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LJ Idol week 17: the caged bird
beeker
beeker121

It only takes one person to spoil things for everyone. Most people have the basic common sense to get through a day unscathed but then there are the special folks who just don’t get it. These special people are the reason that the Styrofoam coffee cups from McDonald’s say “Caution: contents are hot”. They’re the reason that contraceptive jelly packaging has a warning that the product should not be eaten. They’re also the reason for a lot of the announcements I have to make every time a production moves into the theatre.

Over the years I have refined the list of announcements I make on the first night onstage. Most of them seem really obvious: clean up after yourself in the green room, make sure you stay where you can hear what’s going on onstage, do not play with props that aren’t yours, or play with props in general. Of course some of the announcements are unique to this company, and some are unique to each show. For example, on this show we have several guns including two which fire blanks on stage, so there was a lot of extra weapon safety stuff to talk about. 

But most of it is common sense, even if it is new information. Yet on every show someone manages to do something during tech which leaves me shaking my head, wondering if anyone ever actually listens to the things I say. What happened this past weekend might be the most perfect example of this situation I’ve ever seen.

We were halfway through the day on Saturday, and had just stopped for dinner break. I saw the actor who is playing the Sheriff walk onstage to talk to the Production Assistant. I noticed he was holding his hands in front of him oddly, but I was updating some paperwork so I wasn’t paying very close attention. Then I clearly heard the PA say, “Why would you DO that?” and I took a closer look at the stage. Our Sheriff was standing there with his hands handcuffed together in front of him.

The handcuffs had hung on his belt as costume dressing; in the action of the play they were never used.  They existed only to make him look more Sheriffy. Apparently he had gotten bored, and decided to play with his props. And he had handcuffed himself fully before he realized the cuffs were not quick release.

The PA clicked her headset on to talk to me, and explained what had happened. “Why?” I asked. She just shook her head. Then she asked whether I still had the handcuff key that had been given to stage management at the beginning of rehearsals. I originally had a key because there is a pair of handcuffs in the show that are part of the action. But we had converted those to elastic (hidden by the pink fuzzy covering, they’re supposed to be a sex toy) so we didn’t have to worry about keys or anyone possibly getting stuck. And I had therefore returned said key. Even if I still had it, there was no guarantee it would fit these cuffs.

Now it was dinner break, and several of us were stuck trying to figure out what to do next, instead of being able to leave. The actor was still in costume, and really couldn’t leave the building dressed as a sheriff and handcuffed. Calls were placed to the props and costume departments to see if anyone had a key, but no one had checked their messages yet. At this point we were wondering if the planned run through could still happen that evening, since he needed his hands free to do his blocking. Hell, we wondered if he could drive himself home while handcuffed. 

Now for the multiple choice quiz. What do you think we did?

A. Decided that the instantaneous karma retribution for being a dumbass should not be undone, and left him like that.

B. Figured the props master did have a key and would be there for the evening session of rehearsal, so told him to hang tight and not get any dinner on his costume.

C. Sent the technical director to cut the chain holding the cuffs together so at least the actor could move freely, even if he was left wearing pretty silver bracelets.

D. Cut off his hand so the cuffs would slide right off.

E. Took turns trying to pick the lock until someone got it right.

The correct answer is C. I wasn’t backstage at the time but apparently the sight of the tech director walking into the men’s dressing room with a portable band saw and a slightly maniacal grin on his face was disturbing; even more so when the saw started up moments later.

People have been surprised that no one in the theatre happened to have a handcuff key on them, or could pick the handcuff locks. Once we hit the beginning of the break most folks scattered so it’s entirely possible that someone with the correct knowledge or key had walked out without knowing we needed them.  Or didn't want to admit to their coworkers that they carried a handcuff key or could pick the lock on a pair of cuffs.

It turned out that someone had reached the props master and keys were on their way, but that information hadn’t gotten all the way back to me before I made the call to cut him out. If it had, I would not have felt bad leaving him to his fate for 30 minutes while I went out to dinner. But as it was, it seemed rude and cruel (if deserved) to leave him sitting in the dressing room handcuffed while the rest of us went about our break. Many people have said they would have left him like that; apparently I’m too soft-hearted.

