Help me. I’m getting paranoid. Is my real name “Job” (pronounced JOHB) not “Joel”? Every time I go to the theatre, some gum chewing, slow-as-molasses candy opening, coughing, hacking, cell phone ringing, non-stop talking, playbill crunching theatre goer sits in front of me, or next to me or behind me, and my blood pressure rises. Is there a sign on my back that says: “Please torture this Jewish man and misbehave badly near him. And don’t forget to unwrap that candy at the most dramatic moment of the play”?
2 MINUTES IN THE PENALTY BOX FOR ROUGHING
I saw History Boys last weekend in The Big Apple and a fight broke out. I thought I was at a hockey game. An elderly gentleman decided to sit in someone else’s seat, and when the legitimate owner of that seat returned from freshening up and buying his box of Dots, anger ensued and punches were thrown. The actors were stunned, and were having a difficult time continuing with the play. Instead of removing the three noisemakers from the theatre and taking them outside, the ingenious stage manager decided he would straighten out the problem in the theatre, in front of the combatants’ seats. Those of us who sat in the row in front of the feuding few, couldn’t hear what was happening on the stage.
HOW ONE RINGY DINGY CAN RUIN AN IMPORTANT MOMENT:
I applaud Studio Theatre’s decision to parade around its theatres with a large sign that says “Silence Your Cell Phones,” but that doesn’t guarantee it will work. Look what happened to Nancy Robinette on Press night at Frozen. In his April 18th review of Frozen, The Washington Post’s own Peter Marks, who we love to hate, described what happened during Nancy’s powerful end of Act I soliloquy: “Robinette, guided by a director who truly seems a Muse, has so many indelible moments that the time spent with her feels like one long, unbroken truth session. Her most remarkable interlude might come at the end of Act I, when her character is called on to describe a touching reunion with her child’s remains. At this absolutely crucial juncture, during the performance I attended, someone’s cell phone went off. It was regrettable, but amazingly didn’t break Robinette’s concentration. On this thrilling occasion, a ring tone was no match for an actor’s music.”
I saw Frozen two nights later and again, during that same dramatic moment, the man in front of me began to unravel a hard candy. I thought this time Nancy would attack the man, but she again, coolly composed herself and continued on while I bent over to the man in front of me and said in his ear, “Stop unwrapping that candy. Show Ms. Robinette some respect.” In shock, the man stopped and proceeded to storm out during intermission and started kicking the set pieces-2 chairs. Maybe he just wanted to be a “chairman.” A ruder man I have never met.
Nancy’s a saint, but I’ve seen other actors react a little differently.
Three years ago, at a small community production of a Tom Stoppard classic in Reston, VA, a woman stood up in the front row and called her husband on her cell phone and shouted, Honey, this show is boring, Can you pick me up now?” The lead came off the stage, grabbed her phone and threw it against the wall and ordered the stunned caller to leave. The audience roared, giving this actor a standing ovation, one he would have never received from his poor performance in the first act, It’s amazing how applause can inspire even the most untalented among us. His second act performance was Olivier in his prime. This man never made it out of Reston, and recently played a duck in the musical HONK. It was his swan song. He has since retired.
On April 2, 2006, I was watching the insufferable new production of Three Penny Opera at Studio 54. This production was not worth one penny. As a cell phone blared in the middle of her dirge-“Jenny’s Aria,” (it was the slowest dirge I had ever heard in my life), rock diva Cyndi Lauper turned to the man whose cell phone had rudely interrupted her and said, “You will answer that, won’t you?” The audience roared its approval. I think it was because they received a short reprieve from her big number.
COUGHING, MUNCHING, CRUNCHING AND UNWRAPPING
In January, I took 110 people to see Wicked at the Kennedy Center. While Glinda (sorry-Galinda) was descending in her oversized bubble, someone let out a loud, hacking cough. Within 5 seconds, there was a “coughing symphony.” I was afraid the bubble would burst and send Glinda (sorry-Galinda) back to Kansas.
Behind me was a mother and her three kids, ages 4-7 (I know because I asked them how old they were.). Mama Rose brought with her a huge shopping bag full of candy and was passing it out to the children. I turned around and explained to her that it is proper theatre etiquette not to eat during the show, and that the unraveling of candy wrappers is annoying to the people around her and to the actors. Her response was, “I didn’t see any signs about not being able to eat during the show.”
She was right. Kennedy Center was selling bags of hard candy with those little nasty wrappers and allowed people to bring them into the theatre.
