cubanmiamiboy

"When Things Go Wrooong"

43 posts in this topic

The following quote from innopac in the "That Swan Lake jump" thread made me think of one onstage disaster of another kind that i once witnessed. If a similar thread exists, please move it where it belongs:

And perhaps a warning to Divas that they should be kind to theater staff! Whereas most such disasters depend on some element of misunderstanding and incompetence among the stage-management,...

Here The Diva was my beloved Mme. Alonso :bow: . The occasion, one of her last Giselles, at the end of the Act II. By the end of her career, Mme. was getting so supra-ethereal on her interpretation of the role that special tutus with extra, (and i mean EXTRA ) layers of tulle were made specially for her to make her appearance more spectacular and ghostly-like. Now, in the Cuban version in Havana, a special device is built under Giselle's grave at the theater-(like a little platform-elevator that goes up and down) in order for her to disappear into the ground. And here it was Mme. at the end. ...she made her usual 6 o'clock arabesque and then positioned herself on top of the device to go down...A total silence, and then, slowly, she started to descend, when suddenly, horrors of horrors!: halfway through, she stopped, STOCKED ON HER ENORMOUS TUTU all wrapped aoround her upper body. The tutu was just to big to geth through the hole, so she couldn't go down nor go back up :clapping: and so the curtains went rapidly down in a middle, of course, of the extra amount of applauses of her devotees, (me included)...still, it was a very awkward moment...I always wondered if some evil mind was behind this. :mad:

Any other stories...?

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1960 something, NY State Theater, Don Quixote, Balanchine upon the horse, center stage, the end of 1st Act (I believe, I have never seen the production since). JKO sitting front and center, 1st Ring. I, with my mother, center orchestra, I do not recall which row...Plop, plop, the aroma, curtain! I will never forget it. :clapping::mad: Not a disaster really, but definitely one of my most memorable moments in the theater.

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Not an actual disaster, but awfully distracting. In La Sylphide, the Sylph has to go into the hearth and disappear up the chimney for a time, hauled up by burly stagehands. The Sylph was Martine van Hamel. Into the fireplace she went, sous-sus, and up she went -- halfway, and stuck there. In came Effy, in came the wedding guests, in came Gurn, in came Madge, and nobody was really paying attention to them. They were fascinated by the feet in the flue! At first, they were very decorous feet, in a cou de pied position, but after awhile, they had to switch positions, as cramp was setting in. Then they flexed, then the ankles got a little itchy, and the audience was convulsed. Madge could have danced the can-can wearing red bloomers and playing the sousaphone and nobody would have paid attention. The stagehands eventually freed the ballerina from the hold of the chimney and away went the feet, much to the disappointment of many in the crowd.

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A total silence, and then, slowly, she started to descend, when suddenly, horrors of horrors!: halfway through, she stopped, STOCKED ON HER ENORMOUS TUTU all wrapped aoround her upper body. The tutu was just to big to geth through the hole, so she couldn't go down nor go back up :clapping: and so the curtains went rapidly down in a middle, of course, of the extra amount of applauses of her devotees, (me included)

This may be the ultimate argument in favor of stripped-down leotard ballets!? :mad:

[ ... ]Don Quixote [ ... ] the horse, center stage [ ... ] Plop, plop, the aroma, curtain! I will never forget it.
A touch of realism? Those Spanish plazas were probably rarely cleaned and certainly not covered with easy-to-clean vinyl.

Somewhere earlier I've included my own "plop ... plop ... plop" experience -- performed by an extremely theatrical horse who did his thing across the entire width of the City Center down stage during a performance of the Faust. The latest stories on this thread are wonderful. I have visions of Alonso's Giselle (trying to go down) and van Hamel's (trying to go up) performing simultaneously to some sort of syncopated rhythm.

PLEASE keep the stories coming. :bow:

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Somewhere earlier I've included my own "plop ... plop ... plop" experience -- performed by an extremely theatrical horse who did his thing across the entire width of the City Center down stage during a performance of the Faust. The latest stories on this thread are wonderful. I have visions of Alonso's Giselle (trying to go down) and van Hamel's (trying to go up) performing simultaneously to some sort of syncopated rhythm.

PLEASE keep the stories coming. :clapping:

One production of Aida I was involved with tackled the plop-plop problem with extras dressed as slaves carrying gilded shovels and dustbins. Needless to say, it only stoked the audiences laughter to watch gussied-up janitors with golden pooper-scoopers attend to their work with extreme performative vigor (they were on stage, after all, and had been instructed to work fast)!

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You can almost hear those poor guys: "Thank God they couldn't get elephants!" :clapping:

Here's an oldie but a goodie from 1998:

This is the thread viewed through the other end of the telescope. It is intended specifically for the observer of the weird and strange things that happen when Things Go Wrong. I don't mean just a dancer taking a classic three-point landing (two heels and another part of the anatomy) in the middle of a classic variation, or somebody just forgetting the choreography, but those moments when things break down utterly and irretrievably and the only answer is the curtain or a blackout so that the stage manager can clear off the mess with a snowplow. Second-hand entries are OK, too, as in the lead for the topic.

