• Alan W. Corson of Plymouth Meeting in Pennsylvania was once told by a shocked fellow Quaker that one of the followers of their religion had gone to the theater, adding, “I have never been within the doors of a playhouse.” Mr. Corson replied, “Neither have I; but, I doubt not, many better have.”
• At Bootham School, a school for Quakers, the students put on a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. One of the witches fell off the stage, but fortunately the witch was caught and then returned to the stage, where the witch was immediately asked, “Where hast thou been, sister?”
• In the early 1980s, a gay teenager named Aaron Fricke once showed up for a high-school play dress rehearsal wearing fishnet stockings, an Afro wig, a corset, high heels, and a black cape, even though he was playing the role of a straight cabdriver. His outfit bothered no one — including his drama teacher.
• Peter Ustinov was habitually late for rehearsals. By accident, he once arrived 10 minutes early for a rehearsal. Sir Peter immediately apologized to the director, Denis Carey, “I’m sorry, Denis. Utterly unforgivable. I assure you such a careless mistake will never happen again.” Mr. Carey said later, “It didn’t.”
• At Michigan State University, a rehearsal of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues took place in a room next to a history conference. Participants in the conference heard an actress shouting her lines: “C*NT! C*NT! SAY IT! SAY IT!”
• Humorist Robert Benchley, who was also a theater critic, once heard that no horses had ever been in Venice, which is renowned for its canals. Therefore, when he went on a trip to Europe, including a stop in Venice, he carried a suitcase of horse droppings. Very early in the morning, he went to the Piazza of St. Mark and placed the horse droppings at intervals chosen to be extremely natural. According to Mr. Benchley’s friend, Charles MacArthur, “The Venetians consider the horse droppings the only miracle of the 20th century.”
• Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was once asked why he had not opposed the building of theaters in Israel. After all, according to the Talmud, “He who frequents circuses and theaters has no share in the world to come.” Rabbi Kook replied, “There is another passage in the Talmud that says that in the world to come, all the theaters will be converted into synagogues. The more theaters now, the more synagogues then.”
• Satirist Stan Freberg had major difficulties with producer David Merrick while trying to turn his record album Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America into a Broadway musical. In the end, it never did make it to Broadway. One of the works of art in Mr. Freberg’s house is a bird cage in which sits a papier-mâché bird (created by Kim Stussy) bearing a marked resemblance to Mr. Merrick. Underneath the bird is not a newspaper, but a photograph of Mr. Merrick.
• A young actor grew tired of having just one line to speak in Shakespeare’s Macbeth — he played the messenger who tells Macbeth, “My Lord, the queen is dead,” and then walks offstage. Therefore, he asked his boss, Sir Donald Wolfit, for a bigger part. However, Sir Donald declined to give him a better part, so the actor decided to get revenge. At the next performance of Macbeth, he walked on stage and said, “My Lord, the queen is much better and is even now at dinner.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Buy