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Tuesday, 19 April
The Dark Backward

In college, I was on the booth crew for a production of Lysistrata which happened to use these groovy things called, if memory serves, periaktoi. These were tall triangular dealies set upstage that had different scenes painted on them that could be turned to change settings throughout the play; by cannily rotating them, one could display not only different scenic views, but also artfully arrange them so as to provide entrances and exits for the actors. Very Greek, or something. The stagehands--in Greek dress, of course--whose job it was to manipulate these things were called, inventively, "periaktoi turners."

I will never know how people let themselves be convinced to do these sorts of theater jobs. You get zero stage glory, and are in fact very lucky if the actors bother to notice you at all (unless you fuck up, in which case you will be noticed very quickly). You work the same hours as the rest of the people there, except that your job is boring, menial and mindless. Have you ever heard anyone brag about being a stagehand?

For this show, the stage manager hung out backstage; he was a big football-playin' kind of guy named Greg (he was also an actor, but he was fulfilling part of his degree requirements by stage managing). One of the periaktoi turners was a horribly shy little thing whose name is lost to me now. All I remember was that she was painfully self-conscious about being onstage, particularly in a scant little toga-thing, even though all she did was turn these big dumb things around all night.

One night she went out onstage to do her thing and rotated the periaktos into position, which happened to block her from getting back offstage. Usually, after getting it into position, she would crack a small opening for herself, slip backstage, and then adjust it back to its position. However, on one night, Greg was standing backstage, and from his perspective, noticed the in-position periaktos start to move. It was shy thing trying to slip backstage. But Greg thought, "Uh oh. This thing is slipping." So he put one beefy hand on it to prevent any motion.

Shy thing tried to move it again, but she had no hope of budging Greg, who had a hundred pounds on her and was involved in headset chatter anyway. I saw this all from the booth. She pushed. Nothing. She pushed again. Nothing. Actors were filing onstage, ready to start the scene, and eyed her curiously. She noticed the actors. She knew she wasn't supposed to be there, and there was nowhwere to go: all other exits backstage were being used by the actors. I watched in horror as she turned out full to face the audience, and seemed to crumple under the weight of its collective stare.

She burst into tears and then ran off the stage, up through the audience and out the exit doors, sobbing like a fresh widow.

We were out one periaktoi turner.

Confess | Skot | 19 Apr, 2005 |

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Comments

Dearie me, I do love good theatre stories.

My proudest on stage moment: Moliere's "The Imaginary Cuckhold". All in rhyming verse. I was playing Martine, wife of the main character, Sganarelle. Our "house" was a large flat, suspended from cables attached to one of the batons in the rigging. Halfway through our final performance, both cables mysteriously let go, bringing the whole thing down. There was deadly silence.

I don't know where it came from, but I blurted out,

"Oh my goodness Sganarelle,
Look at that; our house just fell."

I nearly got a standing ovation in the middle of the show. Rock.

Comment number: 005708   Posted by: galetea on April 19, 2005 03:49 AM from IP: 195.149.26.15

I was in a production once (for the life of me I can't even remember what it was....it was that terrible) where I played a man from an Eastern European country. At one point in the play, the character pretends to be an Irish priest. I had to walk around the stage dressed like a priest saying things like "Kiss my Blarney," and "Bless my shamrocks" in a half-Irish half-Romanian accent.

One of the other acters had gone to the bathroom backstage and missed her entrance. By about 3 minutes. Everybody onstage froze. Instead of just standing there, I started into a comedy routine in which I spouted out and messed up every Irish cliche, and referred to every stereotype.

Believe it or not, that was the best part of the show.

Comment number: 005709   Posted by: KOTWF on April 19, 2005 06:47 AM from IP: 65.78.210.155

one of MY most brilliant moments was....

Comment number: 005710   Posted by: best actor EVER on April 19, 2005 08:00 AM from IP: 167.88.200.30

Thanks for the laugh - now I can't stop. Mangy rat! Oh, I was a stagehand and the spotlight girl in high school. It's fun, that's why we do it.

Comment number: 005711   Posted by: laura on April 19, 2005 09:13 AM from IP: 24.173.61.244

Glad to hear you haven't forsaken us forever...

Comment number: 005712   Posted by: S on April 19, 2005 12:18 PM from IP: 66.235.0.193

The last one made me cry. And I'm at work.

Comment number: 005713   Posted by: dayment on April 19, 2005 01:29 PM from IP: 64.105.86.146

because of your "disk error" story there are now little pieces of vegetarian bologna sandwich splattered liberally over my monitor and wedged in my keyboard.

Comment number: 005714   Posted by: dolface on April 19, 2005 01:35 PM from IP: 207.1.189.2

For what it's worth, I'd passionately kiss your sense of humor, with tongue, teeth, and tonsils, whether the stage lights malfunctioned or not.

Comment number: 005715   Posted by: actressy dame on April 20, 2005 01:33 AM from IP: 24.124.71.36

I shall never go back,
Never go back,
Never go back,
Never go back to the stage, OH.

And your stories are not weakening my resolve.

Comment number: 005716   Posted by: Kate on April 20, 2005 04:53 PM from IP: 161.114.32.112

Help. I can't stop laughing. Curse you, Skot!

Comment number: 005717   Posted by: Harry on April 20, 2005 07:06 PM from IP: 207.69.137.204

Wow. Do some of these ring a bell or what. I laughed until I cried and then send your URL on to all my actor/singer friends. Hooray for acting bloopers! More, please.

Comment number: 005718   Posted by: Shelly on April 21, 2005 06:48 PM from IP: 140.142.172.189

Oooh, more of these, please! They never get old!
We do it because we love the theatre, but have absolutely no talent to speak of. At least, that's why I occasionally got involved with backstage stuff.
And theatre bloopers are almost always hilarious.

Comment number: 005719   Posted by: CG on April 22, 2005 01:27 AM from IP: 70.19.108.155

Crying. Thank you.

Comment number: 005720   Posted by: Jon on April 23, 2005 01:23 PM from IP: 216.231.47.148

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