There are no “do overs” in the live theatrical experience.
And once in a while, the unexpected lends a performance that jolt of excitement which reminds us the whole thing is happening right in front of our eyes.
As we closed out the run of our fall studio show, Toothless, our two leads were engaged in some frantic banter around a kitchen table. The young actor playing Z, a shape shifting vampire born without fangs with a distaste for blood, swung his legs up on the kitchen table and inadvertently sent a bowl of cereal flying through the air. The collective gasp from the audience was punctuated with the crash of porcelain shards and Captain Crunch everywhere. Now things were getting good.
To their credit the actors, did their best to keep going. But the audience would have none of it. Our nervous laughter built into full bellied guffaws as the actor’s pallor moved to a darker shade of red.
The actress playing the sister made her entrance and delivered her opening line without hesitation: “Have you been eating my cereal again?” She made a quick glance downward and crinkled her nose at the ramparts of breakfast food and thrift store crockery which lay at her feet. She didn’t stoop to clean it up. She was playing a myopic teenage science nerd waiting to see if she had cleared to final round of the county science fair. Cleaning up was something other people did. They skidded through the rest of scene and the lights went down and the soundtrack music went up.
As we scurried to set things right in the half darkness, the young actor with the punter’s foot wailed out in more than a stage whisper I’M SO VERY SORRY. Then somebody yanked him offstage.
No apology was needed. This is why we go to live events. Because anything can happen. And frequently does.
This week we will have a thoughtful talk with our company of actors about handling the unexpected onstage. And maybe it will segue way into handling the unexpected in life.
And next time, I think we might use a plastic bowl instead of porcelain one.