at CalArts, I played a member of the fire brigade. A blind, mute, piano playing, clarinet rocking, dancing fireman. There is one scene where we run across the set and then freeze into tableaus, then shift into a slow-motion dance sequence. In that same scene, there are also cardboard boxes strewn across the set, and general chaos and mess.
On opening night, as we run across the stage, I run across the stage with the other firemen -- and trip and fall not once, but twice, over the boxes in a span of 4 seconds (the first time catching myself, the second just faceplanting.) I claw my way up and join my fellow firemen in our slow motion sequence, only to see 7 other yellow jackets quivering with silent laughter.
Afterwards, my director came up to me and said, "OF COURSE the blind fireman falls when he goes to dance. Keep it forever."
In undergrad, I remember I looked up to the MFA students and thought "man, those are REAL grown ups who know what they're doing."
As an MFA, I can safely say that is not true at all.