[During Wicked] I had this huge wand that I twirled around in a fight scene. They were still working out the design of it, so every week or so, I'd get a new wand. I had this ritual, that every time I got a new one I would try it out. Except this one week, I didn't try it out before I went on stage. I was out there, twirling it around and I started thinking to myself, "Wow, this wand is really light!" I looked down and it wasn't in my hand anymore. It had flown out into the audience. This wand is five feet tall with spiky things coming out of the top of it! Luckily, it didn't kill anyone. It didn't touch anyone, actually. It landed in one of the aisles and stopped the show, everybody was laughing so hard. This nice man handed it back to me. ... Mishaps happen all the time, especially if you're in a long run and people are settled in....That's why live theatre is so amazing. Something is going to go wrong at some point and it's interesting to see how people deal with it and move on.
I was doing Carousel at the Paper Mill Playhouse with Eddie Bracken who was 86-years-old; it was the last show he did before he passed away – he's a legend! He's supposed to say to 40 people on stage: "It's like a song I used to sing when I was a boy in school: When you walk through a storm." Then 40 people start to sing: "When you walk through a storm, hold your head up..." But he said, "It's like a song I used to sing when I was a boy in school: When you walk in the clouds." So everyone was looking at each other and 40 people went: "When you walk...in the storm? Clouds? What the f*ck are we singing?" There were 40 people facing upstage looking at him, so shoulders were shaking and all of us were trying to hold it together.
[During "The Nanny"] I was usually pretty good about remembering my lines, even though sometimes they would only hand them to us as we were walking onto the set because they made so many changes. I remember one day, one of our producers was talking to the audience to keep them warmed up. I came on to do a scene and he said: "Now here, Daniel Davis, he's so perfect. He never forgets anything." I couldn't remember one single word of the scene. Like, "Oh. Thanks a lot Peter. You really jinxed me." We had to do the scene 40 times because I couldn't remember a word of it.
In Pippin, Matthew James Thomas was playing Pippin but he was really sick and losing his voice. I was talking to him as the grandmother and during this one scene, he has to go offstage for a second. I turned my back and when I turned back again, there was another actor playing the part. Matthew went off for the rest of the show, he was too sick. We had to do it seamlessly. I actually don't think that the audience, shockingly, knew that it was a different actor. Isn't that bizarre?
Kate Jennings Grant
Once, during Proof, I was on stage with Anne Heche and someone way up at the top of the Walter Kerr Theatre clearly fell down an entire flight of stairs in the middle of a scene. We just looked at each other and we were waiting for them to stop the show but they didn't. So we slowly had to go on. It turned out to be all right. I guess she just had a little too much fun before the show started...that was a moment I'll never forget.
I was on stage with Zoe Kazan and I was supposed to give her ten dollars. In the scene she asks me for money to go get something so she goes, "Do you have ten dollars?" and I'm supposed to give it to her. But this time I reached into my pocket and I didn't have anything. I said to her: "I will give you ten dollars but it's in my coat." I went off stage and I made it look okay by bringing my actual coat. It was a good save but Zoe might not say it was a good save because she was on stage with nothing to do.
I've accidentally fallen down so many times in shows. I rolled down a vom in a production of The Scottish Play when I was supposed to be exiting. My foot got stuck and I was in a full-on medieval chain-mail shirt and leather armor. I rolled all the way down a vom while the King was about to start his next Shakespearean monologue.
In Bad Jews I broke my brush on my hair. I had this big, wild lion's mane of hair. My hair is very frizzy and curly and they gave me these extensions that went down to my waist so I had this huge head of hair. I angrily brush it at one point in the play and this other character is telling me a story as I'm brushing and the brush just snapped. In half. The audience belly-laughed — they thought that was hilarious.
Oh god, I have so many! I can remember whole shows or whole acts that have gone wrong because somebody's forgotten a prop. Everyone's got the classic: where you're sitting in the dressing room and listening to the play and you think: "Why is it so quiet?" Then you realize it's your entrance. If you're in Summer Stock or something, you're tearing through wardrobe rooms and the best part is trying to appear as if nothing's wrong when you're back onstage. Life is full of those...we take on those experiences and in a way we kind of like them. We talk about them and roll around in them.
Noises Off begins performances on Broadway at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre on Dec. 17, 2015 and officially opens Jan. 14, 2016. The production is helmed by Jeremy Herrin. Visit RoundaboutTtheatre.org to purchase tickets and for more information.