Hey Kennedy Center-stop selling candy before the show. You’re just encouraging bad theatre behavior. Don’t you make enough money on those overpriced tickets and those “cheap” parking fees?
PIZZA AT PIAZZA-HOLD THE ANCHIOVIES
How about the story of someone ordering a pizza at The Light In The Piazza? It’s almost lyrical – pizza/piazza. The delivery man comes into the theatre and screams out, “Where is seat J14-you’re mushroom and cheese is here!” All I want to know is-where was the pepperoni?
PICNIC TIME AT GROSS INDECENCIES
As if the title wasn’t gross enough, I sat near a family at Studio Theatre 3 years ago, that brought a picnic to the theatre. I was waiting for the tablecloth to come out with the portable grill. Sandwiches were passed, out, the chips made their rounds with, “Do you prefer BBQ or Sour Cream and Chives?” I was not in a chipper mood as the cookies made the rounds-“Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip or Snickerdoodle?” I think the “snickerdoodle” pushed me off the edge.
I said to the quickly munching mishpachah, “You are in the theatre, you are in the front row. The actors will be in your faces…. Weren’t you taught that if you don’t have enough for everyone, you shouldn’t bring food to a social gathering?”
After they devoured their dinner in front of the actors and after they didn’t share their food with anyone else, Mama passed around another dessert – individual bags of Jolly Ranchers, which they proceeded to open in unison. I lost it – my mind came unwrapped and I fled to the box office and demanded another ticket to come back another time. Where’s the decency?
MONKEY BUSINESS AT TARZAN
I was at the second preview performance of Disney’s critically reviled musical, Tarzan. During the first 20 minutes, 4 people stepped over me, and kicked me (it’s the only kick I got out of this show) to escape the boredom that was on the stage. (I still think they should have had swing music, and should have worked on the show on the road, in Vineland, New Jersey). David Schwimmer, of “Friends” fame, also escaped during the middle of the first act, stepping on the people to the right of him. Mr. Schwimmer won’t have to worry about people escaping from his new show The Cain Mutiny Court-Martial because the critics stepped all over his show, and it closed suddenly after only 17 performances on May 21st. See what happens when you raise cain in the theatre and misbehave.
WHERE’S THE HIGH LORD EXECUTIONER WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
I’m sitting with my group The Ushers in the front row at The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville, MD watching The Mikado, one of my favorites. It wasn’t the best production, though there was a very hot Ko-Ko on stage. The woman next to me decides she will conduct the entire score with her program. And in between songs/arias, she crinkled her program over and over. I turned to her with a firm but considerate tone and kindly asked her to stop – 13 times, but to no avail. At intermission, I finally, this time not so kindly, told her how rude her behavior was and said to her, “I met Leonard Bernstein, and you my dear are no Leonard Bernstein!” She left in horror and never returned to her podium for the Second Act. Maybe she’ll conduct herself better next time she visits the theatre.
THE TALL, EVER-MOVING BEEHIVE
Don’t you love it when you are short like me at 5’5″ and a giant sits in front of you at a sold out performance?
I’m sitting behind a 7 foot woman while I’m watching Harvey Fierstein dancing and singing as a woman- Edna Turnblatt (if you can call that sandpaper voice-singing) in Hairspray, I see a head moving back and forth, a la The Exorcist. Suddenly a small mike falls out of the beehive doo this zaftig woman is wearing. She quickly picks it up and stuffs it in her bra, speaks into her cleavage and says “testing testing.” The things people will do to milk a laugh. For the rest of the night, her head leans forward allot-to get “close-ups” and back and forth, I assume to “pan the stage.” My neck was hurting all night just watching her. At the end of the curtain call, 3 ushers blocked the stairway to try and catch her (they finally figured it out that she was videotaping the show). Quickly the Edna look-alike hid behind a physically disabled woman and opened the “emergency exit” and disappeared. I followed the ushers as they quickly tried to find her, and I howled when they returned with her wig and fake cleavage, which she left as she escaped, or was it when “he” escaped. I just had a feeling I might write about this adventure one day. At least the night wasn’t a total “bust.”
1. Mark Harris Says:
May 30th, 2006 at 9:21 pm
I almost choked reading this hysterical article!! It’s almost unbearable going to the theatre these days the way people misbehave. I know what you mean about the coughing at Kennedy Center-I refuse to see a concert there anymore.
2. Mickie Says:
May 30th, 2006 at 9:42 pm
I’ll never sit behind you at a show-never!! What a great article. Can’t wait for Part II.
