So, while I was posting these short theatre stories on another site, I thought “Ummmmm….maybe put this on your website?” So here are a few short Theatre stories from my youth:
Our instructor for Theatrecraft 101 was a real easygoing guy, probably about 35. This course covered the basics of creating a set, lighting, costuming, sound, etc. And he had a lot of stories…from an insane stagehand who made a large set piece (house roof) come screaming earthward for shits and giggles to an incompetent assistant who nearly electrified the instructor. But the one that is relatable is on X-acto blades. As we were working in foamcore to build set dioramas and cutting it with X-actos, he made sure we were careful and used cutting surfaces. Because when he was in school (back when X-actos were a lot sharper and unsafe), a classmate was cutting foamcore with his jeans, skin and muscle as a cutting surface. Idiot Classmate finishes, stands up, notices his jeans are shredded, notices the blood starting to seep out, and then notices the pain. Blades back then were surgical sharp. Ouch.
Theatre History 101. Our instructor, Alex, was a big bear of a man, 6’3″ and a little chunky. He’s got this deep baritone voice, and one day while studying an ancient Greek Tragedy, he mentions how sometimes a translation can miss the subtle directing cues the original work has. He describes a scene from Oresteia (an ancient Greek tragedy by Aeschylus) where Cassandra cries out in despair to the Greek god Apollo as she knows what’s going to happen to her. The English translation is essentially “Oh! Apollo!!” and Alex said this is where the translation fails. So – picture this bear of a man, a professor, mid-50s, inhaling in such a way it felt like he was trying to devour the air, then a split second later:
Cue the class in shock, people in the front row with their hair blown back, and the DudeBro Frat guy in the back flicking his Bic lighter like he’s at a concert.
Drying or in character?
An actor can forget their lines (or “dry”) for various reasons…but the weirdest situation is when they forget the line because the actor is no longer there but their character IS.
So, theatre school, final project. We stage The Sport of My Mad Mother. I play the naïve American tourist. The rest are members of a London Cockney street gang. V—-, playing one of the gang, has a scene with me where we are comforting the female lead. I’d just said my line, and was waiting on V—-. And waiting.
Now to be fair, actors performing operate on stage-time (where every second for the audience is 10 seconds to the actors) and I have ADHD which is hyped by my adrenaline from the performance, I’m operating on a level of Matrix-like Bullet-Time.
I look over at V—-.
I realize V—- isn’t here anymore.
I then think “ohshiatnowwhat…hey, do I need to pick up milk later? No, no, I’m good…could do with some butter….okay where are we in the play again?” I mentally page through the script to his line, and quickly reword it so I can say it. The next actor picks up her cue, and the play goes on as normal. Afterwards, I ask V—- about it and he says “No, I said the line” to which everyone else in the green room says “Nope”. He genuinely did not remember. I’m glad it happened in a quieter moment, not in the middle of a fight scene.
Bonus Theatre “Cool Story Bro”: Accidental transposed line from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas at the Walterdale Theatre in Edmonton. This play has a cast of dozens along with about 5-6 stagehands and crew. The original line spoken by the First Voice is “Heads are picked, noses are wiped”. Unfortunately, (and you should NEVER DO THIS TO ACTORS OR PEOPLE SINGING SONGS unless it’s Weird Al Yankovic or someone similar) during rehearsal, someone in the cast jokingly made parody scenes and lines. The actor had heard the joke version, and that night transposed the nouns in that sentence. The First Voice caught her mistake and paused for a split second. Meanwhile, the entire cast and crew backstage and onstage are quietly exploding in laughter. But we continued on with no issues other than sore abdominal muscles from clenching them to prevent laughter.