By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Tony Brown and I first knew something was wrong in the middle of a scene when most of the actors who were supposed to enter stage right entered from stage left instead. It wasn't until we exited to change costumes that we were confronted with the backstage reality of this evening's performance. All the actors were furiously waving their hands in front of their faces while trying to prepare for the next scene. Backstage smelled worse than a men's room in the New York subway. It was close to the smell we once encountered at an outhouse in Yugoslavia!
Backstage was a madhouse of actors running around, hands over noses, moving costumes from stage left to right, quickly redesigning the show to avoid the culprit actor at all costs. To this day I can honestly say that I have never been backstage with a more dedicated group of artists than the group that was willing toward the end of the show to submit themselves to getting under a thick black piece of fabric with the notorious energy-bar consumer. What generosity, what bravery, what artistry!
Out of the Pan, Into the Fire
I was doing Escape From Happiness with the Bald Alice Theater Company, and I was onstage playing this crazy mother. Dale Pfeilsticker was onstage, tied to a chair--I don't think I had gagged him yet. Another character was threatening him angrily. She picked up a frying pan to threaten him further, while I was standing there, just wiping down the table.
Meanwhile, Dale's father was in the audience, and he cried out, "Jesus! Dale, look out! She's got a frying pan!" Fortunately, my character was able to turn upstage, so that the audience couldn't see me laughing.
Choked With Emotion
The best story I can give you is about the time that one of our audience members tried to strangle one of our actors. It was during a run of our interactive show Success! Now It's Your Turn, which was at Patrick's Cabaret in January and February of 2000. Audience members were part of a corporation called IHT (International Hoses and Tubes). They had to unravel a mystery which involved an insane CEO (played by actor Tim Jopek) who went around confiding to his stapler about his plans to blow up headquarters. Audience participants had to find out what was going on, disengage the four bombs, and bring the CEO to justice.
Unfortunately, one of our audience members had had too much to drink before he came, and at the moment of truth actually leapt up onto Tim's back and wrapped his arms around his throat. Now, Tim is no shrimp--sort of a John Goodman type--and the audience member was a short, wiry man in his 60s. Tim's eyes bulged with surprise and he turned around a few times, with this little guy hanging fire off of his back. All the performers were sort of nonplussed for a split second at the bizarre behavior, until we realized that Tim could be in actual danger. We all moved in on them at once and managed to disengage him. Somehow we worked it into the plot. I still feel like we haven't bought Tim enough beers to make up for that evening.
Galumph Performance Troupe
Love's Labors Lost
A short story from Tony 'n Tina's Wedding: A couple was "in the act" on a stack of chairs on the theater's lower level when the show was over. Cast member Greta Grosch went over to them and said "Zip it up, kids. You can't do that here."
Hey City Theater
One Hundred Beautiful Actors and Three Ugly Ones
When the theater opened, we had a huge indoor parade to mark the event, featuring belly dancers, puppets, stilt walkers, indoor fireworks, the whole nine yards. One of the "acts" was a live appaloosa horse, and in Minneapolis you have to get a permit to have a horse inside the city limits.
So I trekked off north of downtown to the dog pound to get the permit from a kind man who had come here from Hawaii, so he obviously had a sense of humor. He, however, had to call another office to get permission, saying in a booming voice, "I need to get a live horse permit for Theatre de la Jeune Lune. They need it to open their theater in the Warehouse District."
A long pause.
Then, "No, not Déjà Vu! Theatre de la Jeune Lune!"
So much for name recognition....
Theatre de la Jeune Lune
The White Man's Burden
Three years ago I drove out-of-town actors to and from rehearsals and performances at the Lab in the Guthrie van. One day, an actress climbed into the front seat of the van, slammed the door, pointed a finger in my face and said, "You do not know how lucky you are to be white and male and living in this country!" I proceeded to shut up and drive while she vented (not diva-style; she just needed to vent) and when we arrived at the Lab, she opened the door, stepped out, turned back to me and said, "And just remember: The best person never gets the part!" She paused, then added, "Nine times out of ten!" slammed the door again and walked into the Lab.