Usually when a backstage track has been established, you keep to it to be consistent. Every so often some arises where you must go off track. Then there are those rare moments when you go off track and you don’t know why until something does happen to explain it. For me, I was ASMing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and I was curious about a part of the show from a particular backstage perspective – the theatre this was in was shaped like a classic Greek theatre – stage thrusts out, downstage entrances are voms that go deep to the backstage area. The walls of these voms had wide ledges and our Oberon was staged to sit on one while Puck told him what he did to Titania which resulted in Oberon laughing so hard that he would fall off the ledge into the vom. Puck is worried but then Oberon would bound out to congratulate him. Early in the preview process, I had a bit of free time and rather than just passing by this vom to go directly to my next stopping point, I stood by to watch Oberon drop into it. He dropped only rather than bouncing back up, he began crawling towards me – realizing he must have landed wrong and broke something, I instantly radioed up to my SM to tell her the actor was injured and to stop the show which she did. We tended to the actor till the ambulance arrived and needless to say the performance did not continue that evening.
My favorite shows tend to be farces or ones with fast costume and scene changes like “The 39 Steps” or “Compleat Work of Shakespeare Abridged”. And when you work on a show where you are constantly moving around backstage, any troubleshooting that arises needs to happen on the go. So when we started Act 2 of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and we didn’t hear the “plop” of the dummy body drop to the stage from the grid when it was supposed to – a crucial prop piece that would show up again in a scene following the one we were about to change into – the troubleshooting commenced as we readied ourselves to go onstage to set the next scene. The plan I came up with was to send the wardrobe person to get a spare costume suit from the dressing room after she did the scene change and then we would grab some pillows from the green room and stuff them into the suit thereby creating a makeshift dummy. After quickly imparting that plan to wardrobe and the PA, we popped out for the shift and as I rolled off a set piece – hands full with Dr. Watson’s medical instruments – the actor playing Holmes grabs me and whispers in my ear “The dummy didn’t drop!” – to which I quickly whispered back, “we know, we have a plan” and we moved on. Wonderful thing about the show is that there is room for ad libbing so when we tossed the makeshift dummy out onto the stage, the actors had to take a moment to laugh and comment with the audience.