5 Unlucky Stories With the Cast of Lucky Me

From stage catastrophes to housing evictions, the NJ Rep company members dish on the days when luck was not on their side.

Lucky Me, a new romantic comedy by Robert Caisley, is now enjoying its world premiere with the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, New Jersey. Directed by SuzAnne Barabas, the brand new play follows a woman named Sara Fine, who's been experiencing a few decades of unusually bad luck. Continuing along this theme of misfortune, TheaterMania decided to hear from the playwright and his cast members about their own tiffs with lady luck. Satisfy your craving for schadenfreude and read their unluckiest reminiscences below.

Robert Caisley
Robert Caisley (Playwright)

One of many unlucky moments in theatrical history, for me.

I was directing a production of Much Ado About Nothing a few years back. The day before we opened, the actor playing Dogberry fell off his scooter and broke his ankle. Someone had to go on for him — and the rub was, the role required the actor to shave their head to fit the costume design. A intrepid and talented actor agreed to 1) learn the part overnight and go on the following day, and 2) shave their head – didn’t even blink an eye. I was so impressed with this actor’s dedication, that at the opening night party, I arrived with my own head shaved – my personal statement of solidarity for this actor’s conviction. The cast was fittingly impressed with my gesture.

The next day, I hopped on a plane to fly to Phoenix, Arizona to start rehearsals for my next project. It was August. In Arizona. Temps around the 120s every day. Our first day off I idiotically agreed to join a friend for a day’s hiking in Sedona. I idiotically didn’t wear a hat. In that kind of heat, the crummy SPF sunscreen evaporated faster than Icarus’ wings about 20 seconds after I thought I’d taken precautions by slathering it on inch thick.

The next morning I woke up and trotted to the bathroom to discover my head was a different shape than normal. Looking in the mirror first thing is always a horrifying experience, but on this particularly day I looked more "missing linky" than usual. Feeling oddly disoriented, and with a raised, fluid-filled blister covering the entire surface of my head, I got ready for rehearsal. As I climbed into the rental car to head to the theatre, I accidentally bumped my head on the door frame. All afternoon, while leaning over to discuss the changes I wanted to make in the script, my director kept complaining that my head was "leaking" on his script. And over the ensuing weeks, as my hair follicle began to regrow … and began, in turn, to lift that now dried-out blistery mantle so that it hovered about a ¼ of an inch above my wrinkled head, I resembled something not entirely of this earth. To this day, I recall the look of horror and repulsion my girlfriend gave me as I walked out the of the airport upon my return.

Now … was this bad luck … or just plain stupidity? (You don’t have to answer!!!)

Dan Grimaldi
Dan Grimaldi (Leo Fine)

Living in a two-bedroom apartment in a two-family house in Brooklyn with my (ex)wife and two sons aged three and one. {the] landlord [loves us and says we can stay as long as we want (the landlord does not live there…the upstairs male tenant likes to walk around in a T-shirt in the winter, so he keeps setting the thermostat, which is located on the first floor outside my apartment, at around 85. Our apartment is so hot, so I keep setting it back down to around 75 which is still hot but a good compromise, I think. This went on for 4 winters. One day the landlord serves us with an eviction notice. I had two young kids and nowhere to go. Six months later we bought a house, which we were not ready to do, but that eviction day I was furious. He never gave us a reason: He said his daughter wanted to move in, which never happened because we stayed in the same neighborhood and the apartment was not occupied for some time. I later discovered that the upstairs tenant convinced the landlord that I had ties to the mafia, which was totally untrue. So just because the tenant was vindictive, I encountered the unluckiest day.

Michael Irvin Pollard (Tom)

Making the fourteen-hour drive from Suttons Bay, Michigan back home to Metuchen, New Jersey. We were cruising along without incident, making great time for the first 11. Then we hit a severe snowstorm in the Poconos. Interstate 80 is reduced to a single lane of traffic, moving in blizzard conditions at about twenty miles per hour. Knowing that it changes to rain the further east we get, we decided to trudge onward. True to the forecaster’s word, as soon as we cross the Delaware River it becomes a steady but manageable drizzle. There was still quite a bit of slush on the road surface, however, an eighteen-wheeler blows by me kicking up a huge chunk of slushy ice that crashes into my windshield and decapitates my driver's-side windshield wiper. I spent the last two and a half hours of a very long road trip performing the most excessive gangsta lean in the history of the Subaru, as I had to look out the passenger side of the windshield to see. But…coulda been worse.

Wendy Peace (Sara Fine)
Wendy Peace (Sara Fine)

I'm a pretty optimistic person, so I don't think too much in terms of being "unlucky," but I guess this would at least constitute a "challenging" day. I was doing a show out of town and after a thirteen-hour drive with my hundred-fifty-pound Great Dane, Cooper, I arrived to find that my actor's housing consisted of a condemned house in a sketchy neighborhood. Having dropped my stuff off I went to first rehearsal. At the end of rehearsal I ran to the bathroom in the dark, tripped up the stairs and tore a ligament in my thumb. Upon returning from the ER, my hand in a cast, I struggled with the screen door accidentally letting out the two dogs that lived there. They tore down the street with Cooper and I chasing after them. Over a mile later I was able to use Cooper's treats to lure them to me, only to realize they weren't wearing collars. Carrying one and using Cooper's leash and collar for the other two dogs, my hand throbbing, I somehow managed to get everybody home. The show was a great success, though, and I would go and work there again in a heartbeat.

Mark Light-Orr (Yuri)
Mark Light-Orr (Yuri)

My unluckiest day came, as I imagine it does for so many performers, during a show. I was playing Charlie Cowell in a tour of The Music Man, and after many months on the road, I found myself in need of a jolt of energy before my big scene in Act II. Although never a coffee drinker, I decided to have an extra-large coffee during intermission. Within about ten minutes, I felt my heart racing and my forehead clammy with jittery caffeine goodness.

I thought, Oh, I'm in trouble. Maybe I should have gone with a small.

My first scene was a confrontation with Marian Paroo in front of her house. I carried with me the greatest prop ever made: a black suitcase with a weight suspended inside it. When I introduced myself in the scene as "Charlie Cowell — anvil salesman!," I would let the suitcase drop with a mighty, satisfying clank, indicating to the audience that indeed I had an anvil in my suitcase. Never failed to get a laugh, and I loved that moment.

That day, the scene flew by in a blink. At the end of it, my blocking required me to turn on my heel and storm offstage, while the River City men's quartet entered in front of me, softly singing "Lida Rose."

After screeching my last line at Marian, I picked up my suitcase and whirled around, ready to stomp offstage left. However, I had somehow overestimated the energy required to storm off. I felt my right foot catch my left, and suddenly I was flat on the ground, with my precious anvil suitcase tumbling end over end into the wings, clanging and clanking mightily as it went. It was stopped only by the offstage pulley system that controlled various set pieces on stage, all of which now danced and jerked like clothes hung out to dry during an Iowa tornado.

My instinct for survival kicked in, and for some reason, I proceeded to crawl on my belly across the stage, following my suitcase like a lemming headed over a cliff. I was pretty sure I was going to die, and I just needed to do that offstage, not in front of the thousands of audience members that were now laughing uproariously. Meanwhile, the River City men's quartet had entirely dissolved in convulsions of laughter in front of me; I'm not even sure they were singing anymore.

I suppose with all the real suffering in the world, if that was the unluckiest day I've had — I've been pretty fortunate. But these things are relative. And a good, strong cup of coffee has since become one of my favorite pre-show rituals, so I suppose even the unluckiest day has its silver lining.

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Lucky Me

Closed: August 31, 2014