Things You Never Expect to Hear At Work

Note: This post may cause laughter, eye rolling, and some confusion, but be aware that there may be language or suggestive phrases.  Thank you, theatre!

While A2-D2 excels in visual art knowledge, my forte is theatre.  My career began in theatre and I've worked in it, in some capacity, since I was 13 years old.  In that time, I've heard some truly interesting things that you never thought you'd hear at work.  Here are some of my personal favorites:

  1. "You have a human side; Even though you're a whore, you still have feelings."
  2. "Orgie has been cut due to age restrictions"
  3. "We need to crucify Jesus center stage."
  4. "Why are you mounting the bench?"
  5. "There are days of absolute right and absolute wrong, and most of these days include large body counts."

When writer Daniel Rosenthal began his research for his newest book The National Theatre Story, he found that this type of humor permeated the theatre. Stage Management reports from The National Theatre have been found and tell a story of both a community filled with humor and an art form that cannot escape human error.

Rosenthal found A4 sheets that typically give information on the night's performance including the start and finish time of each act, length of the intermission, and details of administrative importance.  On each A4 sheet is a "comments" section where Stage Managers hope to write comments such as "standing ovation" or "full house;" thankfully, for us, some of these comment sections show how truly human this art form is.
Photo copyright Amazon

Jumpers (Old Vic, 1972–73)
Stage manager: Jackie Harvey. 
Cast included Diana Rigg, and a mechanical prop tortoise

Wednesday 23 February 1972 "Fluff from Miss Rigg's gown caught in her throat early in Act 1 and remained until interval: very painful; affected her voice."

Tuesday 29 February 1972 "Tortoise head fell off during Act 1. This is the third time that this has happened. Please could the design be changed."

Weapons of Happiness (Lyttelton, 1976)
Stage manager: John Rothenberg

Wednesday 14 July "The cricket ball [was accidentally hit] into the front row of the stalls and was well fielded and returned by the woman in whose lap it landed. The champagne bottle took it unto itself to pop one scene too early. What you might call a premature ejaculation."

Way Upstream (Lyttelton, 1982–83)
Stage manager: Ernest Hall. 

Alan Ayckbourn's comedy, set on a riverboat which moved through a large, on-stage water tank, brought a series of mishaps unprecedented – and unrepeated – in the National's history. Cast included Jim Norton and Tony Haygarth

Friday 27 August 1982 "Boat movements erratic throughout because work on the [river] bank [earlier in the day] prevented a new boat operator… getting any technical rehearsal… ."

Monday 13 December "First performance without water [in the tank]… Because the boat rocks more easily without water, the gangplank was thrown off into the tank at the beginning of the play. Retrieved most ingeniously by Mr Norton. It all felt very odd!"

Wednesday 23 February 1983 "The water was back for this evening's performance, which was just as well because at least there was something for Mr Haygarth to fall into when he slipped off the boat during Act 1. He wasn't hurt, just wet, and the audience was appreciative!"

Tuesday 8 March 1983 "Unexpected sound effect: shrieking birds (part of the 'atmosphere' tape). They were taken out quite quickly, but for a moment the atmosphere was more Hitchcock than Ayckbourn."

Hamlet (Olivier, 1989)
Stage manager: Ernest Hall. 

Cast included Daniel Day-Lewis (Hamlet), Judi Dench (Gertrude) and Jeremy Northam (Laertes)

Thursday 1 June "Very loud talking (men's voices) heard onstage during Act 4, Scene 5… A stage technician mentioned that he had heard men in the bottom of the drum revolve sawing and shouting to each other and had told them to be quiet. At lights down (5.14pm) I was unable to contact anyone who could have told me who they were or what they were doing in the drum during a matinee. We do need to find out so that we can a) avoid a repetition and b) so that the four actors [including] Dame Judi…who suffered from this noise… receive the detailed explanation they deserve."

Sunday in the Park with George (Lyttelton, 1990)
Stage manager: Alison Rankin. 

Cast included Philip Quast as George Seurat

Monday 11 June "The stage left charcoal tree came in several inches before it flew out during the bathing change, consequently it was swinging about violently and caught on the ceiling. Needless to say the actors were very frightened… The large scene changes were extremely noisy – no doubt due to the fact that everyone [on the crew] wanted to return to the England match being shown on TV. Mr Quast was most distressed."

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