It is a fact if you perform live, sooner or later you will meet with a genuine, bona fide onstage disaster. Generally, these seem to fall into two categories. The first is the self-made conflagration where lyrics evaporate into thin air, the high note that was there at sound check mysteriously vanishes in performance, clothing falls apart, and stools move themselves about the stage so that you find yourself in a heap on the floor. I could go on, but being the superstitious type I’ll stop here.
The second is the stuff performance legends are made of, those moments where, despite your diligent rehearsal and careful plotting of every moment, elements beyond your control enter in and all hell breaks loose. Sometimes it comes from your fellow musicians onstage, sometimes from the tech booth, and sometimes from that ever unpredictable element, the audience. No matter the source, this is the moment where you learn that today’s abject humiliation is tomorrow’s great story.
Scene I: A dimly lit venue, three singers are onstage performing their opening number. The door opens and a couple enters. They are on one side of the stage their seats the other, what are they to do? Remembering that their teacher once told them that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line they precede accordingly…right across the middle of the stage.
Scene II: Another dimly lit venue, another opening number on a postage stamp of a stage. Cast of characters one Singer (me), one back up singer, and one very energetic pianist. It’s the second set, we’re loose, we’re having a good time, we’re singing our hearts out… until… a loud thump…the music ceases…I look to my right…no piano player (has he been raptured?) …from the depths of the floor comes a voice…. “I’m All Right”. My energetic piano player has played himself off, literally. He fell off the back of the stage bench and all. Fortunately no musicians were harmed in the making of this tale, and the show went on.
Ahh…but what good is disaster if you can’t profit a wee bit from it? With that in mind we are using this topic to inaugurate our monthly RedHead Award. We want you to send us your hilarious, humiliating, and utterly true stories of real life performances gone haywire. Send us your tales of onstage disaster by March 30 and you will be among those considered for our fabulous prize. This month it’s a copy of Stop the Show: A History of Insane Incidents and Absurd Accidents in the Theatre. There is only one rule. The incident in question must be one in which you were personally involved as a performer, or personally witnessed as an audience member. Urban legends, previously published disaster stories, things you read on the WWWeb, and tales heard from your cousin’s mother’s chiropractor “Who was there” will not be considered. The winner will be chosen by us with no other criteria other than what makes us laugh the most while cringing. While you’re at it if you’ve got a topic you’d like the redheads to cover send it along. We're all ears (or eyes as the case may be)!