3. Doug Poms Says:
May 30th, 2006 at 11:31 pm
very funny article. It is amazing how rude some theatergoers are these days. When I saw the “Odd Couple” in NYC recently, a man a few rows in front was munching loudly on doritos while another made a cell phone call. I was appalled. At least we can laugh about these things now. Thanks Joel.
4. Janet Yandik Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 7:04 am
This is a good article. I almost stopped going to classical music concerts a few years ago because of the awful behaviors of people in the audience. I thought that I was oversensitive, and that it was MY problem, so I should stop going. The people who manage these venues do almost nothing to educate the public. Oh yes, they print of list buried in the programs — big deal. I’m not impressed. They need to put up signs in large print before people walk in the theaters. OK. Here are my worst stories. It must have been about 10 years ago I went to see Le nozze di Figaro at Lincoln Center. The production and singing was wonderful — too bad I couldn’t enjoy myslf. There was a man in the balcony who coughed his guts up the entire time. My hope that he would realize he was sick and not return after intermission was crushed — he came back to finish his performance. I later mentioned it to someone who said I should have complained to an usher. Well, I don’t believe the ushers didn’t hear it. They just didn’t care. My next story is about my experience seeing Hecuba at the Kennedy Center. Twice before entering I was sternly warned by Kennedy Center personnel that there would be NO late seating. So, I sat in my seat several minutes before the start of the performance. (To set up the scene, I was sitting towards the back of the balcony in the Eisenhower Theatre.) Finally, the show begins with an actor coming out doing an intense prologue. To my amazement, an ushers ushers in a bunch of people. What happened to the “no late seating”? The most unforgivable part was that instead of seating them in the empty seats in the back rows, the usher brought them to a row towards the front and made the people in that row get up, so the latecomers could get to their assigned seats. What a cranky person I am …. maybe I should stop going to live theater!
5. Mary Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 8:03 am
OMG – are some of those situations for real — Who are those people?? Well, certainly the answer lies not in ceasing to attend theatre. We can’t let the misbehavers take over and ruin the experience of live performances. I like that Joel will actually say something to the person to try to correct the problem. I tend to sit and fume, but next time I will try your method, Joel, and attempt to educate.
6. Joel Markowitz Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 8:06 am
You can’t give up on the theatre, Janet. What you can do is to be tough and demand your rights to watch a show in peace. Be assertive with the people around you if they start talking or eating, etc. If that doesn’t work, go to the House Manager and have him/her come in and tell the offenders to stop, or have him/her move you to another seat. Joel
7. Barbara Bear Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 8:14 am
A number of years ago I saw Marcel Marceau at one of the major theatres in the area. If I had the energy I would go look for the program and then I could be more specific about the date and place. During Marcel’s performance (and we all know he’s a mime) a cell phone rang out. This was one of the most unbelievably rude experiences ever. I’ve had many other unbelievably rude experiences – the most recent being at Pajama Game in NYC. Two women seated near me were like wound up Barbie Dolls (I like Barbie but I don’t know what else to compare them to) – they would not shut up. They were just as obnoxious on the bus home and annoyed more than me. A folder (not heavy) from the bus over head fell on one their heads (applause) and she was out of control threatening to sue the bus company. Our tour leader (and the unfortunate bus driver) had to deal with her. I was just glad this individual’s true colors became evident to others and not just me. There are more experiences – but these two just came to mind.
8. Lani McKenna Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 8:27 am
Although it way years ago, I used to live in Miami. One of the reasons I left was because of the large gap I discovered existed in basic understanding of how one behaves at live performances. Two of my “favorite” stories are: 1. Just before the Matinee performance started I heard a lot of paper rustling and whispering directly in back of me. I turned around and discovered that the family seated there had brought their lunch to eat! 2. During a performance of Marcel Marceau, the elderly lady in back of me described every action to the hard of hearing friend sitting next to her. “Now he’s opening the door! Now he has a knife.” Oh hum…and still we go back!!! Lani
9. Steven Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 10:01 am
Although not as blatant as cell phone calls, I have run into increasing numbers of people who use phones & blackberries to send messages to friends during a show. Those screens can be awfully bright and distracting. Most recently I sat next to three teenage girls this spring in NYC at “The Woman in White.” The two on the ends whipped out their devices and I’m almost certain they were messaging each other back and forth for ten minutes during the second act before I finally told the nearest one to please put that away.
