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6 Oddest Moments of L.A. Theater in 2011

Nina Silver and Guy Birtwhistle in D is for Dog
Nina Silver and Guy Birtwhistle in D is for Dog

From backstage mishaps to audience interruptions, theater is unpredictable, and no one knows that better than the actors, producers and others who work in theater every day.

We polled the theater community to find the oddest moments of last year in L.A. theater.

6. Nowhere did "suspension of disbelief" get more tested this year than on the stages of children's theater. Lloyd J. Schwartz, producer of the Storybook Theatre program at Theatre West, reports how, during the company's performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the leading actor's pet dog escaped from the dressing room and, during a duet between the Queen and the Mirror, poked her head through a curtain and into the scene, upstaging the actors -- one being the dog's owner, who found an excuse to exit the scene with the dog, while his partner covered for him by asking the audience of children about their own dogs.

5. The youngest groupie ever: Abraham Luna, who played Prince Charming in Sierra Madre Playhouse's Cinderella (reopening Feb. 4), told of charming a female fan, about 3 or 4 years old, during an audience-interactive segment of the children's musical.

"I would approach them, bow in front of them, ask them if they would like to dance with me, and if they wanted to, I would present them to the public by announcing their names out loud and then dancing with them for a couple of seconds," he says.

The little girl, who was already dressed in a Sleeping Beauty costume, took her dance and immediately afterward "got to the back of the line and came to dance with me once again, five girls later," he adds.

4. On a slightly darker note from that production, June Chandler reports, the Wicked Stepsisters, played in drag by Hal Sweesy and Guy Crawford, threw Jane Fuller's Cinderella in the cellar. After Jane Park's Stepmother hid the key, Shirley McConnell's Fairy Godmother asked the audience, "Who has the key?"

Recalls Chandler, "A little boy answered, 'She has it. Chop off their heads!'‚ÄČ"

3. Even the sibling rivalry in Cinderella doesn't compare to that expressed by a child in that theater's production of The Wizard of Oz.

After Lynda Rohrbacher's Wicked Witch had captured Donna Ieraci's Dorothy, Chandler says, the Wicked Witch asked the crowd, "Wouldn't you be upset if someone had killed your sister?" A little girl's voice came from the dark, "No!"

2. From the land of mishaps in adult theater, director-designer Sean Cawelti tells of a moment in Rogue Artist Ensemble's production of D Is for Dog during which a leg became detached from a life-size puppet.

"The [puppeteer] had to spend the entire scene trying to hold the leg into place so it didn't drag on the floor," Cawelti explains.

1. In a "ghost of the past" moment worthy of Charles Dickens, publicist Lucy Pollak tells of how she was able to get a pair of press tickets for theater columnist Harriette Smith, now in her 90s, to the Fountain Theatre's production of A House Not Meant to Stand. Says Pollak, Smith checked out the set after the show and was surprised to discover, on the mantlepiece behind a scrim, a photograph of her younger self from 60 years earlier. Turns out somebody at Smith's 90th-birthday party had taken the photo from a collection that was being given away by the fete's organizer. The photo made its way to the Odyssey Theatre's prop closet, where the sometime set dresser for both theaters incorporated it into the Fountain's set. After the set was struck, the set dresser made sure the photo was returned to Smith, so that past and present could be reunited.

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