Corsets are great! Great if you want your boobs to look big and your waist to look tiny, but not if you are a fan of breathing. Funnily enough, breathing is relatively important to all humans but mainly actors.
So, I’m an actor. Yeah I know that’s pretty funny, considering almost everyone in New Zealand has called themselves an actor at some point in their lives. Sheesh, just ask anyone in sales or retail and they’ll tell you "Yeah I went to performing arts school, got a diploma, did a play, couple of short films and then decided yeah nah, I’m starving, time to get a real job.” My story is similar, I too got a real job for a while, toiling away my life behind a desk, wearing a headset and repeating a soul destroying greeting day after day. And then I had babies! ‘Yay!’ I thought, ‘Now I can stay home with them and have such fun and when they sleep (HAHAHAHAHA! – that’s funny because they never sleep) I can write plays and films and paint and sculpt.’ I do manage to write/paint/sculpt occasionally, but mostly I just lose my mind in the blissful madness of kidville and dream of when I can go to the toilet by myself again. Anyway. I have digressed.
So, where was I? Yes acting. So my journey began with the wonderful craft that is theatre when I was a teenager at highschool. Onslow College was the place it started, funnily enough by accident. You see I was a bit of a douche-bag in highschool. I mainly spent my time “damning-the-man” and perfecting my gothic/grunge look. I was definitely too cool for school by a long shot. So in 1999, my 6th form year, I found myself at enrolment day in rather a conundrum. “Balls” I said to my mother on my alcatel brick cellphone. “Because I pissed around so much last year and failed mostly all of my subjects, there’s hardly any subjects I can take!” “Maybe I should just leave school and get a job!” Now this was actually just an empty threat you see, because there was only one thing I hated more than school work….; actual work! Yeah, you may have heard stories of those teenagers who play sports, get all A’s and help the elderly, I was not one of those teenagers and this is not one of those stories.
“YOU’RE NOT LEAVING SCHOOL!” My mother shrieked at me. “I am not having you loafing around the house all day, listening to that Marilyn Manson! There must be something you can take that doesn’t require 5th form certificate, what about taking a fifth form class?” I was about to protest at the shame of taking a class with those younger than myself when it occurred to me that my best friend Melissa happened to be a year younger than me and also happened to be taking 5th form drama that year. “Ok” I said, “How about Drama then?” I cocked my eyebrows expecting a barrage of reasons why this was not a suitable option, because truthfully? I was shy as all heck and dreaded the thought of actually having to get up on stage in front of people. So I was secretly willing my Mother to say something like; “DRAMA!? You’re never going to get anywhere by doing drama!” But she didn’t. And so it began.
I was terrified - shaking in my doc boots. I don’t know what I expected but something similar to being made to get up in front of everyone and take off my clothes perhaps? Luckily, that didn’t happen. What did happen was I had fun! “Shit the bed!” I thought, “This is awesome”! Finally I could be a huge dick and blame it on ‘my craft’ and it didn’t have to affect my all-important image. It was great! We were free to play dress-up a lot of the time, all in the name of ‘art’ and ‘school work’. And above all, turns out I quite like to get up in front of people and commanding their attention. Well, I am an only child after all.
So class plays led to end of term plays, which our poor parents we’re invited to sit through and expected to pay! Those plays led to other plays and then came the school play, which for an odd reason was to be a pivotal moment in my acting career. 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' was the play, very famous at the time because it had been made into a sexy movie (Cruel Intentions). I auditioned and not for the last time in my life, was cast as a prostitute. 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' is set in the 18th century. Yes! That’s right! Corsets! All the girls had to wear corsets. Corsets are great! Great if you want your boobs to look big and your waist to look tiny, but not if you are a fan of breathing. Funnily enough, breathing is relatively important to all humans but mainly actors. In order to project your voice you need to breathe you see, so I’d come off stage feeling quite out of breath. I wasn’t the only one, but because of my whorish demeanour, my corset was strung up extra tight to get those boobs right up there. A lot of the time I was feeling very light-headed backstage and damn near fainting. Who could work in these conditions I ask you? Not I! So a large pillow was provided for me to lie down on backstage when I wasn’t required onstage.
