By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“I‘m sorry we ruined your evening,” the giddy woman said to the theater critic.
“And I’m sorry you‘re such a moron,” I replied, watching her brow tighten a bit. The setting was Santa Monica’s Powerhouse theater, where my wife and I had been watching a play. Or rather, had tried to watch it, because the couple in front of us were talking, laughing and getting up from their seats throughout the entire performance. Were they loaded or merely rude? It was hard to tell -- they looked like the most pleasant 30-ish couple ever to step out of a J. Crew catalog. One thing I didn‘t tell the woman after the show was that I’d spent the last few minutes wistfully measuring the distance between my paratrooper boot and the back of her male friend‘s head. It was scary to consider how close I’d come to completely losing it -- in a theater, of all places. Later, I spoke to a few people who actually live in and by the theater, about stage rage. Here are their stories.
* * *
I lost it when the Fabulous Monsters were here putting up The Importance of Being Earnest. It was midnight, the day before opening, and they had been due to leave at 11 -- they were way behind. We were all exhausted, and I told them they had to get out. A conspiratorial session between the company members followed, during which someone came in and told me they‘d seen my dog taken away by some kids. Then [their director] Robert Prior said, “You must let us stay, you can’t throw us out.” I ranted at him in near-psychotic tones for I don‘t know how long -- I think I lost consciousness at one point. He looked like a sad child. “Nobody has ever spoken to me like that,” he said, and quietly walked away. I don’t take personal responsibility for losing my temper; it‘s something due to my genetic endowment and the territory of theater. The show went up and became a hit.
--Richard Kaye, owner, Glaxa Studios
My director told the writer to his face, “Your material is shit, crap.” The writer, who’d used all his life savings to put on the show, began crying. I heard this and screamed at the director at great lengths, but I didn‘t fire him, even though he totally went against the playwright’s wishes, rewriting the script with the actors. The reviews slammed his direction, and I had to give up all my producer‘s points to keep the playwright from leaving. But the vindication of the writing came when the show moved to New York. Screaming is fully allowed in these kinds of situations, because you can’t kill people, that‘s against the law. It’s called expressing yourself.
--Leigh Fortier, producer
I was performing in Jim Pickett‘s Dream Man at the Skylight on a Sunday afternoon. There was a huge sign on the door: DO NOT ENTER, PERFORMANCE IN PROGRESS. I was halfway through the show when I began to hear someone knocking on the stage door. The knocking grew louder, and so I spoke my lines louder. My heart was beating, and the adrenaline was going wacko, and finally I stopped and told the audience to wait a minute. I walked offstage and through the dressing room, opened that door and uttered every profanity: “Are you fucking blind? Can’t you read the sign?” Then I went back to the performance.
--Michael Kearns, actor-director
This was considered the Cat Fight of Downtown. We were doing Mayhem at Mayfield Mall, and it was a huge production of drive-in drama, where people watched the show from their cars and the sound came through their radios -- they‘d honk or flash their lights for applause. I was a producer, actor and publicist for the play, and a week before we opened, the costume designer came up with the idea of having me, somewhere in Act 2, strip down to a Wonder Woman costume. On the night we were to try this out, we had three TV camera crews, NPR and two local critics there. Then, during the pre-show music, the executive producer tells me that one of the actresses, who hadn’t previously been informed of the change, was refusing to go on if I did this, and there was no understudy available that night. I told him it wasn‘t her call to make. But after the show had been held up 45 minutes, I finally promised one of the two directors that I wouldn’t do it. I blew up under the stage, though: “I want this taken care of! I want this issue addressed! I want her out!”
During intermission, I went backstage and found my props, which had been preset, all tossed about. This other actress then shoved me aside -- which she did again, onstage during the show. I have never hit anyone, and have not been able to physically respond to being hit -- all I can do is react verbally. So during the blackout before the curtain call, I stripped down to the costume and, when the lights came on, received applause -- as Wonder Woman. I don‘t pick the fights, but I definitely set them off!