Every community theater director, at one time or another, has gathered their cast and told them “Remember, the audience doesn't know the lines. If you make a mistake, the audience won't know; if you don't let it bother you, just keep going”. Never have truer words been spoken, as illustrated in this story.
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers! That's me! Oh! Not really of course but I did play the role on stage. Playwright Neil Simon wrote this famous tale back in the late 60's about Barney Cashman, a middle aged married man that wants to join the sexual revolution before it passes him by. Barney decides to have an affair and the three act play revolves around his three attempts at having one. In all three acts he attempts his clandestine affairs at the home of his mother who is out of town.
In act one Barney brings home Elaine Navazio, a woman who’s a bit brassy and far more worldly than he; she likes cigarettes, whiskey and other women's husbands!
Now, I am by no means an overly large man, at the time I was 5'10” and about 220 pounds, however next to the lady cast to play Elaine I was Andre the Giant!
At one point the script calls for Barney to grab Elaine in a passionate embrace and kiss just as she inhales from her cigarette and they fall onto the sofa and after he releases her she exhales! Audience laughs and we move on. We rehearsed this many times so that we would land in such a way that I didn't crush Elaine and felt we had it perfect.
This was a community theater show and someone had allowed us the use of a period style sofa with the metal tubes and orange cushions.
Come opening night we had a decent crowd. The theatre was about half full, which is good for a community theatre opening night.
All was going well until we came to the “clinch scene”. As luck would have it, when we fell onto the sofa, my shoulder hit the back cushion and the whole back fell off and us with it!
Are you familiar with the term head over heels? Why isn't it heels over heads? It certainly was that night! The poor lady playing Elaine had her dress around her waist; we were mortified! But we were also community theatre veterans and we knew we had to soldier on. However, the audience thought it was part of the show and roared with laughter! We kicked away the parts of the sofa that had fallen, arranged ourselves as best we could, and continued on with the show.
Our stage crew miraculously pieced the sofa back together and we prepared for the next nights show. The theatre was packed to capacity; many of the people that were there the first night were there again. They had to bring in extra chairs from a business next door and still it was standing room only.
While mingling prior to the show, the director was speaking to someone he recognized as having attended the first show and said something to the effect of “you must have really enjoyed yesterday's performance” The patron replied “It was great! But we came back just to watch them fall off that sofa again”!
By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member