Over the weekend, I attended Beauty and The Beast at the local high school with my daughter and her friend. Behind us sat a woman who alternately took FLASH photos of the production and texted on her cell phone. My daughter noted that she could hear the bing bing of the phone keyboard all during the show.
I wish I could say, well, it was a high school production, most audiences don't act like that.
But I can't.
I have witnessed, as a stage manager and as an audience member, such appalling behavior that I cringe just thinking about it. It's worse when I'm stage managing because the actors accost me at intermission or after the show to complain about the sleeping or eating or texting audience member. What am I supposed to do? Go up to the patron and harass them, "Don't make me stop this show!"
But sometimes I am tempted to.
Just a few things I've witnessed:
- At a children's production, a mother sat behind my kids and me and kept saying loudly to her child, "And what do you think is going to happen next? Do you think he is going to climb the tree?" First, don't ruin it for me. And second, while I applaud your desire to interact with your child perhaps you could do it in the privacy of your living room.
- On Broadway, at a production of The Drowsy Chaperone, a child protested his presence in the audience by kicking and screaming throughout the show. His family ignored his Damienesque behavior, blissfully ignorant of the fuming patrons around them. Well, at least they enjoyed the show.
- While stage managing a production of Looking Over The President's Shoulder, a woman ate her entire lunch (sandwich, chips, soda) during the show. When I asked the house manager about it, she said the patron had medical needs an had to eat. Really, during a 85 minute show with an intermission? And if she really had to eat couldn't she have picked something a bit less, well, conspicuous?
I never know what the proper way to handle these incidents. As a stage manager I inform house management whenever I can and it's up to them to determine how to handle it. But sometimes it may disrupt the performance more by confronting the patron.
As an audience member should I speak to the offending party? Sometimes I turn, glare, and say "shush," really loudly and that has worked. I hate to create more noise and distraction by getting into an argument with someone. And at times, the person is so engrossed in his activity that it doesn't matter what I do.
At Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, NY, the former Education Director, Jill Rafferty would welcome the students for each matinee. She informed them of the behavior expected of them during the performance. She went so far as to put them in a blackout during her speech so they could experience it before it occurred during the show. It gave them a chance to "oooo" and "ahh" and get out their screams and giggles.
It was a great approach and it helped quell some of the more disruptive behavior. But still that's a small segment of the population. And if the parents are the ones causing the ruckus or ignoring it...what hope do their kids have?
Oh, I could scream but thanks for letting me vent.