Editor’s Note: “Stage Write/Stage Wrong” is a continuing series by Madison Magazine theater reviewer Aaron R. Conklin about those occasions when live performances don’t go entirely according to the stage directions. Most actors, directors and designers have the grace and style to appreciate and/or survive dropped lines, stumbles and misbehaving props, but it's the confident ones who are willing to relive and share those experiences with us.
It's kinda fun to be the dim Adonis, a fact American Players Theatre’s Danny Martinez is discovering as he plays Christian, the dashing soldier who borrows Cyrano De Bergerac’s silver tongue to win the heart of Roxane. This is Martinez’s third season in Spring Green. In addition to “Cyrano de Bergerac,” he’s currently playing Philostrate in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In August, he’ll play Tony in “A View From A Bridge.”
Martinez’s “oh yeah” moment actually started out as a near catastrophe. As part of the cast of Jackalope Theater’s 2012 production of “Long Way Go Down” in Chicago, Martinez’s character was supposed to electrify the play’s climactic scene by shattering a glass snow globe against a wall.
The problem? Martinez isn’t exactly Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. “I’m not athletic, and I don’t have the best ball handling skills,” Martinez admits.
Rehearsals were disastrous. Not only were his throws often off-target, but in one instance, the globe slipped as he was throwing it and ended up hitting the director, who, in the least surprising move ever, suggested the globe-smash be cut from the scene.
Martinez fought to keep it in (he won) and the cast made it to the first show without further incident. On opening night, the throw just came together: Glass hit wall with a satisfying spray of shimmering shards,
“It literally looked like a CGI effect,” Martinez marvels. “It went perfectly every time. Even with all the odds stacked against me, the idea that I’d develop that muscle memory—just, wow.”
Martinez’s more athletic brother probably summed it up best when Danny told him about throwing the globe. “I’m surprised you didn’t kill someone,” his sibling said.
In addition to his dramatic work, Martinez also spent time as a member of the Kitchenettes, a Chicago-based comedy improv troupe, a group that gained some national fame from its series of YouTube videos—which now can be found on funnyordie.com.
Martinez was the loud and verbose guy in the troupe which made it slightly problematic when he contracted a brutal case of laryngitis. Rather than sit out the show, Martinez thought he’d saddle up and soldier through it.
“I walk on and try to speak and it sounds like tinfoil crackling,” he recalls. “It was the worst possible situation. You’re trying to speak and people in the third row are squinting at you as they strain to hear what you’re saying.”
This was improv, after all, so Martinez simply pivoted. “I thought, this is a perfect setup for a mime.” (Editor’s Note: There is never a perfect setup for a mime.)
“I wasn’t the best at acting without speaking, but I thought I’d give it a go. I took a huge jump up into the air and came down in a crouch. The back of my pants burst open. It sounded like the entire fabric of the universe had just split.”
While Martinez turned white with shock and embarrassment and his costars tried not to lose it onstage, audience members fell out of their chairs laughing as the lights went out.
While he lost his favorite pair of pants, he also gained important wisdom.
“This was obviously the universe telling me to learn when it’s time to take a break,” he says.
Aaron R. Conklin writes his award-winning theater coverage for madisonmagazine.com.