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Bloopers, Blunders, and Boners

Herewith a new section, reminiscences of some of our funnier moments onstage. Please send contributions of your favorite mistakes and mishaps to the editor.

Coitus Interruptus
Tom Reed, chorus

One of my all-time favorite stage mishaps occurred in 1979 when San Francisco Opera mounted a production of Thea Musgrave's Mary Queen Of Scots as the Curran Theater as part of its Spring Opera Theater series. Musgrave was conducting the orchestra in the final dress rehearsal before a guest audience.

In a castle bedchamber on stage Queen Mary and Bothwell were concluding a romantic duet in bed together. The transformation into the outdoor mob scene that followed the bedroom scene was to be accomplished without bringing in the curtain. At the end of the duet the tapestries and bedroom trappings were to be flown out, and the couple were to be wheeled offstage still lying on their bed while the new backdrop was lowered into place. To keep the action alive during the scene transition, a mob of angry townspeople (the chorus) was to run onstage from upstage right, screaming and waving weapons, cross the back of the stage, and exit upstage left. Then, once the transition from bedroom to town square was complete, the chorus mob was to reenter from stage left into the town square where they would stage a revolt against Queen Mary.

But at the dress rehearsal all did not go as planned. As the chorus stood in the wings up right waiting for the cue to run across the back of the set, one of the choristers decided to play a trick on the chorister who was always the first to enter at the front of the mob. Just for fun he sharply nudged the frontrunner and said "Go!" Unexpectedly, not realizing that it was still several pages too early, the hapless chorister ran, screaming and waving a rifle across the back of the palace bedroom. Bothwell lurched upward and Queen Mary nearly twisted her neck trying to see the unexpected invader. The chorister later said he'd realized halfway across the stage that he was way too early, but decided that he might as well continue screaming until he reached the other side of the stage. The duet ended on a rather tentative note as the bewildered couple was wheeled offstage, still looking to see what was going on. Then, on cue, as the set changed, the rest of the chorus mob ran screaming across the stage, looking more like they were searching for the man who'd dared invade the royal bedroom. Meanwhile in the pit, composer/conductor Musgrave was laughing so hard she had to momentarily step away from the podium.