Having performed in more than eighty plays to date – I’ve been so happy to have had many, many curtain calls and some of them have been more memorable than others … like this one. The play was a sweet one that I enjoyed doing very much, but this essay is not about the play, but the player.
It was decided by the director and set designer to “re do” the proscenium for this play from straight across … as we have had for the twenty+ years prior to this play. So, now it was protruding out from the center as an arrow, with its squared -off point reaching up to the first row.
The director absolutely told me not to forget that when the lights go out at the end of the act and I’m getting up to leave the stage … “Do NOT cross SL!!!” Instead, I should stand up and make a 180 degree turn from front to back, and cross USC (I was seated DSC in an imaginary car with a spotlight on me)… he repeated emphatically … “Do NOT stand and cross SL, but stand up and immediately face USC and walk straight out!”
Well, opening night came and the play went very well, even with my usual opening night dreads. Now, in the old days in the life of this theatre, the paint was sometimes still wet when we opened a show and sometimes we didn’t have an opportunity to actually work with the completed stage.
This stage stands approximately five feet tall and the floor beneath it where the audience sits is concrete. Here is what happened:
End of play … lights went completely out … I was rendered blind and off balance, with no way of knowing which way was left and which way was back – and so I walked to the left and, in the pitch blackness, walked right off the stage into the audience. As if in a dream … in slow motion, I was free falling down, down, down … first my ankle hit the cement floor, then my knee, then my hip, then my elbow, then my head and all this, of course in a split second. I did hear my fellow actor yell out, “JUDY!” and immediately I scrambled up back onto the five foot tall stage and proceeded to take my beautiful bows as rehearsed.
Well, after the show the pain began! I was able to limp out of the theatre to my car and drove home, but the next morning! OMG! I crawled out of bed and, I still don’t know how I did it, I dragged myself to the hospital emergency room where X-rays were taken of all the affected “parts” and discovered gratefully and miraculously that there was nothing broken. They wrapped up my leg tightly because of the sprain of my right ankle and, since this was after all little theatre with no understudies, I had four weeks of performances to yet endure while suffering with a tied up leg, a black & blue hip, knee and forehead from the fall that had to be covered up with makeup.
WHAT A TROUPER!!