In an amateur stage production it’s not unusual for there to be a few hiccups throughout the show. In fact, even Broadway-caliber performances don’t always make it through without a hitch. That is, after all, why “the show must go on” has become such a famous saying both in and out of show business. But in the comedy “The Play That Goes Wrong,” that concept is blown way out of proportion when the Cornley University Drama Society does its best to put on a 1920s murder mystery play. Cast members have to deal with stuck doors, forgotten lines, collapsing floors and, according to cast member Ned Noyes, “many things you’ll never see coming going wrong, too.”
Noyes, a openly gay Northwestern University-trained actor, has performed in nationally touring productions of “Cabaret” along with Broadway shows like “You Can’t Take It With You” and is an original Broadway cast member for “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Additionally, Noyes has had a versatile career in TV and film, appearing in titles like “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Post.” Now set to play at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre from Feb. 12 through 24, Between The Lines caught up with the “The Play That Goes Wrong” actor to get a feel for the show before its Detroit debut, why it’s important for LGBTQ visibility to exist in theater and why comedy is always funnier when it’s honest.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” follows a group of students who are trying to put on a murder mystery show. In your career I’m sure you’ve done many similar performances, but hopefully never ones that have resulted in mishaps as huge as these.
Never quite to this disastrous degree, but some of the moments of the show are achingly familiar (laughs). Yeah, there was a production of a show I did once where some props definitely had a mind of their own. Once, I had to enter, basically pretending to be a car with these two flashlights standing in for headlights, and, you know, there was a lot of spinning choreography involved. I spun, and the flashlights weren’t secured and the batteries, huge batteries, went flying out into the audience. I later found out that they hit a critic (laughs), but he wound up writing a rave review for the play anyway.
“The show must go on” is definitely a theme that’s present throughout the performance, but to a crazy degree here. Was that concept a huge mainstay in your education as an actor?
Certainly, I think everyone’s quite well aware, even before you begin a training program, what a difficult business this is. It does take quite a fair amount of resilience to even stay in the game as an actor, so as far as when things go wrong on stage, most actors are resilient in that matter.
Where you always drawn to being an actor?
Yeah, from a pretty early age [it was] something I was attracted to. I loved arts, I loved singing, I loved reading and writing, but there was something wonderful about telling a story collaboratively that really drew me to the art form pretty intensely pretty quickly. There was nothing like it for me.
Being an LGBTQ-identified actor doesn’t seem that drastic in 2019, and the theater world has a reputation for being welcoming, but you started acting in high school. Were you always confident in your identity around your peers?
Especially in high school it was very much a thing I wasn’t quite ready to deal with. Being part of the theater community eventually actually made that transition much easier for me in college, but it’s definitely come a long way since I was in high school. I love seeing these movies like “Love Simon” — it seems achingly familiar of course, but also it seems like the world has come quite a long way now in terms of being something that more people are proud of their friends for dealing with in high school when it’s the most difficult to.
Do you think when you came out it helped you as a performer? Or do you feel it didn’t make an impact?
I think anything that’s stopping you from being the most authentic version of who you actually are is going to hold you back in so many ways in life, but certainly artistically expressing yourself. Being very sure of who I am and taking that to the world enables me to understand people better. If you’re constantly trying to hide a part of who you are, that’s going to make you a terrible artist.
I heard a comedian once describe performing while in the closet as similar to having one hand tied behind his back.
Oh, precisely, that’s a great metaphor for it. And I think the audience can tell, too, if something is being held back. Truth is always at the root of the best comedy.
Beyond LGBTQ performers, the LGBTQ community makes up a large number of theater fans, too. Was that audience base part of your consideration when you came out?
No, I can’t say that I ever actually thought about that. It’s a wonderful thing that it exists, I think, for people to have that kind of community if it’s not accessible to them within their immediate circle. I think it’s a wonderful thing, and it’s a plus side to the rise of social media that people can find people who share their passions online and share those passions together, but I can’t say I was ever aware of that.
Why do you think LGBTQ visibility is important, even if you’re not performing in an LGBTQ-specific role?
Visibility is everything. It enables people to be progressive in so many ways; the more people you know who are gay, the less you’re able to discriminate. It’s hugely important for everybody, I think, both within and out of the gay community.
Find out more information about ticketing and the play online at ticketmaster.com.