However, I do have a new announcement to add to my list for the first day onstage. Future casts will sit in the house wondering why I am bothering to make a point of something that is so completely obvious. “Do not lock anything if you do not have the key to unlock it.” 

Also, I need to learn how to pick the lock on handcuffs.  Who knew it could be such a vital skill?

***This is my entry of LJ Idol.  This week's topic is "the caged bird" and when this happened on Saturday it seemed like the universe was handing me my topic.  Or, the actor is just an idiot.  I'll post a link to the poll later this week.  Thanks for reading!***



I suspect I would have gotten into trouble for calling him a dumbass and letting him simply sit with them on until a key could be found. But I'm not very nice.

I like seeing this bit of your life. :)

I know he was called an idiot to his face, and certainly a dumbass and worse when he was out of hearing.

Thanks. Tech always has something strange happen but this was particularly memorable.

Bwahahahahahaha. Haha. Ha. Dude.

What's sad is that I don't find this story slightly unbelievable at all, although it does explain a cryptic FB status Beth posted the other day.

I totally thought you would have left him to stew over dinner, I'm surprised you cut them before the break. I guess if he was AEA he could have made a big deal about it but I suspect he would have been ashamed to do that - but maybe he's not even that bright. Who knew you were such a softie? :)

Heh. I believe several of us at the theatre posted info about this, it was just too good not to share.

As more and more people are saying I should have let him sit I'm kind of wishing I had done that. He's not AEA so that wasn't an issue. Mostly it was the fact that I would have felt guilty just leaving for dinner with him handcuffed. Though the TD who cut the chain also was the one person who knew for certain a key was on its way, so had he spoken up this would have been different. I think he just wanted to use the portaband.

I'm almost certain Marty has a handcuff key on his person. So I assume he'd already left.

Marty was out the door really quickly, I'll have to check and see if he has a key this evening. The spare keys now also live with me until the end of the run.

What a great story! I am still giggling!

A few days later I can appreciate the humor too.

This is a riot... I can't believe he did that.

Of all the things to play with backstage I would think handcuffs wouldn't be high on anyone's list. But I was wrong. Thanks for reading.

Hehehe- that's too funny!

It really is. I may have to sit down with this actor soon, apparently he's also been telling everyone backstage that he's security which could be an issue when we get an audience this week.

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Thanks, and yeah.

I keep thinking that someone needs to make a documentary out of being behind the scenes at a show. Of course, there are things that I say in the moment that I'm not sure I want saved for posterity.

hahahha oooh I have always wondered if anything like that ever happened. Thank you for sharing it.

Sadly, stuff like that happens more often than you might think. This cast in general is particularly special - they've also locked a door in the dressing room with important things behind it when no one had a key.

Today, I had an actor take a shower in the middle of rehearsal, and someone else in the cast ask how to work a coffee grinder. I truly try to believe the best about everyone, but whoosh some days it's hard.

This is hilarious, and I kind of wouldn't have minded option D, if only for the amusement factor.

I loved this story!

Option D was discussed quite seriously, just not within the actor's hearing.

It's amazing the things people do unthinkingly sometimes.

Oh my chicken pie...this is hilarious! :)

I am officially stealing "oh my chicken pie" from you, just so you know. I'm glad to share the funny, I wish I felt okay about putting the actor's name in this, because this specific man should be identified as being this specifically stupid.

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Thanks! Sometimes my job is just bizarre, I'm glad I have people to share it with.

My background in theater makes me just love these kind of stories. My background in props and tech makes me especially love stories about dumbass actors. Well done, I had a smile on my face the whole time.

I'm glad I could make you smile. The same actor also managed to completely lose two props yesterday, I'm sure they'll turn up eventually but still.

When I was a very small child, my parents left me and my little brother with a very horrible babysitter. We asked her to play cops and robbers, got her to sit in a chair in the basement, cuffed her to the chair, and went upstairs. It was our proudest moment.

I love hearing about the crazy stuff that happens at other people's jobs! Hilarious!

Wow. I'm amazed a babysitter fell for that, I believe don't let the children tie you up was actually part of the training class I took. Awesome.

Crazy stuff is one thing my job is never in short supply of. Thanks.

I love your theater stories.

Thanks. I try not to go to that well too often, but every once in a while the prompt is just too perfect.