I’ll Never Live This One Down

In my chain letter interview with New Century Theatre Company this month (pick up your copy of the August Seattle or Eastside City Arts to read it), I asked members to describe the most memorable performance “blooper” they had witnessed or been a part of on stage. Here’s what they ’fessed up to:

Peter Dylan O’Connor: In 1997 I was in a production of The Philanderer at the old Belltown Theatre. The servant in the play leaned against the fireplace mantle and it fell over. How do you explain that? “Well, I see ole boy, that the mantle has a mind of its own, and goddamn the stone masons? Cheerio, make some mortar and for God’s sake don’t tell Lord Percy!?”
(right) Peter Dylan O’Connor as Caliban in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest. Photograph by John Ulman.

Betsy Schwartz: I was in a college production of Llorca’s Yerma, in which I played a laundress. There is a scene where the laundresses gather by the river to wash their clothes, gossip, sing, dance, etc. I was made a strapless slip that was supposed to be revealed when I took my top off to wash in the river. The slip, I should add, could not be worn with any type of bra underneath it. During the performance, the slip had stretched out a bit, so when I took off the blouse, the entire bodice had gathered around my waist. Of course, I didn’t realize this until half way through the scene…. Ah, good times.
(right) Betsy Schwartz in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s The School for Scandal. Photograph by John Ulman.

MJ Sieber: I watched Hans [Altwies] in the closing of An Illiad. There was a fly buzzing around his head onstage.  He didn’t really acknowledge it until he very suddenly swatted it against the table. He split the fucking thing into two perfectly symmetrical pieces. Then he picked them both up and placed them on the table top, referencing them when he described someone being torn apart in battle. It was amazing. Hans has an ability to behave in the moment unlike any performer I’ve ever seen.

MJ Sieber in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Twelfth Night

Makaela Pollock: Early in my career, I was asked to play Launce in Two Gentlemen of Verona – with a live dog – in an outdoor theater. I was told to feed the dog cheese cubes to make it like me (a crucial factor, since the dog was as tall as I was when I sat down) – which I did. Everything was fine until the performance, when the dog bounded offstage after a squirrel, leaving me stranded to finish the scene alone with a handful of cheese.

Michael Patten: Once an actor forgot to bring a gun on stage to shoot another character in a scene with – the actor realized this after entering and simply pointed her finger and said “bang;” the other actor followed through and acted like he was shot and continued the action of the script.
(right) Michael Patton in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Noises Off

Paul Morgan Stetler: Opening night of The Adding Machine I “went up” during the second scene of the play as I was doing an interior monologue where I was looking right out at the audience. I completely blanked…had absolutely no idea what to say next…and it felt like I stood there, frozen, for well over a minute and all I could think was “hmm, look at all those people out there staring at me wondering why I’m not talking…two years of planning and fundraising and marketing and here I am, ruining opening night.”  Luckily, Jen Taylor came to my rescue and got me back on track. Things started to pick up steam for me until scene six, when I looked down and realized my fly had been down the entire play. A rough night, personally, but a pretty big success for the company.

Paul Morgan Stetler in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s The Lady from Dubuque

Stephanie Timm: Paul’s zipper was down as Mr. Zero for the first part of the show on opening night [of The Adding Machine]. Oopsie! But it’s actually fitting for Mr. Zero to have his zipper down, I think.

Jamie Herlich: I was in The Wizard of Oz at the 5th Ave and onstage, behind a scrim, waiting for my cue, while Larry Ballard as the Cowardly Lion sang “If I Only Had the Nerve/We’re Off to See the Wizard” in front of the same scrim. Suddenly, in the middle of his song, the loudest and clearest feed of “Jump Jive and Wail” comes through the speakers. You can’t hear Larry or the orchestra at all. Apparently, the sound from a party happening a few blocks away was picked up by one of the wireless microphones. The fabulous tech guys resolved the issue in about twenty seconds, but admittedly, the situation was rather surprising and fairly jarring for all of us – especially Larry who seamlessly continued his song without missing a beat once they all could be heard again.

Hans Altwies in New Century Theatre Company’s Orange Flower Water. Photograph by MJ Sieber.

Hans Altwies: During a performance of An Iliad, right at the moment Achilles is about to stab Hector in the neck (high drama here), a woman stood up, ran down to the stage and yelled at me to stop the play. She told me that people were being sucked in, and that I should stop and let everyone leave because this was a bad thing.
I told her it’s just a story and that she should see the rest.
Everyone else wants me to finish.
It’s not evil, I said.
I didn’t say it was evil, she said.
I asked her to sit down and watch the rest; we could talk later.
No. You won’t talk to me.
Yes I will. I wanna know what you’re talking about. She could wait in the lobby.
At this point we’d been talking for about a minute. I said again that I should keep going, and she reiterated her thesis:
Everyone should leave. You’ve always wanted this to happen anyway.
I yelled, Yes! I have! No one will ever forget this moment. Then I said, I have to continue. Can someone escort her?…she cut me off and said: I’m done; I’ll go; I don’t need anyone.

So I started back in, warning the audience: be careful, it’s going to get bloody again

Darragh Kennan: I like Hans’ story. How can anyone top that? •