Allison Page is still waiting.
“You’re bastard people. That’s what you are, you’re bastard people!”
Even humans with a passing interest in theatre are probably familiar with the magnificent mockumentary Waiting for Guffman. I saw Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer in conversation with Adam Savage a couple months ago and my brain was squealing with delight the entire time.
In honor of that, and of general shenanigans and absurdity, here are some of the most Waiting for Guffman-esque things that have ever actually happened to me in real life:
1) An actor didn’t show up to a performance because he was playing softball, so I had to go around and tell the audience to go home…luckily I knew all of them. ALL OF THEM. It was dinner theater so they still got to eat some rolls and an iceberg lettuce salad.
2) Overheard from one of the other actors in a Shakespeare play: “I feel like as long as I get the gist of the line, that’s close enough.”
3) An actor got drunk, put an audience member in a head lock, and then fell through a window. HE FELL THROUGH A WINDOW. An actual window. Glass and everything. We kept going. Also he broke that guy’s glasses.
4) I was Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Romeo broke up with me right before opening night and I shouted, in absolute sincerity, “YOU CAN’T BREAK UP WITH ME I’M FUCKING JULIET!” I mean…I was like 19. So. What do you expect?
5) An actor couldn’t remember, like, ANY of his lines. And in the middle of the show I had to crawl across the stage and off to look at the script and mouth the lines to him. (I did this maybe a dozen times) And then I crawled back on again, mumbling about my contact lenses.
6) I ate Little Caesar’s Pizza before the show and threw up offstage several times, then got dizzy and sprained my ankle from running back and forth, meaning the other actor in the scene who started the show alone, had to improvise fake phone conversation until I stumbled in.
7) Cast mate chased me with a knife “in character” because I stole her boyfriend. Listen, I know, WE’RE BOTH WRONG HERE.
8) I owed someone a favor and they decided to cash it in by asking me to do lights for Bye, Bye, Birdie. (Birdie couldn’t sing, BTW) Which I did, and then they demanded that I come down FROM THE LIGHT BOOTH at the end of the show so I could bow and wave at the audience. It’s a fairly large theater, so I had to descend a ladder and run from the back of the room onto the stage.
9) The fog machine set off the smoke alarm and a bunch of firemen arrived with axes so we had to evacuate the theater and stand out on the sidewalk for 30 minutes. I was wearing a blue helmet and dystopian future clothes.
10) Nuns wearing eyeliner and lipstick and having nose piercings.
11) Being 150lbs and saying the line “I’m 106lbs!”
12) Actors literally saying “Peas and carrots, peas and carrots” in the background, probably loud enough that people could understand it.
13) My character was being assaulted onstage and my assailants were supposed to be tearing at my clothes. I was wearing a corseted dress with more layers under it so they could rip my costume off. The problem was that one of the two actors who was supposed to be disrobing me was my boyfriend and he was terrified some bit of flesh would pop out, so the other guy would grab a piece of fabric and pull it, and my boyfriend would put it back on.
14) Older men with bad eyes doing their own stage makeup and applying a LOT of eyeliner. And blush. Lots and lots of blush.
15) The costumer REALLY wanted to be on stage. Every time an actor was a couple minutes late to the theater, she’d start asking if she should get ready because she TOTALLY knew the part — she didn’t, but I guess she thought she could make it up.
16) The only Equity actor in the show is the one who doesn’t know their lines. Extra points because this has happened half a dozen times.
17) Lead actress fell down and chipped a tooth mid-show.
18) I saw a production of Little Shop where Seymour was 17 years old and Audrey was 50 years old. And he didn’t know any of the words to the songs. Made ‘em up.
19) An actor casting actual spells backstage on the actors she didn’t like. Ya know, because she’s a witch.
20) A bunch of the actors hanging out in the men’s dressing room with a bag of coke. The women had no idea what was going on. But it made a lot of sense when we heard about it later.
21) Two actors went out drinking the previous night and got in a fist fight so one of them wore sunglasses through the entire next performance because he had two black eyes.
22) The bed backstage broke in the middle of the show with a giant CRRRAAAACK! so when the bedroom scene happened, it was just a mattress on the floor. I guess the Capulets were on a budget.
23) Oberon WOULD NOT stop smoking stogies in rehearsal. Indoors. He also had two girlfriends and they stood around kissing each other and giggling while we all just waited for them to not be doing that so we could start rehearsal.
24) I was playing an 8 year old but I lost my voice and then sounded like Brian Doyle Murray for the duration of the run.
25) There was a trapdoor on an elevated flat in Scrooge’s house, so that the ghosts (I was Christmas Present and Christmas Past) could just “appear” in the middle of the room. But the flat was only raised about a foot off the stage, and the opening was in the center of it, so we had to get down on our bellies and slither like snakes to get there, and then miraculously do a 90 degree backbend in order to go through the opening. Visions of it collapsing in on me attacked my brain as I scraped several layers of skin of my back each night. But at least I didn’t fall through the trapdoor during a blackout. Someone else did that. “AahhhTHUD.”
Now, go home and bite your pillow.
Allison Page is a writer/actor/comedian in San Francisco. She’s currently producing a sketch comedy show written by 8 year olds. Learn more and be afraid, at killingmylobster.com