That’s when it happened. The moment that could have ended it all. That dusty old pillow did it. I needed to sneeze. I could feel it coming. It was a big blighter of a sneeze too. I had to do something fast. This was my art! Was I going to let a bloody sneeze ruin the magic of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' for all of these paying guests? Oh no! I decided to go for the nose hold method to keep that sucker in there. I held my nose and held my breath for all it was worth! My whole body contorted as the sneeze hit. It was an all out war! I used all the strength I had to hold that giant ‘HAACHUUU!’ inside. Somehow, I did it! Turns out, I’d just angered it. Just as I thought I was safe a second sneeze went for its attack. I grabbed my nose in vain to block its passage but I was not prepared. This sneeze wanted out and it was coming out one way or another. And it did. Just not out my nose! That puppy ripped out of my bum like thunder! I’m talking fog horn here! This was the loudest fart EVER. I learned something very valuable here: A fart is much more likely to ruin the magic of theatre than a sneeze ever is. The actors on stage heard the fart and at first they fought to ignore it. And they fought hard! Then the audience boomed into laughter and all was lost. The actors could fight it no longer. A cacophony of hilarity erupted all throughout the theatre. All because of me and the sneeze that got away. The actors tried in vain to resurrect the scene but kept slipping into giggles after a few words. The audience would once again follow suit. It was pandemonium.
I lay there on my pillow, blushing furiously in the darkness, too frightened to move in case I would somehow incriminate myself. “Did anybody backstage see me hold the sneeze?” I wondered “Maybe not! Maybe I’ve gotten away with it!” No such luck. As I slowly sat up, I was met with none other than the actor who played Valmont, crippled over with laughter, a crooked finger cocked in my direction. Incriminating me. "Balls!" First I tried denial. "It wasn’t me!" I whisper yelled at him. He just laughed harder, “I saw the whole thing!” He managed, through tears. “That was the funniest thing I have ever seen!” Yeah it was pretty funny, I could see the humour in it, just not at my expense! I laughed along with him. “Yeah, haha, really funny, just don’t tell anyone it was me okay!” Again he laughed even harder “OKAY?” I hissed. “Okay, okay” he offered. “I wont tell, I promise.” He promised. So I was safe right? Wrong.
After the laughter finally died down and the show somehow ‘went on’ it was soon time for the curtain call. The actors filed out accordingly and then came time for my solo bow. I stepped forward feeling the lights on my face and all eyes upon me. Then just as I ducked to curtsey, it happened. Bloody Valmont and his onstage buddies put their hands to their mouths and simultaneously blew a humongous raspberry. My face instantly flushed to an incriminating shade of crimson as the bastards fanned away an invisible fart coming from my direction. The audience made the connection immediately and once again laughter erupted throughout the room. Pointed fingers and laughing faces jibbed at me. Now, I could have cried. I could have run away and eaten worms. Sworn never to go back onstage again. Ever. But, yeah nah. I decided to laugh. I laughed like I meant it. I pulled a comic woopsie face and took an OTT bow. Then I waved jovially as I left the stage. Valmont came up to me chuckling “Haha good to see you can take a joke.” I punched him full force in the arm. He stopped laughing.
So that was the time I farted backstage/onstage/behind a curtain. I’d like to say that because of my good hearted approach and being able to laugh at myself there we’re no taunts after the event. But teenagers being teenagers it only makes sense that there we’re. Months afterwards there would still be the occasional booming fart noise following me down the hallway on my way to class. Shit happens. But at least I didn't let it end my theatrical love affair.
One thing’s for sure though, I still can’t even look at a corset these days without narrowing my eyes and muttering to myself “Valmont the Bastard.”