The crew here at Clay works hard to avoid problems during the show, but every now and then something goes wrong onstage and it is out of our control. It is up to Matt, alone onstage, to handle. Fortunately, not only does Matt enjoy the surprise and the challenge, but he is really good at turning a problematic situation into a charming and humorous moment that makes that particular performance unique.
A few nights ago was one of those nights. The stage here is raked, meaning the top of the stage is higher than the bottom. In addition, the chair that is used in the show has a slick bottom; these two things combined means that if Matt bumps the chair it tends to slide a bit downstage.
The other night during the section we call "Sir John Bells" Matt nudged the chair a bit while transitioning from Clifford (seated) to Sir John (standing). Of course there was that instantaneous tension in the room as the audience waited to see how to react. If Matt tensed up the audience may have been uncomfortable, understanding that it was a mistake. Had he ignored it they would probably have forgotten it in a few moments. But instead he took it head on. "Damn boy, you light as f**k!" Sir John exclaimed. He then moved the chair back to its place muttering "sorry 'bout, let me move you back."
My other favorite example of this was from opening night. Matt wears an earring in his left ear. Opening night, as he was transitioning between Sir John and Clifford as Clifford learns how to beat box, his earring loudly fell to the ground as he pulled on his hood. Without missing a beat Sir John looked down at the earring and back to Clifford and said "pick that s**t up," to which Clifford apologized and said "I just got it pierced" as he picked it up. This got a huge laugh, part of which was coming from backstage. In fact it got such a huge laugh that it suspiciously happened again, although Matt steadfastly maintains that it was an accident both times.
Undoubtedly when I hear something go wrong onstage I will always have that initial shot of dread mixed with a little bit of panic, knowing I can't do anything about it. But with Matt, that panic quickly subsides as I excitedly wait to hear how he will humorously incorporate it into the show.
Zoë Chapin is the Assistant Stage Manager for Clay.