Backstage Stories

By staff November 1, 2006


Brad and Marian Wallace share their favorite tales from Asolo lore.

MARIAN: “After the battle in Henry IV Part One, there was a body cart that came around to pick up all the soldiers who were killed. They loaded the cart with Walter Rhodes on the bottom, and one after one, dead soldiers were piled on top of him. After a few moments, Walter’s voice came wafting up through the pile of bodies: ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly…’

“And the next thing I knew, the whole cart of dead bodies was shaking with laughter.”

BRAD: “This was the first time we did A Flea in Her Ear, which is a French farce by Feydeau, and like all farces, there’s a lot of exposition in the first act when you meet all of the characters—many of them briefly come on stage just to identify themselves. Eb Thomas was doing a hot-tempered Spaniard named Histangua and I was doing Chandebise, the lead. During an early scene Eb and I had together, there’s a moment where Pat Egan is supposed to come on playing a man named Tournel—he just pops his head in for a minute and says something like ‘We have to go,’ to Chandebise, and Eb, as Histangua, asks, ‘Who was that?’ and I proceed to explain about Tournel.

“Well, one night, Tournel didn’t show up. Eb and I started ad-libbing, and that went on for a while. Tournel had to be identified; we really couldn’t go anywhere without the audience knowing who he was. But Pat Egan had forgotten altogether and had gone out to have a cigarette somewhere on the grounds.

“Sharon Spelman and Barbara Redmond were playing our respective wives. They were waiting in the wings to make an entrance, but they couldn’t because Tournel had not yet arrived. So, as Eb and I struggled, Sharon and Barbara thought they would try to help us out. They came on stage together, but didn’t say a word. Eb, thinking this was a chance to resolve the issue, turned to them and said, in his Spanish accent, ‘Have you seen a man named Tournel?’

“Sharon and Barbara answered cheerfully in unison: ‘No.’ And then they turned around and walked off.

“At this point, I just left Eb standing there and went offstage—Marian was stage managing—and I started flipping through the prompt script to find a place where we could pick up. All this time, Eb was still on stage, trying to ad-lib by himself. We eventually skipped Tournel’s entrance and went on with the show.

“The audience knew something bad was going on—I think they thought that was as funny as anything we could’ve done.

—as told to Hannah Wallace

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