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"When Things Go Wrooong"(Stage disasters. What, who, when...)


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 08:37 PM

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...?

#2 vrsfanatic

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 04:07 AM

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.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 04:34 AM

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.

#4 bart

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 07:25 AM

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:

#5 Ray

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 08:44 AM

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)!

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 09:12 AM

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.)

#7 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 10:00 AM

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:

#8 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 10:01 AM

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!!!!!!

#9 carbro

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 10:05 AM

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."

#10 SandyMcKean

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 05:39 PM

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

#11 Nanarina

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:51 AM

: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.

#12 Ray

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:57 AM

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!

#13 Solnishka79

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 12:31 PM

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!

#14 innopac

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:16 PM

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."



#15 bart

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 08:27 PM

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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