What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

True Beauty for the Birds (Or Why Professional Actors Giggle) April 18, 2016

Life upon the wicked stage can sometimes be hilarious. I know that’s not how the song goes, and I probably shouldn’t find such extreme joy in things going wrong onstage. But I’m a terrible person, so I do.

Not when people get hurt or something costs the theatre thousands of dollars in damage. That’s not funny. But it’s the little things that bring me joy. Like fake birds playing dead onstage.

Right now I’m doing a show that has a big showgirl-style number with all of us in “bride” costumes. I have giant flower baskets on my hips, there’s a headdress that’s more than two feet tall on one of the girls, and one of the ladies has birds.

She has a birdcage on her head with two little (fake) white birds in it, and two white birds on each wrist.

We all tipped on at the beginning of the number, and everything was going fine, until the first time Bird Girl had to move her arms… and her birds got stuck together. All of us were posing prettily, and she had gotten handcuffed by birds. Of course, I had been trying desperately not to giggle already. To free herself, the Bird Girl ripped her wrists apart, tore the birds off of one of her gloves. But the birds didn’t fall to the ground. No, no. They got caught on the feathers hanging from her glove. And they stayed there, upside down, clinging on by their dead little feet while Bird Girl danced.

We got to a section where we were posing again, and in that stillness, the dead birds gave up on life and fell to the ground with a dull thunk. That’s when I started giggling in earnest, because there were just two bright white birds lying on the stage.

On her next move, Bird Girl managed to bend down and grab the dead birds, which was impressive considering the size of the headdress.

At this point, most of the people onstage had noticed the bird drama, which only made it better. Bird Girl danced with her fallen kin in her hand until the opportunity presented itself, and she threw the birds, sending them on one final flight into the wings.

That was about when singing real notes became impossible. One of the ladies who wasn’t in that number found the dead (still fake) birds in the wing and had no idea where in the show they could have come from. And that, my friends, is the true beauty of live theatre.


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