EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
Below are excerpts from the May 15, 2017 MD Theatre Guide interview with the cast of Noises Off.
Q&A WITH THE CAST OF 'NOISES OFF'
Everyman Theatre is ending its season full of compelling new works with a beloved comedy. With record-breaking advance ticket sales, “Noises Off” opens this week and runs through June 18. This British farce is a “love-letter” to the theater and the behind-the-scenes hilarity and onstage mayhem that can ensue when performing live. “Noises Off” was written in the early 1980s by Michael Frayn and garnered many nominations and awards. I had the good fortune to see the touring company from Broadway when it came to Los Angeles.
Directed by Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi, with one of the best resident companies around, MDTG thought it would be fun to ask the cast members to recall some of their most memorable theater mishaps. We cannot wait to see this production!
What was your most memorable moment backstage that nearly caused an onstage mishap?
MEGAN ANDERSON (Poppy Norton-Taylor): Deborah Hazlett and I have performed “Rabbit Hole” twice, playing the same characters (sisters) in two different productions. In the first production, the family was celebrating my character’s birthday. Deb was supposed to pull a large present out from behind the couch. She reached for it, and when she came up, her arms were stretched out but her hands were empty – no present! It hadn’t been set! We looked at each other and had an actor-to-actor “twinkly” moment – where you both know you’ve got to come up with something quick. She said something like “Surprise! We DO have a present for you,” then looked over very meaningfully to the actor playing her husband who picked up the ball and said, “I must have left it in the garage,” before running backstage to grab it. This left Deb and me alone to adlib. I said, “Can you tell me about my present? I want to be surprised but I don’t think I can wait!” and she described it to me until the other actor came back and we could get back on track.
DANNY GAVIGAN (Garry Lejeune): My very first role on stage was in Wilde Lake High School’s production of “The Matchmaker” and I was playing Cornelius Hackl (who doesn’t really show up until five or 10 pages in). I was in costume and makeup, all stoked and ready for my very first show and my very first audience and having the best time backstage getting amped up with some of the cast. Then I suddenly had to go to the bathroom really badly – probably because of the nerves and the soda. While I was in the restroom, I suddenly heard my cue to come on onstage through the loudspeakers. I remember completely freaking out and almost zipping myself up (a la Ben Stiller in “There’s Something About Mary”). Cornelius works in the basement, so the set designer built this faux cellar door right smack center stage. So I ran to the wings and had to slide into place before I emerged for my poor cast mates (who actually covered with some awesome improv like a couple of pros). Carly Hughes played “the matchmaker” in that show. She was one of the actors vamping for me. She’s all over Broadway now and you can catch her on ABC’s “American Housewife.”
Can you recall an incident of something going very wrong during a performance? How did you try to save it?
BRUCE NELSON (Frederick Fellowes): In 1992 I was in Macon, Georgia on tour with the National Players. We were heading into the second act of our production of a musical version of “Animal Farm” and I was setting props when the technical director’s black Labrador walked on stage and sat with the cast during a group musical number. I tried in vain to coax the dog off and he finally walked off mid-number of his own accord. The audience commented afterward on the realistic costuming.
WIL LOVE (Selsdon Mowbray): In my younger days (decades ago) as an actor in a summer theatre in Montana I was playing the caustic comic role, Jeff, in the musical, “Brigadoon.” As I peered through the window of a small set within a set and said the line, “Nice place,” one entire wall fell over flat in front of me. A communal gasp from the audience was followed by a hushed silence… to which I simply replied, “Well, that was nice.”
What are your tricks to keep from breaking up on stage if something happens and you find it very difficult to contain your laughter?
ERIC BERRYMAN (Tim Allgood): I have tried biting my lip. The pressure and force helps. Also placing my hand over my mouth as if I am thinking or concentrating sometimes works as a mask.
"[Bruce Nelson] is a joy. He is the funniest person I know and his talent is extraordinary."
DEBORAH HAZLETT (Dotty Otley): Many, many things have gone wrong on stage over the years with truly hilarious, and sometimes unnerving, results. The ways in which we deal with them are as varied as the stories themselves. But the one thing I never do is laugh on stage and break character – unless I am working with Bruce Nelson. He is the funniest person I know and his talent is extraordinary. I am grateful for every moment I have on stage with him. But the man makes me laugh even when I shouldn’t. I have come up with various ways to deal with this over the years including turning upstage with my back to the audience so that no one can see. Sometimes I can’t even look in his mischievous eyes so I simply stare at his chest. If all else fails, I laugh and try to make it look like part of the scene. He is a joy.
After a season of bringing a lot of great new works to Baltimore, what was the thinking in ending it with this particular play?
VINCENT M. LANCISI (Director): There’s no greater joy for me when directing a play at Everyman than to showcase the tremendous acting talents of our Resident Company. “Noises Off” — often hailed among the funniest comedies ever written — has brought wall-to-wall laughs to our rehearsal process, and the fun will continue for weeks to come! We are simply delighted to end our season on such a positively hilarious note.