Laughter From The Trenches

During one performance in a run of “Kiss Me Kate,” Dominick Morra and his fellow actor were singing “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” The choreography included doing squats to the music, which, in this performance, prompted gales of laughter from the audience -- something that never happened before.
They finished the number and exited into the wings wondering why the laughs. Finally, Morra looked down to discover that his fly was unzipped and part of his shirttail was sticking out.
Morra indicated that afterwards he checked his fly before every performance, always thankful that it was just his shirttail sticking out during that earlier performance.


Laughter From The Trenches - An Understudy, a 6-Year-Old & a Playwright

This column features true and humorous stories occurring in theater, and I'm looking for theater-folk to contact me with their stories. They can do this by calling me at 818-782-4252 and telling me about the event, or emailing me.
ADVENTURES OF AN UNDERSTUDY
David Bickford, a company member of Theatre of NOTE for over 20 years, recalls his very first main stage appearance there as the Banquo understudy in NOTE's production of…. well, Shakespeare's “Scottish Play.”  He was very new to the company and the actor playing Banquo suddenly got a paying gig. Bickford was called to go on without any rehearsal with the main cast, just a walk through with the stage manager.
By coincidence, the fabric used to make the original Banquo costume kept needing repair, so the costume designer finally decided to make a whole new, much fancier costume using different fabric.  It looked nothing like the original costume.  The cast was not told about the different costume.
At his first entrance Bickford ran onstage and hit the mark the stage manager had taught.  He looked at the actor playing the lead and noticed, admiringly, a powerful wildness and madness in his eyes.  It was truly intense.
Bickford found out later that the wild look wasn't acting.  The lead actor was staring at a strange person, new to the company, who he'd never rehearsed with, wearing a costume he'd never seen, and was thinking, “WHO THE HELL IS THIS??!!”
A PRECOCIOUS 6-YEAR-OLD
When my stepson John was 6 years old, a novice actor in his first production, he had a scene with a seasoned veteran playing the role of his father. It was a staged reading, and my precocious stepson was a very capable reader. In the middle of the scene in front of a large audience the ‘father' delivered a line, which caused John to break character. He said to his stage father aloud, “You weren't supposed to say that.”
He then raised his script, held it up to his stage father, pointed to a place on the page and in very clear terms admonished the veteran, “You were supposed to say this”.
His ‘father', probably pretending he wasn't embarrassed, then said the line John pointed to, and the two continued the scene.
But that wasn't the end of it for John. At the end of the scene he was supposed to exit the room through the front door. But when John tried to exit the door wouldn't open. It was stuck. My stepson tried again, then again, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not open the door. Most audience eyes were now sympathetically on John and his predicament, not paying any attention whatsoever to the remainder of the scene being played on the other side of the stage.
John finally looked at the audience, shrugged, stepped off the stage into the aisle, and walked off to an ovation from the audience.
THE IMPROVISING PLAYWRIGHT 
Successful and much produced playwright Phil Olson also acts occasionally, and a few years ago he played a detective in my one-act comedy, PIGEONS. During one rehearsal his detective character looked into the distance offstage right, noticing a hypothetical person in the park. Just by coincidence another actor, an older gentleman wearing a light blue jacket and running shoes, had wandered into the theater and right into Olson's sightline.
Olson didn't skip a beat. He delivered his line perfectly, which was, “Look at that guy. In the light blue jacket. Wearing those new running shoes. He seems to me like he might be a purse snatcher. A lowlife if I ever saw one.”
Fortunately, the actor in the light blue jacket and running shoes was virtually deaf, or who knows what type of argument, and perhaps battle, might have ensued.
OK, you waggish theater-folk out there, I'm done for now. But shortly I need to hear from you with your true and funny stories: 818-782-4252, or email me.


Laughter From The Trenches

I'm a new columnist to Better Lemons, and a very lazy one at that. I really want other folks to write my column for me.
The column is designed to feature true and humorous stories occurring in theater, and while I have a few stories of my own, what I'm looking for is other theater-folk to contact me with their stories. They can do this by calling me at 818-782-4252 and telling me verbally about the event, or writing it up and emailing it to me.
It's up to the contributor to tell me if he or she wishes to have their name attributed to the story.
The first column, which you are reading now, consists of stuff I know about. But I hope readers will contact me to let me know about humorous stuff that they know about. There's only so much funny stuff that's known to me. So I need your help.
Then, here we go:
In one of my plays, THE $4 MILLION GIVEAWAY, the actress Renee Gorsey was shown mid-play in the bathroom on stage, sniffing cocaine through a straw. A few days later, in real life, Renee the actress was shopping at Costco when a woman who had been an audience member came running over to her pointing and shouting quite excitedly and loudly, "I saw you last Saturday. You were sniffing cocaine last Saturday. You were sniffing cocaine. I saw you!"
Nearby shoppers stopped and gawked. And heard all about Renee sniffing cocaine. Renee, taken aback, started to walk away, but the woman followed her, and continued even louder, "I saw you sniffing cocaine. I can't believe it seeing you at Costco. You were the woman I saw sniffing cocaine."
Renee finally made it to the parking lot, leaving her cart behind.
Sometimes it's not so rewarding to be noticed by your adoring public.
The play SPAGHETTI & APPLE PIE is set in a New York City tenement apartment in the 1950's. In the middle of one performance at Group Rep a lead actor, played by Stan Mazin, receives a key telephone call. The booth played the phone ringing, but whoever was in charge of setting the stage had forgotten to set the telephone, which was still in the prop box backstage. But the crucial phone conversation had to take place.
So, thinking quickly, Stan opened the front door to the apartment, pretended to look into the (unseen) hallway, and asked with some annoyance to the rest of those on stage, “Who put the telephone outside the front door and in the hallway?”
He then proceeded to go offstage into the imaginary hallway, and carry on the conversation, speaking especially loudly so the audience could hear.
One event which happened to me personally occurred when I was performing a 15 minute monologue, HEAVENS, where I played a very observant Jew, with side curls. While I had a beard at the time, the side curls were pasted on.
About a minute into the monolog I noticed something different from when I rehearsed the piece. Specifically, a long strand of hair was in my mouth.
What do you do when you are performing a monologue, with all eyes on you, and you have a long strand of hair in your mouth? Do you complete the monologue with that hair for fourteen more minutes, or do you pull the hair out, inch by inch while your eager audience watches your every move? If you do the latter, how do you do it without breaking character.
And what do you do with the hair once it's out? Put it in your pocket? Toss it on the floor? Hand it to a member of the audience? (Obviously not the latter, though it did cross my mind at the time.)
I took the easy way out. I kept performing.
Come to think of it, I didn't consider it very funny at the time, and I still don't. I don't know while I'm even writing about it. This column is supposed to be about funny stuff.
OK, you waggish theater-folk out there, I'm done for now. But shortly I need to hear from you with your true and funny stories: 818-782-4252, or via email.