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How Bad It Can Go: The Strange Pleasures Of Live Theater Gone Wrong

Posted July 24th, 2012

Sarah Jordan has written extensively for national and regional magazines and newspapers. She is also the author of four books and a regular contributor to the Festival Blog.

Left to right: Geoff Sobelle, Quinn Bauriedel and Trey Lyford in machines x7

Only five minutes from the end of the show. Only five minutes. That’s what Pig Iron Theatre’s Quinn Bauriedel remembers thinking about his 2009 show machines machines machines machines machines machines machines when he found himself backstage wearing a black plastic bag covered in cereal and unable to bring his Rube Goldberg-ian masterpiece across the finish line. Moments earlier Bauriedel had been shot into “outer space” on a conveyor belt on a plank of wood. Fellow performer Geoff Sobelle had kicked the board to shoot him through a cat door leading offstage, but things hadn’t gone right with the stunt and Bauriedel had cracked his head on a two-by-four as he went through. (Someone said later it looked like a puppet head thrown against a wall.)

With Sobelle on stage and the injured actor still needing to run a light cue, Bauriedel knew his tingling head and diminishing sensation in his fingers and toes wasn’t good. He remembers wondering if he would be paralyzed. “It had been one of the great performing moments of my life, and I was five minutes away from the end,” he recalls. “But I couldn’t continue. What’s funny is that Geoff made an announcement that one of the actors was injured and we had to wrap it up, but the audience thought it was just the next level of the show with an actor hurting himself . . .five minutes later the audience is still waiting for something to happen.” The next thing was the EMTs carting Bauriedel off to the hospital.

“We had trained the audience to believe anything was possible,” says the actor.

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