When I was just a kid and it came time to watch cartoons, it was all about Saturday mornings. I loved to have a bowl of cereal and turn on the television, all three channels, and immediately would flip to Looney Tunes.
For those of you too young to remember, these were all the Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and others. I grew up on these and loved them, and one of my all-time favorites was always when Wile. E. Coyote would chase the Road Runner. I just couldn’t get enough of them, but I never thought there would come a day I would feel as if I were actually living out one of those moments.
Well, beyond my wildest dreams it indeed came to pass, and I have to say, it wasn’t quite like I imagined it would be.
I have been in a production for the stage — The Birds, which began close to six months ago with the first read through. I was working with two different casts for two different theaters, Walhalla Civic Center and Abbeville Opera House, and looking back at that not so dramatic beginning, I never thought closing night would be so eventful.
Sixteen weeks I rehearsed and performed this show and throughout the entire production I was constantly worried I would injure one of my female co-stars. Turns out, I should have been worried about me.
I have been doing the acting thing awhile, but this was one show where I was challenged because of three things, and one of these is extremely important. First, it was the first stage kiss ever — I know, can you believe it? Second, I had my own topless scene — yes, I had to go onstage with no shirt on and it was extremely intimidating that first night so many weeks ago.
Finally, and most importantly, my character, whose name was Nat, was absolutely insane and I had never had to go so over the top before, and that is what I am writing about.
Act I, scene 9: A birthday party for my character gets out of hand when Nat, who has been locked in isolation with his two female counterparts for an extended period of time and is already unhinged, loses it because he can’t take it anymore.
To him, one more night, a single day more of seclusion with his not so balanced roommates is more than he can take. His reaction was to lose his mind and rip ALL of the boards from the windows to escape.
In 16 weeks I did this scene more times than I can count, but it was always difficult because of how crazy he really became. I needed all of those weeks because it took me that long to figure out how to do it. Enter the final show and the window elevated at the top of a set of steps, including railings, about four or so feet up.
The last show is always the best in live theater, to my experience, because the lines are all down dead, the blocking — where to go and walk and sit — is committed to memory, and everyone plays a little fast and loose with one another on stage.
Striking the set — tearing it all down — was scheduled for following the last show and it was decided I could REALLY tear the set apart in this scene. I decided I would give everyone what they paid for, including the cast and all the support personnel.
Not only were the windows done for, that banister on the steps was marked for death as well. The scene begins, I lose it, or rather Nat does, and it is complete mayhem as no one has any idea what I am going to do, even me. Except for the banister, I was going to destroy it.
Boards are flying, and as I had planned, I planted my right foot, threw my hip against the railing and pushed. That was supposed to be where it ended, but no. Turns out the weeks of my constantly ripping the place apart had done more damage than I knew and there was absolutely nothing holding that railing down — nothing.
Now, who of you reading this knows what comes next? That’s right, a Wile E. Coyote moment.
As I was hanging over the ledge, suspended really, everything came to a standstill. Time didn’t move one nanosecond, not a single tick of the clock, as I stared down at the stage, then across the shocked faces of the audience, even the look of horror on my costars’ faces, and I wished for that brief moment I had one of those signs Wile E. had used — you know, YIKES!
More than that, a barrage of questions went racing through my mind: So is this how it’s going to end? God, I hate to be embarrassed, this is going to be awful, isn’t it? How far do you think you’re going to fall? How bad is this going to hurt? Are you just going to talk to yourself or are you going to try and not die here? Who’s that on the third row? Do I know them? Did I leave the oven on? Has anyone ever actually died while acting onstage?
During this inner dialogue, I somehow managed to decide how I was going to die, grab the railing, flipped it over me and across stage, hit the stage some 10-plus feet away, rolled to my feet and just let it roll on. I didn’t die, which was a blessing, but more importantly, I never once broke character.
The best part of it, paying guests thought I had been rehearsing it for weeks and had performed this particular death defying stunt repeatedly. Maybe I’m in the wrong business and should have been falling from buildings all of these years.
D. C. Moody is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.