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Samuel Brett Williams: Top Ten Theatre Walk-Outs

By | Published on Thursday 13 August 2015

Samuel Brett Williams

Partly to reassure any Fringe performers who have experienced some walk outs this Festival – and partly to provide festival-goers which something to aspire to – Samuel Brett Williams of the Camisade Theatre Company presents a top ten theatre walk-outs, based on his own experiences and those of his colleagues.
Camisade Theatre Company present ‘Derby Day’ at the Gilded Balloon this year, a show to see, but not storm out of. Though there are sure to be good storm-out shows elsewhere at the Festival this month.

A director once told me that if no one is walking out of your show then you’re playing it too safe. Every playwright (and actor) has stories about walk-outs; some painful, some infuriating and some just plain funny.

10. I had a production at a small regional theatre, and from the start, the show was not going well. At intermission there was an announcement asking for a vehicle to be moved. It was my rental. I went outside, moved it, and watched three cars (full of patrons) leave the theatre. I envied their escape.

9. In Washington DC, at a Pay-What-You-Can performance of my play ‘THE WOODPECKER’, there was a man who was clearly upset by the subject matter. Finally, he stood up and made his way out, but not before stopping at the donation box, prying it open, and removing the five dollars he donated to see the show.

8. During a production of my play ‘MISSED CONNECTIONS’, a woman projectile vomited on the man in front of her. I thought the power of my words brought her to a place her body could not physically handle. Later, I found out she had some bad clams.

7. Robert Foster (Frank in ‘DERBY DAY’, the show we’ve brought to Edinburgh this summer) told me about a show he did at a dinner theatre twenty years ago. Four people were in the audience and two left about halfway through. Robert: “In dinner theatre, you know it’s bad when they leave before dessert”.

6. Peter Michael Marino – producer of ‘GARY BUSEY’S ONE MAN HAMLET’ – wrote a solo show about his disastrous, and hilarious, experience with his West End Blondie musical. One performance a man walked out and returned five minutes later with two beers. He gave one to Peter saying, “sounded like you needed a drink, mate”.

5. My New York City debut was at Cherry Lane Theatre. During intermission of the first preview, I went to the bathroom. The man next to me said, “Who picks this shit?” I just shrugged and replied, “Who knows?”

4. ‘THE REVIVAL’, like many of my plays, deals with material some find controversial. One night a woman angrily walked out. Consider my shock when I saw her at the opening party an hour later.

3. During the same production, I showed up one day and the stage manager told me she had to call the cops because a man was protesting outside. I told her if he came back, to let him know the show time and tell him to bring his friends.

2. This playwright requested anonymity: “I self-produced my first play and let my best friend direct. It was so horrible the cast revolted at the second performance. They started a food fight on stage, destroyed the set, and walked out before the end of act one”.

1. K. Fritjof Peterson, a friend and phenomenal playwright, told me that he walked out of one of his early plays. I asked why. His reply: “The writing sucked”.

‘Derby Day’ was performed at Gilded Balloon at Edinburgh Festival 2015.