Shayne Anderson was aiming for realism when he outfitted a holster with pepper spray to portray a prison guard in the new play "The Belonging" at a small theater in Hollywood. But things got a little too real when the canister accidentally discharged during last Sunday's performance, gassing the other actors as well as about 15 people in the audience.
"Through my research, I found out they must have pepper spray and a nightstick," the 28-year-old actor said by phone the next day. So he bought an over-the-counter canister containing safety protectors.
But while Anderson was seated on stage, a hissing sound filled the theater. "I had no inkling of what it was," he said. Then he noticed another actor onstage "was beet red."
The coughing cast pushed ahead while, row by row, the audience also began to cough. It took Anderson a while to realize that the canister must have gotten hooked on the back of his chair, triggering the pepper spray's release.
After about eight minutes, the performance reached intermission and the audience was asked to step outside.
"I am just kicking myself in the head," Anderson said. "Last night, it was a long ride home -- and I only live 10 minutes from the theater."
--Daryl H. Miller