I am currently playing Paul in a very small theater’s production of Company. I landed this role because another actor backed out before music rehearsals began (and I swear that my threats and harassment had nothing to do with his decision). This allowed me the opportunity to be a part of my favorite number from the musical, Getting Married Today. This experience also allowed me the opportunity to embarrass myself in front of a Sunday matinée audience that mostly consisted of elderly patrons.
The tiny theater’s auditorium is so small that actors are required to maintain absolute silence during a performance when standing in the narrow wings on either side of the stage. It was because of this rule that my stage-wife, standing towards the back of the narrow passage awaiting her cue to enter, silently made a gesture at her crotch (waving her index finger up and down) before pointing to mine. I assumed she was referring to my bulge as it is not uncommon for us to banter about body parts, Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth perfume, or drunk midget wrestling. With just enough time before my cue to enter, I returned the favor by framing my crotch in a few of my own lewd gestures.
Our scene was executed as rehearsed countless times before. During this scene, my soon-to-be wife informs me that she doesn’t love me enough to marry me. After I become distraught by the news, I exit upstage right, and my moment in the spotlight is over.
Once out of the Sunday matinée audience’s view, I felt so confident. ‘Damn, Cary,’ I thought to myself, ‘you totally rocked that scene.’ I gave myself a high-five and started toward the dressing room. For some reason, I was bothered by the sudden, unexplained impulse to check my fly. I non-nonchalantly drifted my pinky finger over the zipper-area of my dress pants expecting to feel the metallic teeth of my zipper graze against my fingernail; to my horror, however, my finger disappeared into my pants through the open slit at my crotch.
I snatched my finger free, shot a glance down at my crotch, and visually confirmed the terrible realization that my fly was open. As I felt the confidence drain out of my body (probably through my open fly), I recalled the recent memory of my stage-wife wagging her finger up and down her crotch and then pointing to mine. Son of a bitch. I was jolted by the fact that my zipper was down throughout the entire scene, the only scene in the two act musical in which I am somewhat featured, and my stage-wife tried to warn me (albeit, very poorly – I mean, who signals that someones fly is open by wagging their finger up and down in front of their crotch?).
This wouldn’t have upset so much if my fly had simply been unzipped. No. Instead, it was spread open as if frozen in a wide, mischievous, mocking smile.
In a flash, my mind suddenly recalled every moment my blocking placed me and my exposed crotch near the edge of the stage. A few times, I faced full front, three miniscule feet away from row upon row of senior citizens, their folded walkers leaning against the stage. Did they eagerly await for my fly to break into song? Did they assume this violation was a character choice? Did they wonder the severity of mental handicap I suffered because I wandered around the stage before an audience without first checking to see if my zipper is up? Yeah. Probably that one.
Under the blue glow of the backstage light, I mouthed an F-bomb, but as upset as I was at the moment, it wouldn’t surprise me if I said it aloud. At least, the latter possibility would explain why I drew the attention of the drummer and bass player in the show’s band, hidden nearby behind the upstage, NYC skyline facade.
Feeling ashamed and defeated, I stared into the drummer’s eyes wearing a smirk as I grabbed ahold of the zipper’s pull tab and pulled it up to once again seal the sacred doorway to my private region. And it was loud. Too fucking loud. The band reacted to the amplified zipping sound by stifling their laughter until their upheaval oddly resembled muffled sobs. I hung my head in shame as I imagined the zipping sound echoing through the small auditorium.
So if you ever decide to perform before an audience, do yourself a favor. Prior to stepping on stage, there are two things you must do as an actor: check your props and check your fly.
Though I struggled, I did find a bright side to this situation; at least this incident provided me the opportunity to teach my stage-wife the international sign for “Your fly is open.”
by Cary Vaughn (2014)