In 1978, the Not-Terribly-Good Club of Great Britain (honest!) reported on a performance of Kenneth MacMillan's "Mayerling". At one point in the performance, a layer of the skirt of Lynn Seymour's costume came loose. David Wall, dancing Archduke Rudolf, gallantly tried to tear the offending textile away, but only succeeded in pulling more loose. Seymour dragged her new train behind her, but eventually it started to wrap her up, and more was coming loose with every movement. Audience excitement rose as they could see more and more of Seymour! Wall struggled valiantly, at first attempting to partner through the gauze, but he finally ended up partnering the bandages. After awhile, a viewer reported, "they looked like two piles of rags possessed by the Devil". A critic reported that he had often seen the tragedy of Mayerling through tears, but never of this sort! An opportunity for a timely exit saved the hapless dancers from a further exercise in Murphy's Law (If things can possibly go wrong, they will) and stage entropy (left to themselves, things will go from bad to worse). How about it? Any great tales of disaster onstage? (I'd appreciate it if stories where people end up getting hurt could be kept to a minimum, but they have to be allowed as part of disaster stories.)

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i saw a performance of Manon with Renee Fleming; for a while there was a dog on stage who began to howl every time she began to sing. :clapping:

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Madge could have danced the can-can wearing red bloomers and playing the sousaphone and nobody would have paid attention.

now i would have bought a ticket for that!!!!!!

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i saw a performance of Manon with Renee Fleming; for a while there was a dog on stage who began to howl every time she began to sing. :clapping:
That itself is a howler! :mad:

You'd think that when an opera company calls an agency for a dog, the agency would know not to send over one of its "singers."

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i saw a performance of Manon with Renee Fleming; for a while there was a dog on stage who began to howl every time she began to sing.

I haven't stopped laughing about this all day. Thanks

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:angel_not::blushing: The former posts really made me laugh. In most circumstances if the disaster is not serious, the Dancers are up for a laugh, and some amusing things can happen. Whcih at the time may not seem funny, but on reflection certainly are.

Just a few I can remember. A very large lady (Wardrobe Staff) misses the back cloth, and walks in full view of the audience, carrying a number of Tutu's, accross the stage. Carabosse wheeled carriage, this time the Prologue of Sleeping Beauty, The bad fairy played by a rather camp Male Dancer, falls out of the vehicle, when it is pulled round too fast and tips up. Something to be seen. Le Fille mal Gardee - Alain with a boil on his nose, and a horrid big black spider, in his pocket, which he delights in showing the girls. plus a non stage trained Pony , that is likely to do a whoopsy any time, so that the dustpan and brush is needed much to the audiences amusement. The Conductor arriving at the orchestra pit, when there was no one there.

More Serious

Margot Fonteyn being dropped from above the head of an up and coming Danseur, a member of the Corp de Ballet getting kicked in the head by the Widowe Simone during The Clog Dance in Fille. Scenery falling down, or catching fire. Lights exploding. All in a days Ballet.

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Here's a funny one: During a performance of Allegro Brillante way out in the provinces, our tech person stuck in a new CD of the Tchaikovsky. Well, he clearly hadn't listened to it, because for some reason the solo piano passages--during which the lead couple dance while the corps stands on the sidelines--were hugely extended, with lots of repeated pianistic cadenzas that sounded improvised by the musician. The lead couple just started improvising themselves--pique, penche, pique, penche, soutenou, and on and on. Every time the music started again, you could see the "Oh no, not again" looks on their faces. Tears of laughter were streaming down their faces, and we were all laughing so hard we could barely stand still. The fact that the theater was tiny, meaning the audience could see everything, didn't help!

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Oh my goodness! Thank you for making my day!! This is a wonderful thread-I'm having a brain dead day, when I think of some, I'll let you know!

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On a more serious note this is not a "disaster" but is an example of the power that chance holds over even the most developed technique.... From an interview with Balanchine from Dance is a Contact Sport by Joseph Mazo, page 255.

Balanchine:

"Toumanova, you know, had wonderful balances. She practiced all the time. She stood like this" (he sketches in a pose on pointe); "her mother brought her lunch while she stood. It was in France; she got paid in cash and she signed, balancing." He mimes taking an envelope and signing the receipt while on one foot. "So in
Le Baiser de la Fée,
I made a passage for her in which she stands on one foot, looking for him." He shades his eyes with his hand, looking into the distance. "In rehearsals, it was fine; she stood there forever. In dress rehearsal, she stood. Opening night, the curtain went up and -- she fell. This is the way it happens."

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Ray's story of the slippery cd player reminds me of a touring performance of the Moscow Classical Ballet's Swan Lake a few years ago.

For most of the lakeside scene 9part of Act I in this production), the music kept slipping and sliding back and forth, with intermittent overlapping of lines and lurches ahead, producing a strangely modern effect never imagined by Tchaikovsky. Minute after minute, step after step, it staggered on and on. The brave dancers -- Odette, Ekaterina Berezina; Siegfried, Vladimir Mouravlev, and the corps -- did a remarkably job of following the errant music. They repeated. They slowed down. They lept ahead. They made up choreography just as Ray's dancers did. It was excruciating. And ... NO ... ONE ... LOWERED ... THE ... CURTAIN until the Act was over.

