Here is one of the great "urban legends" of theatre stories. Although I went to college with a person who claimed she was a part of this production, so many other people have heard about this story that I have a hard time believing it to be completely real. Try a web search for the keywords "poison boot" and "west side story" and you'll find there are several versions of this story floating around.
Now we all know the ending of West Side Story. (If you don't - stop reading. This article contains spoilers.*** see note at bottom) Chino shots Tony and Maria gives her final speech over the gun. Classic bit of American theatre, right?
Well on one fateful night, something goes wrong with the prop gun and it doesn't fire. Now, the actor playing Chino has a choice. Tony has to die; this much is certain as it is a critical plot point. A very easy solution would be to pull the trigger and maybe shout "bang." I think the audience would go along with it.
Instead he runs at Tony and kicks him shouting "poison boot!"
And thus the actors are forced to finish the play with a poison boot. Tony dies and Maria does her final speech gesturing at the members of the two gangs with a boot and asking "how much poison is left on this boot, Chino? Enough for you? Enough for you? How much and still enough for me?"
The internet has several different versions of this story. Sometimes the boot is thrown. Sometimes Chino has simply forgotten the gun. Sometimes it happens in different plays; there is a legend of a poison toga in a production of Julius Caesar. The point is they are all funny and we enjoy the flavor they add to the theatre.
If you have a poison anything story of your own, please share it with us today.
***Please don't be like the girl in my 9th grade math class who had Romeo and Juliet ruined for her when she found out that Romeo and Juliet both die in the end. I'm sorry if I just spoiled it for you - but there is a link to the play. It's a good read.
Happy Birthday: Franz Werfel (1890-1945)