Theatre Stories – Volume 1…


I actually wrote this a year ago. It was supposed to be part of another post I was writing, but when that post ended up too long, I split it up. And what remains, is a story. Theatre Story No. 1.

The theatre is a wonderful place. We go to escape, to have fun, to enjoy, to learn, to blow off steam – and I believe all of those are applicable either side of the curtain. Seeing a performance can be a magical experience; it can take you away from the rain outside, or your crappy day at work, from sad times or stressful times.
Though, as I’ve pointed out previously, things don’t always go perfectly, which is why I always find it so enjoyable when someone tells me a story of something going wrong. Not to sneer at the misfortune of others *cue MT lovers singing Avenue Q’s ‘Schadenfraude’*, but rather because things technically SHOULDN’T go wrong (because of the amount of rehearsal). So when they do, it’s rare. It’s funny. And I’ve been involved in so many myself, it’s also good to know you’re not alone! I’ll give you an example:

Throwback to 13 months ago, and HSAP’s Legally Blonde, at Harrogate Theatre. It’s opening night and the start of Act 2.

Now, in this production, we had a gauze (a mesh curtain, which usually has some kind of logo/artwork on it). When the stage is lit, it’s transparent, you can see set/actors behind it. When it’s not lit, it’s more translucent – you can’t see through it clearly, but shapes of people are still visible. The opening of Act 2 in Legally Blonde is ‘Whipped Into Shape’, and we were pre-set behind the gauze. Now, because of it’s transparent/translucent nature, as soon as you’re pre-set behind it, there’s no going back. No moving.
On opening night, some wires got crossed somewhere – we got told to pre-set, then AFTER this call, it turned out that there were still some audience members in the bathroom.
So picture this. The 10 of us stood in our pre-set positions. And bearing in mind the beginning of the song is a workout video, we weren’t just ‘stood’. Oh no. We were in various hench work out positions (lunges, squats etc), and, as I’m sure you have either experienced or can imagine, not the most enjoyable thing to hold for an extended amount of time.

But of course, we had to hold it. No going back seeing as it was a gauze rather than a curtain! How long did we hold it for? More than a couple of minutes, I can tell you that. I could see the other girls out of the corner of my eye, shaking, from holding the position for so long, slowly (so as not to be seen by the audience) trying to stretch their legs or bend their arms because of cramp.

The following night, a member of the stage crew confirmed that we were stood there for 7 minutes. 7. MINUTES. I’ve never held a lunge for so long in my life. And don’t plan on doing it ever again.

Moral of that story? Always triple check with the person on the book (the superstar that calls the whole show, sits with headphone on and tells everyone what to do), that you can pre-set on stage. Which I did for the rest of the run. And probably became quite annoying. Sorry Liz. But as much as I love a good lunge or squat, I wasn’t prepared to hold it for 5 minutes in front if hundreds of people every night that week. Mind you, it’d have probably been quite good for me 🍑

Theatre Stories, Volume 1 – done.

Lynette x

I Can Hear the Bells…


So, Tuesday afternoon I get in from a meeting and have a couple of hours to lesson plan before I turn on my heel and head back into town to work. So, motivated head on, I bypass the kitchen (yeh, I know…!) and head straight upstairs. Now, some of you will know, when I’m walking ANYWHERE, I have my earphones in. Fairly loud, not enough to deafen me like we did when we were teens, but you know, loud enough to drown out the world. So I didn’t notice the delicate ‘bips’ of the house alarm going off. 30 seconds later, I’m just about at my room and I hear some kind of alarm thing. Puzzled, look around, take out an earphone… YEP. The burglar alarm is wailing, full blast, for the whole world to hear – I leg it back along the landing, down the stairs, turn back on myself down the hall to get to the alarm box to put in the code. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life. Apologies to any of my neighbours who were disturbed. Although, having said that, it was 2pm. It’s not like it was 6:30am. Like the last time I did it…

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So with alarms in mind, I have to share with you the couple of alarm related incidents that have happened at theatres. These are different theatres and happened years apart. I guess when you spend so much time in and around them, it’s only a matter of time before a bit of drama happens.

Dry Ice
The first fire alarm incident of my career happened at Studio 3’s annual show, Dance Krazy at Harrogate International Centre. I’m pretty sure it was 2006, please correct me if I’m wrong (if anyone can remember that is, we were only in our mid teens)! So we were all ready to go, we were standing by in the wings for the opening number – and the fire alarm goes off. Now, it was quite a while ago so it’s hard to remember in exact detail, but I didn’t think it was real. You know, as you do, how many times have you been somewhere, heard an alarm and looked around for assurance it was an accident? We’d be a nightmare in an actual fire, back at college they would test the alarm weekly so it became fairly normal to hear it over the plinky plonk of the piano as you did your battement glissés.
Anyway, back onto topic. They started evacuating the audience which is when we were told we needed to make our way outside.
So there we all are, outside, at night, in February – we were in jazz pants and a top. It was not warm. The rest of the school was ready for the ballet so were stood around in leotards and tights! The poor little ones must’ve been freezing. And do you know why the fire alarm went off? Because they pumped too much dry ice onto the stage (smoke, for any of you non-theatre-speaking folk reading this). They started pumping the stuff onto stage 30 minutes before the curtain. 30 MINUTES! Is it any wonder the fire alarms thought it was real smoke?! Thankfully I’ve not come across any further problems with dry ice and fire alarms – but there’s always time…

smoke
Image taken from Dance Krazy 2006

Fire Doors
HSAP’s Footloose in 2010 at Harrogate Theatre. Again, the alarm went off and we didn’t know what was happening, whether to go out into the cold or not. But we did, in full costume, as we were about 5 minutes away from starting the show. The firemen came. I’m still not entirely sure what happened, but it was something to do with a fire door being open and dust from the lights floating…somewhere…? Though a couple of the girls were convinced they’d left their straighteners on that had started a fire 😉 I’m not clear on the details (maybe someone can fill me in), but there’s nothing that throws you off your game and pre-show warm ups/rituals like being stood outside in the cold and the rain.

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Firemen come to our rescue as we evacuate the theatre

Main moral of the story… Don’t go wild with dry ice. And always check your straighteners/tongs are switched off.
Oh, and take your earphones out as soon as you get in the house…

Lynette x