Danger is My Business (or Always Check the Prop Table)

Actor slits his own throat as knife switch turns fiction into reality

An actor slit his throat on stage when the prop knife for his suicide scene turned out to be a real one.

Daniel Hoevels, 30, slumped over with blood pouring from his neck while the audience broke into applause at the “special effect”. Police are investigating whether the knife was a mistake or a murder plot. They are questioning the rest of the cast, and backstage hands with access to props; they will also carry out DNA tests.

Things went wrong at Vienna’s Burgtheater as Hoevels’ character went to “kill himself” in the final scene of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart, about Mary Queen of Scots, on Saturday night

It was only when he did not get up to take a bow that anyone realised something had gone wrong.

Though bleeding profusely, Hoevels survived because the knife missed the carotid artery as it sliced into his neck. Wolfgang Lenz, a doctor who treated him, said: “Just a little bit deeper and he would have been drowning in his own blood.”

One officer told Austrian TV news: “The rumours are wild, with some claiming that he was the victim of jealous rival.

“We don’t know anything for sure yet; we have to work through everyone.”

The knife was reportedly bought at a local shop; one possibility is that the props staff forgot to blunt its blade. “The knife even still had the price tag on it,” an investigator said.

After emergency treatment at a hospital, Hoevels declared that the show must go on, and returned to the stage on Sunday night with a bandage tied around his neck, ready to once again meet his mock demise.

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

5 responses to “Danger is My Business (or Always Check the Prop Table)

  • xtine

    holy god. i’m not even sure how to take this in.once onstage some asshole actor grabbed me by the throat and tried to choke me. [unblocked]. but this is somehow off the chart insidious and surreal.danger is our business, indeed.

  • Mead

    Steve, you beat me to the punch! [as it were] I’ve been meaning to post this on the Cabal blog for days. Last I heard the theater company was still waiting for the other show to drop as to how this could have happened — sounds like the start of an Agatha Christie novel to me, and in fact, didn’t something like this happen to Matlock??

  • MattyZ

    This is the best story EVER! I was twice cut on stage. Once playing Seymore in Little Shop – I was holding a knife that had not been properly “dulled” and when I jumped into Audrey II, I somehow sliced open my hand and bled all over the stage during “Don’t Feed the Plants” with my daisy headdress on. The other time I was playing Owen in The Foreigner and had to cut some twine to open a box. The knife had to be real. I simply forgot to remove my thumb from the slicing line and just about cut my thumb off in performance. I lost all my lines and my costars improvised like mad until I got bandaged off stage. After this story, I’m glad I stopped acting….seems I was headed for the ultimate knife disaster.

  • Justina

    Thanks for the reminder that theatre people really don’t get paid enough. The BBC did a bit on this, with a little detail change…perhaps for dramatic effect? Did the actor bravely leave the stage unaided, or did he lie there waiting for help? You be the judge: “The audience is said to have applauded what they thought was a stunning special effect, and only realised something was wrong when the actor staggered off stage to receive treatment.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7777086.stm

  • CAWohlmut

    A stage managers nightmare. I am truly speechless and, those of you who know me, that is so very rare.What the f*&@!

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