The show must go on! An inside look into ‘glitches’ onstage

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Editor's Note: The following article was jointly written by Wesley Lantz and Joshua Goodwin, who are both involved in the theatre department at Bethel. Their personal experiences are related in the first person via this format: Last name: quote. The opinions expressed below do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Beacon editorial staff. An actor trips onstage. A prop is lost. A line is dropped. A wardrobe malfunction as an actor enters the stage.  Fear creeps into the eyes of the actors. What next? What else? The show must go on! Part of the joy of live theatre is the fact that things can go wrong. Sometimes spectacularly so. It's a constant game of risk and reward watching a live performance, because looming over the entire performance is this question: "What if they mess up?" It happens even to the best; we're only human after all. From the stars to the ensemble to the backstage crew, everyone feels the pressure of live performance. And when things go wrong, they stick with us. "I played the part of Curly (in "Oklahoma!,") and needed to have my gun to sell during the auction. (I) went onstage without my gun," said Johnny Bennett, senior vocal performance major. "And as you can imagine that was quite startling." Sofy Vida, who played Anne Shirley in Bethel's recent production of "Anne of Green Gables," related a story from opening night of the show. Her character was being carried into a house after being injured. "When I was carried into the house, the boys put me a little too far up on the bed," said Vida. "I was supposed to say this line: 'Oh, I'm such an afflicted mortal!' and flop back on the bed, but because of where I was, I smashed my head on the headboard." One of the most interesting side effects of stage mishaps, or "glitches" as some in the theatre department have taken to calling them, is that very often they are what make the performance or the actor memorable. "Someone came up to me just the other day and was like 'You played Anne in Anne of Green Gables!' And I said 'yeah, yeah I did.'  Then they said 'Yeah, I was there the night you hit your head'." Sometimes the glitches are not a forgotten prop or dropped line, but what is both the salvation and bane of modern theatre: technology. Lantz: "My first show here was 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' In the play, the characters are hiding in a hidden annex to an office building. There was one scene where we were supposed to hear a sound down in the lower floor and freeze, because we were afraid the person would hear us. Well, one performance, the sound of the person downstairs just didn't play. And we just sat there frozen, waiting for a sound that wasn't going to play. Finally, one of the actresses just lifted her feet and stomped as hard as she could, and we reacted to that." Goodwin: "On the last dress rehearsal of 'Shadowlands,' the lead actor was unable to come. They gave the sound designer a jacket and a script and just kept going. The director sat at the front of the house and told him where to go.  In one moment, the character had to kiss another character, and when we got to that moment, the director cued the kiss, and the sound designer broke character and looked at him and just said 'Nope'." Lantz: “Bethel has a travelling drama troupe called the Genesians; I was a part of that all last year. We were performing a show based on the story of the Good Samaritan, and in the show, along with the other characters, we had two narrators who gave a bunch of information and relayed the message at the end of the show. Sofy’s line at the end was ‘but the scene is not totally dark.’ Near the end of one performance, we were coming up on her line and the lights completely cut out. It was pitch black. And all we could think of was Sofy’s next line about the scene not being totally dark. It was super hard to stay in character.” But the thing about live theatre is that it doesn't just stop when something goes wrong. As the old adage goes, the show must go on! So how do actors push through when things don't go according to plan? "I think, as an actor, it's important to realize that your job goes beyond memorizing lines and motions," said Bennett. "And once you can do that well, I think a big step forward is learning how to react to things that happen. Whether that's something someone says to you or whether that's someone missing their line and you have to react to that on the fly or whether you forget your gun and go onstage...it's hard because you've rehearsed it so many times this certain way, but you have to go forth as if that was what's supposed to happen. Something I think people don't realize as much when they're performing is that the audience, a lot of times, is clueless...if you act like this is what's supposed to happen, then a lot of times they won't 100 percent realize it. Or if they do, it won't be terrible, I guess." Lantz: “You just keep going. It’s a given that things are going to go wrong, and you have to be ready at any point for that thing to happen. It keeps you on your toes; you can’t just go on autopilot onstage because if something goes wrong, you need to be in the moment and ready to do whatever you need to in order to get the show back on track.” Finally, as these actors and technicians look back on their past, what do these glitches look like in hindsight. Lantz: “It’s terrifying in the moment. But looking back, these are some of my favorite memories of doing theatre, because you laugh about the ridiculousness of what happened and you’re impressed by you and your cast mates’ resourcefulness in dealing with it. It’s a bonding moment that you’ll never forget.” "One thing for sure is there's always something to be learned from them," said Bennett. "So at least in this case, not only am I not going to forget the gun in the rest of the "Oklahoma!" Productions, but I'd like to think that if I do a show in four years, that forgetting my gun, as such an important prop, will really engrain in me to check my props and to make sure that I'm not only prepared mentally going out onstage, but (that) I have everything that I need.”

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