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Tuesday Morning Roundup
by Stephen Becker 18 Aug 2009

TALKIN’ OPERA: The Dallas Opera has posted the video (above) from its latest Cosi and Koozies summer panel series. This one is titled “Multiculturalism: At the Heart of Moby-Dick and Madam Butterfly” and is moderated by Chris Shull, who writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. If you like what you see, the next discussion – […]


TALKIN’ OPERA: The Dallas Opera has posted the video (above) from its latest Cosi and Koozies summer panel series. This one is titled “Multiculturalism: At the Heart of Moby-Dick and Madam Butterfly” and is moderated by Chris Shull, who writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. If you like what you see, the next discussion – “Twenty-First Century Affairs – Dating and Relationships Today” – takes place on Thursday.


TEXAS BOOKS: When you see the name Mark Oristano, it’s normally either in a theater program or in a credit line of a theater-related photograph he’s taken. But now you can add the cover of a book to the list. Oristano has looked back on his many years working on football broadcasting teams for the Cowboys and Oilers to write A Sportscaster’s Guide to Watching Football. If you’ve been itching for the season to start, this will help get you ready. You can read more about it at theaterjones.com. … Meanwhile, Austin author Mike Cox has written the text for Historic Photos of Texas Oil. The book compiles more than 200 photos that span the 1800s to today. If you recently read Brian Burrough’s The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, this could serve as a handy companion.

STICKY ON STAGE: I’m not telling the theater vets out there anything they don’t know when I say if something can go wrong during a show, it often will. And as you also know, it’s how you deal with it on stage that makes all the difference. The New York Times has noticed a number of mishaps at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival, and the consensus seems to be that it’s better to acknowledge the blunder in some graceful (or at least interesting) manner rather than to ignore it. The thinking is: the audience clearly isn’t ignoring it, so why should you? But it got me wondering about the stories there must be locally about on stage blunders and how they were handled. If you’ve been in that situation and lived to tell about it, drop us a comment here.

  • I recall in “The Misanthrope” at Stage West: an audience members glasses fell from her lap and slid across the stage – (at that point, Stage West had arena style seating). I was on stage, spitting out Moliere’s rhyming couplets when it happened. In character as Célimène, I glided across the stage, picked up the glasses, and with great confidence, handed them back to the audience member, delivering a line directly to her in the process. The packed house broke out in thunderous applause and laughter. The moment passed and the play went on.

    I recall being scared sh**less inside, but thrilled at how that moment bonded the audience to my shallow character’s side. The rest of the play that day belonged to me, in spite of the fabulousness of the ensemble that accompanied me.

    Another time, I was onstage with my real-life partner, Justin Flowers. We were performing as the young couple in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Relatively Speaking.” In the first act, my character Ginny was preparing to live the city for the day and leave her boyfriend Greg behind in her apartment. Greg lays on her bed listening to her reasons that he can’t come with. Ginny walks over to him to console him, sitting on the bed in the process. The bed we were using in the production was a fold-up bed. When I sat down, it snapped together, sandwiching us together –Justin was holding a full tea cup when it happened! Somehow, we managed to pry the bed apart, have a good laugh alongside the audience and carry on. Again…another favorite memory for both the people on-stage and in the audience…

    Those sorts of moments are what make theatre superior to static films and TV.

    • Dana didn’t mention 2 things about Relatively Speaking. One was that the cup of tea I was holding was miraculously intact and unspilled when we finally pried ourselves loose from the aluminum cot – and the second is that I was completely naked other than a loin cloth I’d fashioned for myself out of a sheet at the beginning of the scene – and somehow, through the bedlam, managed not to give the audience more than they’d paid for.

  • Years ago at an opening night at the Dallas Theater Center’s Arts District Theater (the pre-Wyly), John Morrison was appearing in the French farce, A Flea in Her Ear. During a lengthy, frantic, comc speech, a large moth kept flying around him. It was attracted to the bright lights onstage, so it wasn’t about to go away. The audience stopped paying attention to Morrison — he clearly could tell — and held its collective breath, watching the moth fluttering in the spotlight. Morrison paused in his speech, turned and nimbly caught the moth in his cupped hands. Then he walked to the far edge of the stage, out of the light — and kindly let it go.

    The entire audience went, “Awwwww,” laughed and applauded appreciatively.

    Days later, I had the chance to compliment John on his perfectly executed moment. And he explained — he’d actually crushed the moth in his hands. When he flung his hands open, he was in enough darkness, no one could tell.

    “I couldn’t take the chance the little bastard would come back and keep stealing the show.”

    During another opening night, John was playing a comic preacher at the Snider Plaza Theater. At the climax of Act 1, the lights went dark and John, shouting hallelujah and Praise the Lord, laid hands on a sizable doll, intending to ‘heal’ it — its eyes were supposed to light up as a sign. They didn’t. John tried again, shouting and praying, holding the doll up to face the heavens, and clearly flicking some sort of switch in its back.

    No go.

    “Oh Lord,” John implored, “the critics are here tonight.”

    The doll’s eyes lit up.

  • Grace

    I recently attended a performance of “Unnecessary Farce” at the WaterTower Theatre in Addison – two clueless cops are sent to a motel to stake out a meeting between the town’s apparently corrupt mayor and his accountant and hilarity ensues. At one point, the male cop was on the phone providing a status report to his chief – the hidden camera is in place, the accountant has been briefed, etc. – when suddenly all the lights in the theatre went out. The quick-thinking cop lost no time in informing his boss, “And we’ve just lost power.” Big laughs from the audience for the improvised line.

    • Augustus Mulliner

      Not a personal experience, but I think it’s one of the all-time stage recoveries. The great tenor Leo Slezak was performing Wagner’s Lohengrin, and a stage hand pulled the big prop swan off before Slezak could hop aboard. Slezak stood there a moment, watching the swan pull away, and then turned to the audience and asked: “Wann fährt der nächste Schwan?” (“When does the next swan leave?”).