Thursday, October 23, 2014
Backstage Bar Fight
I continue to celebrate, in my own quiet way, 25 years of performing murder mystery dinner theater shows.
This is from an email I wrote to a former actress in January of 2006
Tonight my actress Linda and I had two shows at a winery in Nashville, Illinois. The winery only seats fifty people, so I talked them into doing two shows - a 5 pm show and an 8 pm show. I am hiring a new guy and we had him meet us at the winery to see the early show.
Well, the early show was magical, just a blast. The guy was very impressed and really wants to work for me. "Do they always go this well?" he asked. "Oh, this is pretty typical," we answered, which is true. "Do you ever have problems with drunks?" he asked. "Not that we can't control," we replied - also true.
Then he left (between shows) and I turned to Linda and said, "I think we've got this small-venue problem solved. For wineries that can only seat fifty, we'll just do two shows a night like this, and we'll do just as well as we do at the wineries that seat 100."
Well, since God has a sense of humor and corrects all forms of hubris, especially backstage hubris, the second show was a disaster! In 17 years of doing these, this was the drunkest crowd I've ever performed for. We found out later that most of the town of Nashville came, and that they had all been at each other's houses drinking before the show started. Rough raw rednecks out of their minds on booze. By the end of the Act Two (after cutting all kinds of stuff and screaming at the top of our lungs, without much effect), one of the drunks got mad at the neighboring table, stood up and picked up an empty wine bottle to throw at them. I was standing atop a chair as Neddy, with my propeller beanie on, not in any position to stop him, so Linda simply took the bottle away from him and calmed him down. We quickly finished the show, and made a hasty exit to our dressing area, which was behind a partition in the corner of the room. While behind this partition we kept hearing the tables yelling, "F*** you!" to each other, and Linda says,
"I've been in bar fights. We don't want to stay here. Just gather your stuff and get out! If the bottles start flying, people are going to come back here to hide, and there will be no way out."
So we start throwing things into the suitcases and garment bags, I leave my costume on and throw my coat on over it, and we zip out through the crowd (who gives us a round of applause) and make it for the front door of the winery. I'm not even worried about getting the check at this point, so you know we were desperate to get out. But after this unmitigated disaster (we did only about four pages of a ten page script, cutting wildly, having no control over the audience, having absolute chaos and pandemonium around us), people kept stopping us on our way to the door saying, "That was great! You guys are fantastic! We'll be back again!"
Anyway, that's show biz.