10. Gary S. Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 3:03 pm
Which “Mikado” did you see at the F Scott Fitzgerald? If it was in Feb 2005, I was the “hot Ko-Ko!!!” I was doubly delighted to read about your various smackdowns to the theatergoing public, and I’m glad you enjoyed our show!!! Gary
11. Richard Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 3:11 pm
How about this story-which I heard from a local actor who played one of the leads in a recent production Tof ake Me Out! This actor loved the scene where he pranced around nude in the locker room. One night, an old lady in the first row took out her binoculars. The actor came to edge of the stage, crouched in front of her, and said: “Would you like to touch it?” And she did.
12. Richard Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 3:13 pm
Sorry-the show was “Take Me Out.”
13. Paul Twohig Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 3:22 pm
My worst ‘theater experience’ was a cell phone ruining Pacino’s ‘Do I not bleed….’ at the movie–Merchant of Venice The topper was that they continued to let it ring while the wife showed her spouse who the call was from and they smiled, enjoying their ‘private moment’– no embarrassment or thought about others. Another movie: We try to be good fellow audience members but we got to the film ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ a little late, and took the first convenient seats as the opening credits started.. The guy behind Alice Lynn kept kicking her seat, and said it was because she had sat in front of him–we are not giants. He had plenty of seats beside him, or he could have asked us to move. He showed know doubt that his actions were justified. I can see how fights can get started. The great owner of the Cinema Arts Theater gave us our money back, and we saw the movie at another time. Maybe someone could write a play about all this—a murder mystery; which actor killed… Paul Twohig
14. Alan Says:
May 31st, 2006 at 7:59 pm
I enjoyed your column. My favorite example was way back in 1978, at the National Theatre, the 50th anniversary tour of SHOWBOAT, featuring Donald O’Connor & Lanie Kazan. Two ladies who had known & loved the music for most of the previous half century, insisted on singing along quietly with the overture & every song. They weren’t trying to steal attention from the stage, but they did effectively alter the vocal quality of everything. I presume they were accustomed to singing along with Laurence Welk & Mitch Miller TV shows.
15. Wendy Leibowitz Says:
June 1st, 2006 at 9:34 am
Sorry to go against the whining grain, but theater is PUBLIC performance, and that means there will be other people there. The vast majority of the time, people are courteous and quiet, and sharing the experience is what brings me out (as opposed to staying home and watching the tube, or ordering a private performance a la Louis XVI). I suggest that people grow a few more layers of skin. Yes, it is annoying when cell phones go off, and people should leave the phones at home or turn them off. But unless they intentionally told someone to call them during the show, it’s not something they intended. I agree with the person who said that more education (not complaining) is needed so people realize that although food and drink are SOLD in the lobby, they shouldn’t eat or drink in the theater (unlike the movies). I think this can be done politely, rather than by encouraging people to leave. When people do leave, the aisles can be narrow and even if you try not to step on someone, you might. A little forgiveness goes a long way. Peace on earth, Wendy
16. ronnie Says:
June 1st, 2006 at 10:06 am
I find some of the stories funny but I also go along with Wendy. I like when the company incorporates the cell announcement in the show. At Signature they had the announcement playing (seemingly) on an old phonograph at the opening curtain of “Sex Habits” and then one of the cast walked up and scratched the arm across the record and proclaimed something like “You have heard this before”.
For the most part I think most theatre goers are polite. It may seem different to the performers though?
