Going Up: When an Actor Forgets their Lines

"I had never seen anything like it in all my years in the theater. It was a Sunday matinee. Dad wasn’t there but I was, sitting right there in the audience when he came to the edge of the stage. He stepped right into the footlights and announced to the world that he forgot his lines then went on about the treachery backstage. He argued with the stage manager in front of everybody. It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. In my LIFE! 

He took it all personally, you see. You can’t do that in the theater. You just go on. It’s happened to all of us. When you’re up, you’re up. You don’t know what you’re doing or where you are. You forget your lines. I was taught when that happens you just laugh until you know where you are.

Geraldine wanted us to be very silent when it happened.  All at once she would go up and I’m thinking, 'Oh my god, she went up,’ but she would just sit there. The audience didn’t know the difference, but she was up higher than a kite. We knew, of course. Then she would say something and they would laugh. She got big laughs.

That’s what he should have done but he walked to the edge of the stage and announced it to the world. My God, who cares? Play with your sleeve. Pick your nose. Anything. Just not that."


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