Obies 2009: What's Your Worst Theater Experience?

A celebration of the worst that theater has to offer

Michael Friedman, composer

I worked on a musical/operatic version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Cuba. The problem was that the musical was in English, but the performers spoke no English, which led to some imprecision in the rendering of the words. At a climactic moment, the villain decried the degradation of "all you heretics" but sang "all Jew heretics."

Sheila Callaghan, playwright

Tatiana Suarez

I saw a production of Carousel in a barn in New Jersey one summer night in the '80s. The ground was covered in bug-infested hay. By Act Two, half the audience was pitched forward, scratching their ankles because of all the biting. The other half had walked out.

John Cullum, actor

Infidel Caesar—Shakespeare's Julius Caesar set in Castro's Cuba. I played Cassius. A papier-mâché mound plopped stage center represented a mountain. Caesar (Castro) and his army lounged on thrift-store pillows, drinking and cavorting with sexy gals in shorts and skimpy halters. Several of the "producers" were definitely mafia types. Rocky Graziano, the ex–middleweight champ, used to drop by to joke with them and the girls, who weren't just drop-dead gorgeous, they were literally molls. Capitalized at $100,000 in 1962, the entire production couldn't have cost more than $15,000, so somebody walked away with some loot. We opened and closed after one preview performance at the Music Box. The cast evaporated, and the "producers" retired to Little Italy for wine and spaghetti.

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