We had endured hours of rehearsals, reviewed our lines hundreds of times, and had practiced our choreography until we could do our routines in our sleep. It was time to test what we had learned. It was Showtime. Previous experiences with the performing arts had taught me stage etiquette: not to make noise backstage, never to turn my back on the audience and above all things…to never, ever, EVER break character while performing. I broke character once, when I was nine. Our local Community Theatre was performing “The Homecoming,” a play about a family anticipating the arrival of their father for the holidays. In the eldest son’s quest to find his father, he visits a church where children are re-enacting the Nativity Scene. I portrayed Mary, the mother of baby Jesus. In the play, the children were supposed to sing a song, led by the character of Mary’s husband Joseph. All had gone well through most of the performances until one night, a high, squeaky voice began to sing, “Hey Mary, what’cha gonna’ name that pretty lil’ baby?” The young man playing Joseph was singing out of his range in the wrong key! I couldn’t stand it. I giggled my way through the rest of the song and when I couldn’t stop laughing, I hit myself. Needless to say, the director was not pleased.
Nine years later, here I stood onstage in another play. The memory of my last onstage embarrassing moment was etched in my memory. I didn’t want to embarrass myself again. This time, I was in a musical called “Once Upon a Mattress,” based on the fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea. I was one of the Ladies in Waiting and I refused to be embarrassed. Isn’t it funny how when a person is determined not to be embarrassed, something embarrassing happens? There was a scene in which the Ladies in Waiting bring gowns to the princess so she can select one to wear. As I began to recite my lines, I heard several titters behind me. Then, the Princess’ voice began to crack. “Is she crying? That’s not in the script,” I wondered. She wasn’t crying. She was trying not to laugh. For me, laughter is contagious. If others are laughing, I will probably start laughing too. I barely managed to get out the last of my lines as I struggled to hold in my laughter. We raced off the stage where we were ready to burst.
“What happened?” I asked.
“There was a roach,” giggled one of the other actresses. Apparently, while I was saying my lines, the other actresses discovered a roach lying on the dress that we were supposed to present to the princess. They managed to knock the roach off the dress and discretely execute it during the scene. I just wish I could have seen it as it was happening. We weren’t expecting to see our little insect friend waiting for us. I guess the roach wanted to be in the musical too.