I think of this occasionally when sitting in the dentist's chair.

There was nervous anticipation in the audience when the curtain rose after intermission. After 30 seconds or so, it became clear that the audio problem had been fixed. The applause at that point was spontaneous and huge. The dancers returned to normal, and a good time was had by all.

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Just this afternoon, in the original version of "Apollo," Leto's two attendants dropped the ends of Apollo's swaddling cloth. leaving Royal Ballet of Flanders' Ernesto Boada tangled in cloth, with his arms initially trapped at his sides. You could see them deciding whether to follow their cue offstage, or join in his solo, and they left him there. He recovered nicely, but when the props fail, what a stage nightmare.

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Helene, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often. I recall fumbling with the cloth at NYCB in the early days, though nothing quite as embarassing as what you descibe. I wonder whether incidents like this was a factor the decision to cut that part out. On the other hand, there have also been problems with the Siren's long cape in Prodigal Son, and that bit of business has survived for 80 or so years.

Considering how complex most productions, it's actually a miracle when everything goes RIGHT. I've just returned from the final (of 8) Met HD-Live performances this season -- a staggeringly wonderful, beautifully sung and directed, and genuinely funny Fille du Regiment with Dessay and Florez. At dinner, we were talking about how problem-free these simulcasts seem to have been. You have to be willing to discount the occasional glimpse of a robot camera sailing across the down stage, but otherwise ... :clapping:

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As you all know, in Don Q there are all manner of props -- fans and ribbons and capes, among others. In a recent Ballet Arizona production, the virile torreodor swirled his cape manfully -- down, then up and over, arching beautifully as the cape swirled over his head. Excitement built as he repeated this feat over and over, travelling downstage, the heavy cape swirling and swirling, his sultry lady looking on in admiration. The Torreodor reached his lady, the turn of his body and the climax of the music told us this was the last swirl, with the next move he was to triumphantly throw it to the floor at his lady's feet. As he made his last loop on releve, his upper body arched, the huge, weighty cape caught on his face and collapsed over him like a floppy tortilla.

To his credit, his smile after he extricated himself (there was a moment where he looked as if he might have been suffocating, and then he yanked it off and tossed it down) was not so *much* rueful as entertained, which allowed the audience to laugh with him.

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Sounds like an exciting performance, Arizona Native. I suspect that most of us enjoy the risk-takers. :sweatingbullets::D:clapping: It's the namby-pamby cape-wavers that I can't abide.

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Yes, in fact it *was* a fabulous performance, eliciting exclamations of delight and *whooping* from the audience. Our cape-wielder got his groove back the next night, and Helene gave him a much-deserved glowing review. :D

The cape was obviously so big and heavy that it required quite a bit of strength, as well as coordination, to keep it moving. Hmmmm... at the time, I thought it would have been wise to use a lighter fabric, but reading your comment, I'm thinking Ib Anderson and Olga Evreinoff may, too, have seen their share of timid torreodors!

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One summer I worked as stage crew for a local theatre that sponsored a storybook ballet series to attract children to ballet. A visiting company was doing "Alice in Wonderland", Alice and the White Rabbit were dancing together, and for some reason a thread came loose from the ribbon on Alice's pointe shoe (sometimes those ends just don't stay tucked in!). Sure enough it caught somewhere, and Alice and Rabbit danced through a longer and longer tangle of satin thread as Alice's ribbon continued to unravel. Both Alice and the Rabbit contained themselves, and I'm not sure that the audience could actually tell/see that something was going on, but those of us in the wings were pretty amused!

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Thanks for reviving this thread, Snowbound. I suppose this COULD have been considered part of the plot, if the audience had noticed. Lots of things get unraveled in the Alice story . And the kids, I'm sure, would have LOVED it. :clapping:

Any other shoe complications out there?

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In a Colorado Ballet performance of Nutcracker some years ago, the guy dancing the Nutcracker was doing his mime at the beginning of the second act when some sort of backdrop cloth fell from the flies onto his head. It took a few minutes of panicked searching for him to get out—it looked like one of those bagism pieces for a minute. It must have been pretty terrifying, I guess, because he looked furious once he got if off and threw it offstage! Unfortunately, I am a sucker for surprising physical comedy and have never thought this was anything but hilarious. I hope he now looks back on the incident with humor.

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I'm a little surprised this hasn't been mentioned (maybe because it wasn't, strictly speaking, ballet) but it just suddenly sprang to mind.

When the revival of On Your Toes was playing Kennedy Center before its 2003 Broadway opening, a piece of scenery fell on Natalia Makarova, injuring her shoulder and sidelining her for over two months and delaying by a few days the eventual Broadway opening.

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And then there was the NYCB performance of Ballo in which Robert Weiss snapped his Achilles tendon and hobbled off stage leaving Merrill Ashely to finish the ballet alone. Happily he was able to dance again. But later that same evening in Fancy Free, one of the beer mugs broke and the dancer playing the bartender went off stage, got a real broom and dustpan and cleaned it up. It was a lively evening.

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