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17 Things Actors Who’ve Been Sick During Show Will Understand

Unless you are part of the lucky few, every actor has experienced the dreaded moment when their body gives up during show week. A sniffle here, a stomach gurgle there, and before you know it, you’re curled up under the covers convinced this is the end. It’s the kind of sick when no matter how hard you try, you can’t force yourself into being well. This is usually a result of long hours (aka Tech Week) and your body getting run down. But alas, the show must go on.

Here are 17 things actors who have performed while sick will understand:

1. Loving any scenes where you are allowed to act sad or sick as part of the scene, as it mirrors how miserable you are feeling inside.

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2. Wearing a scarf around your neck all day, to the point that people start questioning whether you’re trying to make a bohemian fashion statement.

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3. Taking a vow of silence when you aren’t onstage and trying to find other ways to communicate.

4. Finding somewhere — anywhere — in the theatre to curl up and sleep between performances on a two-show day.

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5. Obsessively drinking as much hot water lemon or herbal tea remedies as Mariah Carey on New Year’s Eve.

6. Having to pee constantly because you have been downing tea and water like it’s your job.

7. Holding in your cough so you don’t treat the audience to an amplified hack via your mic.

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8. Reading up on every natural at-home remedy to try to cure yourself overnight. You totally could have been a doctor.

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9. Still having to get up and go to work or school between shows when you feel like an extra on “The Walking Dead.”

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10. Having the music director drop your songs into a lower key because you sound like you smoke a pack a day.

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11. Starting on a steady diet of chicken soup and crackers.

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12. Putting on twice as much makeup as normal to avoid looking like a Wednesday Addams.

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13. Walking calmly backstage and throwing up into a garbage can as quietly as possible between scenes.

via GIPHY

14. Reworking the show at the last minute to avoid having to sing with no voice.

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15. Keeping a tissue tucked in your bra to discreetly wipe the snot that’s dripping out of your nose.

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16. Trying to convince yourself that this challenge is just making you a better actor. You are a professional, and you are Daniel Day-Lewising the crap out of this performance.

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17. Pasting a winning smile on your face as soon as you step onto the stage and give the performance of your life.

via GIPHY In spite of how you might feel on the inside, it’s unlikely the audience will ever be able to tell. Unless you projectile vomit a la “Pitch Perfect” all over them. Then they might.

Have you ever been sick during show week? Tell us your story in the comments below…

Written by Katelynn Johnston

Katelynn is a writer and elementary arts teacher from Toronto. From acting to choreographing to directing, she has been fortunate enough to take part in a variety of shows.

5 Comments

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  1. I recently played Bielke in Fiddler on the Roof at my high school. Weekend of, I had pink eye on both eyes (yay little siblings!) and a really bad cold. Trying to not cough during important scenes isn’t easy!

  2. I am one of the lucky few, actually. I guess my body and I get along pretty well, because even though it always immediately crashes into illness after a show closes, and there is the odd rehearsal I have to stay home from, I have always stayed healthy during the run of the show.

  3. I had food poisoning on a three show day and I was dying! Every break I got (which was not many considering I was the second lead) I was trying not to throw up in the wings.

  4. Doing a run of Pirates of Penzance a couple of years ago, our Ruth became ill with whooping cough 4 shows into the 20. The only person that fitted her costumes (and knew every word of the show) was a guy named Lewis. He smashed it. An added comedic setting for every scene with Frederic!

  5. I was doing a play in London we were sold out, and on the final week when most casting directors came in I was carted off to the hospital with kidney stones!

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