Stage Right/Stage Wrong: Erin S. Baal Sings, Becomes Blinded
As anyone in the theater universe can tell you, there are times when everything on stage goes just perfectly: The audience is thrilled and a unique and memorable magic is created.
And then there are the times when the line gets dropped, the prop falls over or the actor suffers a Jennifer Lawrence-at-the-Oscars-level stumble.
Most actors, directors and designers have the grace and style to appreciate and/or survive both types of moments, but it’s the really confident ones who are willing to relive and share them with us. We caught up with Erin S. Baal, seen most recently in she’ll also be starring this fall in Strollers Theatre’s production of Paula Vogel’s tragicomedy The Baltimore Waltz.
STAGE RIGHT: Strollers fans will probably remember Baal’s turn as Titania in last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Baal loved a lot of things about that show, but the pinnacle came at the very end, right before Puck’s famous “If we spirits have offended” speech. Director Greg Harris called for the cast to sing a scripted chorale to music from the Benjamin Britten opera based on the play. Baal began singing, and was slowly joined by Puck, Oberon and the rest of the cast. The result was stunning, musically and dramatically.
“It’s that moment at the end of the play where the ensemble cast was all together on stage,” recalls Baal. “Every night it would give me goosebumps. It worked for the play, it worked for me personally and it worked for the audience. I felt like the song made you hear Puck’s speech in a different way.”
STAGE WRONG: Baal was also working the Bard when she had her memorable oops moment—or in this case, moments. She was literally ramping up for her “Out, damned spot!” speech as Lady Macbeth in Strollers’ 2002 production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The stage directions called for her to work her way down a ramp as she delivered her lines, but they also put her under an air vent that blew one of her contact lenses out of her eye. Luckily, the stage directions also called for her to fall to the ground… where she was able to locate and recover her contact without breaking character.
Baal wanted to be a team player, so she didn’t ask the director to change her path, a decision that meant she went through the same lost-contact two-step in each of the show’s sixteen performances. “I only lost a few, so my retrieval rate was pretty good,” she says, chuckling.
And in a way, she says, being partially blind was actually a blessing.
“My character has gone crazy, so in a way it helps you,” says Baal. “In this case, it didn’t hurt to be a little off center. It was one of those funny things I didn’t view as a tragedy.”
Given that her character was lamenting framing King Duncan’s servants for her husband’s bloody murder of the king, Baal clearly had tragedy enough to manage.