Some choice anecdotes on the American Theatre Facebook page today. The question I threw out: "Describe your worst performance." Some of my favorite responses include:
Ruben Carbajal: Played the Milkman in Pinter's The Lover. Had all of three lines. Walked on stage, and forgot my lines. My throat constricted. When I spoke, I sounded like Beaker from the Muppets.
Godfrey Johnson: Got my thumb stuck under a piano chair lid and sat on it full force. Had to continue singing with a throbbing thumb and by the end of the show it was purple. The pain helped me reach notes I didn't know I could sing.
Brenna Freestone: Costume malfunction in 'An Ideal Husband.' My skirt fell off right in the middle of the climactic scene between Mrs. Chevely (myself) and Lord Goring. Priceless.
Richard Green: Oof. I'd been drinking coffee and cold medicine for three days when we had a preview of "Pirates of Penzance." And with 70 college kids at the final dress, as a preview audience, I'd forgotten about my "Major General's" Bozo hair and bald cap, till I came on to do the big patter song, and whipped off my big black Wellington hat-- they exploded...With the laughter and in my weakened state, I just totally blanked on that very famous "Modern Major General" song. My oldest on-stage daughter slowly got me back on track, with very clear clues. God bless her!
Mark Harvey Levine: I was in "Beyond Therapy" and there was a phone onstage -- which they forgot to disconnect from its actual line so it rang during a scene. THEN later in the production I fired a gun which decided to not go off.
Debbie Hubbard: I was Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and really swallowed one of the marbles.
Shawn Macdonald: Stepping in for a sick actor in a production of the Scottish play. He played old Seward. I was Banquo and was dead by the time he appeared so it had to be me apparently. I had taped his lines to the back of my shield. After some very lame old man acting, the tape started to lose its stickiness under the heat of the lights and one by one the pages fell off the shield. The part of the set I was on was a 30 foot high rock structure, and the pages fluttered and spiralled down beautifully. It was a high school matinee. I can still hear the laughter.
Hester Kamin: Touring musical production of Robin Hood. Running onstage after a zipper broke as I was doing a costume change, catching my sleeve on a tree branch, and causing a domino effect that resulted in the entire set crashing down around me.
Jeff Miller: Playing Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace at The Encore Theatre in Houston. World Series was on, TV was in the dressing room backstage. During the 10-minute break when I was supposed to change into my "digging the Panama Canal" clothes, got caught up in the game, forgot to change costumes, and did the next scene (digging graves) in a 3-piece suit.
Chairman Barnes: Two nights before opening our Richard III stormed out on our director quitting the show. The following day he returned to apologize and continue with the show only to be rebuffed by the director. The director, being posessed of no small ego and having played the role years earlier, insisted on taking over the part. (After all, the show MUST go on!) After one disastrous rehearsal we opened Richard III with a prompter on book for him off stage left. The director had to abandon all blocking and clung feverishly to the stage left curtain and paused between every line to glance off stage for a prompt. At intermission the cast insisted that we not perform the second half. The audience was issued both an apology and a refund. As we were already running Henry V to run in rep with R III and many cast members had already committed to start rehearsals on other shows anticipating that Richard would already be "on its feet", there was no way we could fit in more rehearsal to make it presentable. We had no choice but to cancel the RIII run and fill the dates with Henry V.
Mark Gordon: If you are ever stuck onstage in Shakespeare, just say: "But more of this anon in my chamber." And exit stage left. Works every time.