I've done my fair share of theatre in my life - heck, I have a BFA in Acting from Rutgers. I've done dozens of plays and, in my travels, there's a phrase that is often bantered about: Happy Accident. A Happy Accident, of course, is a mistake, and often a very glaring one.
In acting, you are forced into a pretty rigid structure. When all is said and done, you need to perform all the lines that were penned by the playwright. While a little bit of improvisation might occasionally be necessary when something goes wrong, it is your job as an actor to make it look as inconspicuous as possible and deviate from the script as little as possible. And I've seen some doozies - a chair broke on stage, someone's fake mustache was clearly peeling off to the point where it was only being held on by a few molecules of spirit gum, an actor simply didn't arrive at his cue because he was changing into an outfit for the following scene...
They never feel like Happy Accidents. I once forgot my line and the other actor and I improvised almost three minutes of dialogue while I frantically tried to think of the next line. I didn't think "oh wonderful, an opportunity for a Happy Accident!" I thought "holycrapholycrapholycrapholycrap!" Because in plays there is an expectation of what is SUPPOSED to happen.
Improv comedy is a totally different beast. Accidents actually ARE happy. While at the San Francisco Improv Festival two weekends ago, I was all ready to start our set in my normal place, behind the keyboard. I played a few big chords when my name was introduced and suddenly heard that my keyboard sound cut out. Entirely. As the keyboardist, MY ONLY JOB IS TO PLAY MUSIC, which at the moment had become impossible. I immediately started to think about how I could hum, whistle, and use handclaps to finish our set.
As our intros ended and the set started, I frantically tried to juggle cables to figure out the problem. But here's where acting and improv differ wildly. In one of the very few pre-determined cues I have, I was supposed to play the Sportcenter theme song when prompted by the introduction of Mediocre Olympics (our first game, naturally). Without any keys, what's a improver to do? Well, I just shouted out DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN, just like I'm assuming the guys on ESPN do when their sound engineer runs into problems.
Did it FIX the problem? Did it look inconspicuous? No, not in the slightest. But was it funny and did it work? Absolutely. It was a Happy Accident.
With Season 8 at the Sands ready to kick into full gear, we're in a new house with new equipment, some new games, and a whole slew of new opportunities for Happy Accidents. And I, for one, am looking forward to it with relish.