Beauty and the Beast
During a high school production of Beauty and the Beast, where I was assistant costumer and assistant prop master, our director decided that we needed to spice up Gaston’s introduction. You know: in the movie, when Lefou runs in trying to catch the duck/goose that Gaston has just shot out of the sky?
Originally, the actors were going to stroll on stage with our Lefou hauling in the really neat (and real!) taxidermied deer head that we had found in a local thrift store. Now, two days before opening night, our director wants Lefou to run in from off stage and catch a stuffed duck that Gaston has just shot. This, of course, requires two things to work properly as a scene: a gunshot noise, and a stuffed duck.
The gunshot noise, we had covered. Blue-collar, redneck school? Guns a plenty to record. The stuffed duck? Harder than you might have thought to obtain.
Three hunting stores, two taxidermists, and one Pet Supply Store ™, I’d finally found a semi-realistic pheasant squeaky toy. What follows is an account of the ways this dog toy managed to be the nightmare prop of the six show run.
Opening Night: The stagehand, who was supposed to drop the bird from the ceiling catwalk, missed his cue and didn’t drop it. Lefou’s actor rolls with it and does an excellent job of looking around foolishly before getting cuffed upside the head by Gaston. The stagehand then drops the bird squarely on Gaston’s head. Cue laughter.
Saturday Matinee: Different stagehand throws the bird instead of dropping it and beans Lefou directly in the face with the prop. Lefou falls over. Cue laughter.
Saturday Night: Bird is missing during curtain call. Director hauls the deer head down from it’s place on the tavern wall and tells Gaston and Lefou to revert to the old blocking i.e. no gunshot, no bird, just walk in with trophy. During Gaston and Lefou’s conversation, gun shot sound goes off and a stagehand throws the bird onto the stage…from the wrong side of the stage. Lefou and Gaston stare at it in awkward silence for a solid thirty seconds before Lefou makes off-script, subtle joke about Gaston’s gun going off late instead of early. Cue adults in the audience laughing.
Sunday Matinee: Director begs the stagehands to get the cue right at least once. Gunshot and bird prop go off without a hitch. Lefou accidentally catches the prop when it falls from the catwalk. He’s so startled that he caught it that Gaston runs right in to him. They drop both the gun and the bird props, and grab the wrong prop in their scramble. Gaston spends the rest of the scene gesturing dramatically with a stuffed pheasant, instead of a gun.
Sunday Night: Director is fed up with bird prop, decides that Lefou should just carry bird prop in after gunshot happens off stage. Lefou accidentally squeezes the prop during the intro conversation, startling both actors into silence with the squeaky toy noise - apparently, neither of them realized it was a dog toy.
Monday Elementary School Show: Lefou walks on stage with the bird. Accidentally drops the prop during conversation with Gaston. Gaston doesn’t notice the dropped prop and steps on it. Cue depressingly sad squeaky toy noise. Cue ten years olds laughing.