Okay I’ve racked up like a dozen more theatre story requests (from fictionfangirllove, gandalfsgaybeard, to name a few)
and now seems like the time. I actually have multiple ‘once upon a time I almost died’ stories and I can’t remember which one this is referring to so we’re going to pull one out of the memory hat at random, ya dig?
Once upon a time I was in this show called She Stoops to Conquer, but because I was also in a production of Much Ado and splitting time between rehearsals, I only played David Garrick for the prologue (and once a drunk servant when another actor didn’t show up). Anywhoo, I was dressed in the height of eighteenth century fucking fashion in like breeches and frock coat etc. etc. with all my girly hair piled up inside this stupid fucking hat because I’m supposed to be a dude. So the director has this totally-clever, this-has-never-been-done-before idea to stick me in the audience as soon as the house opens, so as people like file in an sit down there’s this time-travelling cross-dressed motherfucker just sobbing in the front row for no obvious reason.
When the house lights go down and the stage lights come up, I turn around like I’ve just fucking noticed the 300 or so people sitting behind me and the fact that there’s a fucking follow-spot pointed right at my fucking face and I’m like “Oh, ha ha, I totally didn’t see you there, let me tell you why I’m sobbing like thirteen-year-old girl who just got dumped.” (I fucking hate this gimmick.) So anyway as the monologue goes on I get up and start running around the auditorium, messing with audience members, like you do, because watching an actor sit on their ass and just talk at you is boring as shit.
Because I was one of the more seasoned actors in the department (this was high school, bear in mind, and I’d already been working on and offstage for about ten years) the director basically gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted, so towards the end of the speech I had a bit where I jumped up onto the arms of some poor sod’s chair–like, a foot on each arm, right?–and it’s hilarious because they’re really surprised and their face is kind of exactly level with my crotch and everyone’s laughing, hardy har har, jokes about genitals never get old. So closing night of show I jump up on this lady’s chair without realizing that she’s thrown her jacket over one arm, and it’s one of those freakin’ slippery windbreaker things. Now, just to make matters worse, I’m wearing like these ridiculous fucking buckled shoes that have literally zero traction, and I’m staring into this blinding spotlight and it’s like looking straight into a goddamn solar flare or some shit. But I’m perched up there and gesticulating wildly, and I shit you not as soon as I get to the line, “Let not your virtue trip; who trips may stumble, / And virtue be not virtue if she tumble,” this lady I’m basically fucking standing on tries to pull her damned plastic jacket across her lap BECAUSE THAT COULDN’T POSSIBLY HAVE WAITED A MOTHERFUCKING MOMENT LONGER and yanks it out from under me.
I go windmilling backward and land flat on my back on the concrete floor so hard I’m pretty sure I saw entire fucking galaxies, nevermind plain fucking stars. But the problem is I’ve landed right in the aisle and because most theatre seats are stadium seats, it’s on like a 30-degree incline, so I go rolling backward, ass over elbow, like a runaway armadillo. And when I flip right side up again, WHAM. I slam into the front of the stage so fucking hard my fucking hat flies off, goes spinning over my head and disappears. And for a minute I’m just sitting there, kind of dazed, legs splayed out in front of me, stockings falling down, wind totally knocked out of me, and all these bitches in the audience are just laughing their asses off because they think it was intentional. So I kind of cough a bit and pull myself to my feet and limp around, wheezing the rest of my lines. And I’m fumbling around, trying to find my damn hat, but here’s the thing–when you’re already about to pass out and you’ve had a spotlight like the wrath of Apollo pointed straight at your face for like half an hour, it is really fucking hard to see a black fucking hat in the fucking dark.
Eventually I have to give up because I’m all out of lines, so I do the most pathetic bow of all time and kind of hobble offstage, totally hatless. And then all the lights come up on this absolutely pristine drawing room set and BAM. Smack in the middle of the stage is the stupid-ass hat, because apparently that was where it fucking landed. And I’m just looking on, like, Ohhhhhh you have got to be shitting me as the family all comes on for the first scene. And the guy playing Mr. Hardcastle like swans the fuck in and then just stops dead, staring down at this thing on the ground like, “What the fuck is this grimy-ass hat doing in the middle of my living room,” and the audience is still fucking dying because they’ve finally caught on to the fact that OH WAIT THEY DIDN’T PLAN THIS NUTFUCKERY. And for the rest of the scene Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle just go gliding around their parlor, ignoring the hat and just walking in big circles around it like it’s not fucking there which you can’t fucking do in the fucking theatre, because the audience can fucking SEE IT, and I’m dying a thousand deaths in the wings until finally my friend Chris barges onstage as Tony Lumpkin and just fucking boots the fucking hat straight into the wings, turns around and yells, “I’M IN HASTE, MOTHER, DAMN IT.” And the crowd goes wild.
And that is the story of the time I was not an acrobat and almost died and my runaway hat ruined the opening scene.