Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Funny Moments

A lot of my funny moments come from the time when I was involved in the amateur theatre. Things that went wrong backstage ( or even onstage!) may have caused panic at the time, but they’re the things that everyone laughs about when they look back.

Take Calamity Jane, for example, which I directed with a group of teenagers. Well, there was the night when Calamity’s gun (a starter pistol I’d borrowed from school) refused to go off at the right time to quieten the crowd in the bar scene. She tried it a few times then gave up and yelled ‘Bang!!!’ The crowd went quiet, although they had to work hard to suppress their giggles.

Then there was the night when the lights went out at the end of the song “I can do without you”. Fine, we wanted a blackout, but the lighting man hadn’t realised there was another verse and he’d pulled the switch too soon. Unperturbed, Calamity and Wild Bill carried on singing until the lights came on again.

The missing flag also caused great panic. A procession of characters was coming down the aisle, singing “Take me back to the Black Hills” and the curtains had to be opened just as they reached the steps leading up to the stage. The stage was ready, everyone in their places, then – consternation, the Stars and Stripes flag was missing. One demented director (me!) rushed from side to side, whispering frantically ‘Where’s the flag? Where’s the flag?’ On stage, the actors were harmonising beautifully to the song and at the same time they were turning everything upside down looking for the flag. Two seconds to go and it was found and fastened in place. As the curtains opened, everything was perfect – and no-one could see the director recovering from a nervous breakdown backstage.

In another scene, Calamity brings some flowers back to the cottage. “I’ll put them in this vase,” says Katie and turns to the table. Oops, no vase there! Then there was the bottle of whisky (ginger-ale actually) which rolled off the bar but fortunately didn’t break, the ‘two-legged horse’ (we never could get the hang of making the sound of hoof beats with coconut shells), the ‘Home Sweet Home’ sign which kept falling off the wall, and the time Wild Bill stood on the hem of Calamity’s ballgown, yanking the poor girl backwards.

It’s the funny moments like these that you always remember. After all, ‘There’s no Business like Show Business’ – is there?


  1. Theatre, like live TV, is so much fun. Films get retakes and editing, for most is shot out of order. I was a terrible actor. I hope anyone who remembers finds the humor.

  2. Anything live would be tough, you only get one chance to make a first impression. It's good you can laugh about them now, Paula.

  3. Theatre does make for some funny moments...even when the show you're doing isn't necessarily a comedy!

  4. I always say that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to compare with 'show week' and the atmosphere backstage. Not sure whether it's the same with the professional stage, but in the amateur world, it had a real magic. And it's the glitches which make it such fun.
    BTW I'm terrible actor too, Ana, but I loved directing!

  5. Talking of glitches, there was a wonderful one I saw on the professional stage when I went to see Stockard Channing as Lady Bracknell in 'Importance of Being Earnest' in Dublin earlier this month. She came onstage wearing a red Victorian costume and large hat, and a red chiffon scarf around the hat. During one of her speeches, she had to remove the scarf. We soon saw she was having problems. For some reason, the scarf had got twisted and she couldn't unknot it. Eventually, after fumbling for a minute or so, she then made to lift it over her head. Everyone had their heart in their mouth as she almost dislodged the large hat. But eventually she got it off (all the time continuing with her speech). At the end of speech she screwed the scarf into a ball and dumped it on to the butler's tray with such an attitude of mixed triumph and relief that the whole audience roared and then gave her almost a standing ovation. That's professionalism!

  6. did you get to meet her again?

  7. Nope, because my friend was being 'difficult' and didn't want to wait. She said it was too cold. I was not happy! Last time I go to the theatre with her when one of my heroes is performing LOL.

    Someone else I know went twice to the show, and met Stockard afterwards twice too, talked to her for about 15 minutes - Grrrr!