Ask any music or drama teacher, and they’ll tell you that putting on a student performance is a huge undertaking. It’s no wonder school performances can range anywhere from a glorious triumph to a colossal failure. Truth be told, most performances usually fall somewhere in between, but sometimes you get a funny story out of the experience. Here are some of our favorite school performance mishaps. (Don’t worry. We’ve kept the storytellers anonymous to protect the innocent!)
1. Missing Pup
During a performance of The Wizard of Oz, Toto (a small stuffed dog) was supposed to appear on stage after a scene change. Dorothy had to cry and look for Toto for a good two minutes (instead of the 20 seconds it should have taken) on an empty stage. Suddenly we heard an “Arf, arf!” and Toto came sliding out across the stage into Dorothy’s lap. It was pretty obvious the crew forgot to put Toto in his place, but at least the audience got a good laugh.
2. Guys, This Is a Drama
During the tragic scene in Les Miserables in which Fantine dies in Jean Valjean’s arms, the lead actress was suddenly struck with a case of giggles, which was apparently contagious. The lead actor also started cracking up, and they both struggled through the scene as they tried to compose themselves.
3. Going Viral (in a Bad Way)
When I was student teaching, norovirus hit our school during the annual holiday concert. During the performance’s finale, 13 (yes, 13!) students projectile vomited on stage. As the students left the stage and headed to their rooms for pickup, even more kids started throwing up. We spent the next two weeks of school at less than 50 percent attendance, and the entire school had to be decontaminated by a professional company.
4. Riser Problems
Not having the right risers can lead to some serious performance mishaps, as this funny video from our friends at Wenger points out.
5. Heavy Metal
Our middle school talent show featured a young band doing their moody greatest to sing a Pearl Jam ballad when the keyboard player’s instrument suddenly collapsed in a heap on the floor. Dead silence filled the room as the four boys stared perplexedly at the keyboard player as if to say, “What the heck, dude?!”
6. Dramatic Exit
During our summer production of Beauty and the Beast, LeFou was making his dramatic exit and ran straight into a brick wall, giving himself a concussion! Needless to say, we had to do the rest of the show without him.
One of my normally very outgoing students volunteered for a solo in our choir performance. She performed perfectly at the rehearsal, but on the night of the performance, she stepped forward into the spotlight for her solo and froze like a deer in the headlights. Only after her dad yelled out, “You’ve got this baby!” and the audience started cheering did she snap out of it and do a stellar job.
8. Missed Entrance
I’ve been directing children’s plays for over twenty years, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to scramble frantically backstage for a student who’s missed their entrance. Luckily, I have to say that most of the time the actors on stage do a exceptional job ad-libbing until we find the MIA actor.
9. Prop Failure
During our production of Into the Woods, the actor playing Jack was walking through the woods with his (papier-mâché) cow, Milky White. Right in the middle of the scene, Milky White’s leg went flying off into the audience! The actor’s face was priceless as the audience roared!
10. Leading Lady Envy
During one of our high school theater performances, our lead actress had a sudden case of stage fright and was taking a beat backstage, trying to pull herself together. Before she had a chance to regain her confidence, the drama teacher took her place onstage and continued in the role, much to the horror of the leading man and the other teen actors.
Our second graders were performing Little Red Riding Hood as part of our fairy tales performance when the student playing the Big Bad Wolf suddenly appeared, a little overzealously, on the scene. He crashed into one of the cardboard trees in the forest, which tipped over and sent the whole line of scenery toppling over like dominoes.
12. Wanna Bet?
The chorus was suspiciously light during the eighth grade play’s finale. When the director investigated after the fact, he found out that a bunch of students got caught up in a game of poker backstage and missed their cue!
13. Black Out
Over the years as our school’s choir director, I’ve seen more kids than I care to remember pass out during performances, even though I’ve coached them over and over not to lock their knees! Luckily, none of my students have been hurt—only their pride has!
14. Is This Thing On?
During our fall play performance last year, one of our actors didn’t realize his microphone was still on when he went backstage. The audience was treated to the kid’s complaints about his costar’s “terrible” singing voice.
15. Conductor Flop
One of my first years as a choir teacher, we put on a holiday concert. The kids were doing so exceptional and I was so caught up in the music that I took a couple of steps too far backward on the stage and fell flat into the orchestra pit. Thankfully there were a bunch of boxes down there that broke my fall so I wasn’t hurt, but boy was I embarrassed!
16. Prop Problems
One season our theater group put on a murder mystery. During a critical scene right after the murder was committed, one of the actors was supposed to rush to a side table and call the police. Trouble was, the crew forgot to put out the prop telephone. Thinking quickly, the actor looked around frantically, picked up a hairbrush, and made the call.
17. Wardrobe Malfunction
Sometimes in the backstage flurry of scene changes, kids accidentally grab costume pieces that aren’t theirs. This happened during our production of The Jungle Book, when one of the ensemble players grabbed the wrong lion suit and left the lead lion with a suit two sizes too small. It wasn’t difficult to find the culprit on stage—he was swimming in the too-big costume!
After months of preparation, opening night was finally here. The house was packed, and everything was going perfectly on cue until the fire alarm went off in the middle of the show. Everyone—cast, crew, and audience—had to evacuate the building until we got the okay from the fire department. It took so long that we sent everyone home and rescheduled the performance for the following weekend.
19. Aerial Disaster
During an overly ambitious production of Grease at our high school, we had an epic fail with our suspension system when Teen Angel came flying in and crashed into the backdrop. Talk about a beauty school dropout!
20. Temporary Amnesia
I can’t believe how resilient some of my drama students are on stage when their scene partner forgets their lines. They can be so creative (and hilarious!) when they come up with leading questions to help their partner remember their lines.
21. Curtain Call
One of our rookie crew members pulled the curtain during the final song one verse too early, and it fell right on top of the singer’s head, knocking her down. Undaunted, she crawled out from underneath the curtain and finished the song without skipping a beat.
Thanks to our friends at Wenger for sponsoring this post. Wenger offers products that can save you time, enhance your rehearsals, and contribute to the success of every performance. Plus, until November 30 you can save 20% on their choral risers and acoustical shells.