It’s Enough to Drive You Batty

It’s pretty common to find bats in theatres. It’s perfectly understandable. Most theatres resemble musty dark caves. They’re probably indistinguishable from the real thing by your run-of-the-mill bat. Usually you’ll catch a quick glimpse of them and you’re really not sure if you saw one or not. But sometimes they really make their presence known.

Which brings me to a little incident we had on opening night. The short version of the story is that a bat swooped the stage relentlessly to the point that I had to make a judgement call to pause the show. Stopping a show is not an easy choice to make. The second most important thing you learn in theatre school is The Show Must Go On (the first is Be On Time). There, I just saved you $2,000 in tuition.

We ignored the bat for a good long time but it was taking the audience out of the world of the play. They had stopped paying attention to a word we were saying. The show became about the actors and the bat, not about Barney and Jeanette. Besides which, we were starting to set up the really hard part of the act, the part that makes sense of all the folly that came before. So we took a brief pause, didn’t leave the stage, and the bat left. And then we just launched back right where we stopped. And the rest of the show was fantastic. The focus we got from the audience was intense.

Over to you – Have you ever had to stop a show? Why?

About the author

Craig Mason


  • While stage managing Seussical the Musical we had a power outtage in the building. We had to stop the show, clear the actors with flashlights, send FOH with flashlights out to talk to the 230 elementary school children. About 10 minutes later we got back partial power, were able to turn on work lights and get one of our keyboards up and running. We finished the show under works, but the kids still loved it.

  • Can’t say that’s ever happened! I was once in a production where the lead actress’ pants fell down mid-dance, though. And, of course, there was the time we had to start our show a half an hour late because the people we rented the space from changed the security code to get in without telling us.

  • Here’s a comment that came through email:

    I had to stop a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar twenty-five minutes into the performance to allow a lighting and thunder show that was going on outside to pass. We couldn’t hear the singers for the Thunder rolls or reset the breakers fast enough as the lightening tripped them. Actors stayed in place. Audience sat in the dark and just listened to the storm roll through. When it came to resume the rumbles were in the distance and we started “What’s the Buzz” in darkness and gradually brought the stage to life. The audience was riveted and focused on every word right through the end of the show.