When you are onstage you are at the mercy of whatever you are wearing or using.
Glued on facial hair comes unstuck, wigs come loose, bits of costumes fall off or rip or pop open, props break or go missing – all of it can go haywire on you without a moments’ notice.
And there is only so much you can do to prevent this.
I have had a mustache falling off during a solo (The Bashful Prince – when I was elementary school age).
All I could do was keep turning upstage and desperately try to restick it.
I have had wigs come loose (but, knock on wood, never had one actually come off).
You suddenly become very still from the neck up.
I have had latex makeup (for old age effect) come loose and start flapping every time I breathe. (Of course, nowadays, I don’t need latex to create the wrinkles on my fat old lady face!)
It’s an adventure trying to perform while keeping your breathing to a minimum!
I have had Velcro pop open/come loose; I have had seams give way; I have had zippers refuse to go up or down. I have had a shoe go flying off (it’s always just one shoe). I have had an earring go flying off (it’s always just one). I have had gloves that refuse to go on. I have had hats come loose, and things come untied or refuse to tie.
You try to close what is open, unobtrusively. You try to keep the ripped seam upstage. You go on with a zipper down and keep your back to the audience; you have someone cut you out of the costume. You kick off the other shoe. You take off the other earring. (And you try to make sure the shoes or earrings are offstage for later retrieval). You end up holding the gloves, or you just make a bit about getting those fucking gloves on. You take the hat off or repin it (usually drawing blood in your effort to get the hat pin in really tight). You try to re-tie or take off what won’t tie.
I have had props (that had been prechecked) not be there. I have had props break at an inopportune moment.
I had to read a letter onstage (one which I didn’t memorize because I wanted the reading to be “real”) and the reading glasses I used were not where they were supposed to be. How fun to try and read something when your arms are not long enough to get the letter to a point where you can read it and the spotlight is shining against the letter making the writing almost illegible anyhow! I used a cane as a “hook” to pull an actor closer to me – and one night the cane head came off and was stuck under his arm and I had a headless cane! (I put the head back on my cane onstage).
What are you going to do?
So you do your best to make it go unnoticed or make a bit out of it or just act like what you would do if it happened in real life.
Oh, and don’t forget about set pieces that you trip over, or that fall over, or doors that won’t open or won’t stay shut …
Ahhh – life in the theater.