17. Joel Says:
June 1st, 2006 at 10:24 am
Wendy: When you are paying allot of money for tickets to go to a show, (it’s over $120 now for a ticket to a Broadway show), you expect people to have some kind of theatre etiquette and manners. I agree that more education is needed. I have worked with schools on how to prepare their students before they bring large groups to the theatre. I send them a synopsis of the show and a CD of the score so they can review it with their students. This has helped immensely-I am told by the theatres and teachers. If parents would spend 10 minutes reviewing the show with their kids, we wouldn’t have so many kids asking what is going on all night when they are watching a show, And why would parents take a 5 year old to see Sweeney Todd or Little Shop of Horrors, where children were running up and down the aisle and where they were scared? When I usher at Ford’s Theatre, I quietly meet with the group leaders before they bring in their groups, and remind them about the need to be quiet, not to chew gum or eat or take pictures during the performance-and it works. Theatres need to make better assertive announcements before the shows begin-about not unraveling candy, not eating food, not talking and making sure that cell phones are off. Why not have a second announcement about the cell phones-with a little humor like,”Are you sure your cell phones are off? ” A Toronto theatre did this when I visited last year, and the audience laughed and one man realizing his phone was still on, shut it off. That might help herein our local theatres. And why not re-announce it before the Second Act begins, because someone might have forgotten to turn his/her phone off after using it at intermission. I applaud Studio Theatre for walking around with a large sign before the show asking people to shut off their cell phones. It worked beautifully at Studio last Sunday at Caroline, or Change, I only wish they could have held that sign up durning the early Frozen performances. It may have prevented the event I quoted in my article. But that didnt stop a man behind me to open cough drops every 5 minutes during the second act. How anniyong was that? Adults should know better when they go to a theatre. I would also like to see signs near the theatre doors with theatre etiquette on them. Putting the “rules” only in programs and playbills is useless. I agree-education will help, but lack of respect for the actors and the audience around you is inexcusable. Joel Markowitz
18. cheryl Says:
June 1st, 2006 at 1:47 pm
My weirdest experiences in the theater…. “Light in the Piazza” in NYC- this group of people walked and sat near some friends and myself. After they settled down (and before the curtain went up) they pulled out a bag of fried chicken and started munching away. Another time I was at a local theater and I was seated next to this woman who pulled out a flashlight and preceded to read the script of the play during the entire performance. Now what unravels me these days with some theaters…..I’m sick and tired of theaters seating people in the middle of a performance. This is even more annoying when the theater is not full and the ushers insist on seating late arrivals in the seats for which they have tickets rather than seating them in the back of theater where there are often an abundance of seats. The Kennedy Center is particularly guilty of this. My other big issue with theaters is – WHAT”S the $%#@! IS WITH ALL THE SMOKING OF CIGARETTES ON STAGE? It seems like about every other production I’ve seen lately involves actors smoking on stage. Sometimes the smoking is relevant to the character other times it doesn’t seem to add much. But if there is going to be smoking why don’t they use fake cigarettes? Last night I went to see The Glory of Living over at the Warehouse (a very interesting production)- there was smoking (real cigarettes) going on throughout the 2 hour play and in this small black box no less. Come on guys there are reasons that we have smoking restrictions- I really don’t want to have to sit in the theater and inhale smoke…..Use fake tobacco! I’m with Wendy and Ronnie- I think that most theater goers are very polite. I’m all for making public announcements about cell phones, candy wrappers, and such – even better (and probably more effective) when made with a sense of humor. I think that lecturing people is a big turn off….not only to the people being lectured at but also to others who happen to be in earshot. Personally I’m always glad to see theaters full- particularly when the audiences is made up of groups of children and adults who aren’t frequent theater goers- I’d like to see these theater events be pleasant occasions for these folks so that they will want to come back again and again.
19. StephenGregorySmith Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 1:04 am
Hmmm…Most productions that contain smoking announce this on the outside of the theatre, so people with low lung tolerance capacity can run out screaming before the show starts. I don’t know where you were that the smoking was a secret weapon, but if somone is smoking a cigarette, it is usually called for in the text. In a small black box, it can be tricky, but usually, and if the production is legit, there are fans in motion to circulate the air around. As an actor, I hate using fake cigarettes. They are just that. Fake. I LOVED the film, “Goodnight and Good Lick”, because it reminded us that not that long ago, we smoked EVERYWHERE! As we have become more health conscious and tree hugging, we forget that. I am not saying that the smell of smoke doesn’t make some ill, however, if I have an option as an actor to smoke a fake or real cigarette, I will smoke the real. I am trying to give as realistic a performance as I can, and the whole act of using a fake cigarette rips you from reality as an actor, as you do not inhale, but puff out a cloud of talcum…which doesn’t always work, PS. I love this forum, and it brings up valid points, but this is where it starts to get crazy to me. It is like being at a bar in VA, and smoking, and some snooty snoot woman says to me, can you blow that smoke the other way? And I think…no. You chose to come to a bar in VA, and we can smoke in here, and you can go and sit in the non-smoking section if you so choose. I understand your annoyance, but it is nothing personal against non smokers…it is simply a social habit that pre-dates our great grand parents. It will always be done on stage…it HAS always been done on stage. There are no smoking and non smoking sections in theatres. Truth be told, you breathe in pollutants just as bad, if not worse on your way to the subway or to your job. We just can’t put labels and restrictions on those things yet. PS…Assassins has a sign outside the door…it says…Smoking, Strobe Lights, and no late seating. Honesty is the best policy for those who cannot deal with things like that. I’m pretty sure you won’t get cancer from one cigarette smoked in the same room as you at a theatre performance, though.
20. cheryl Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 10:08 am
Steven- Give me a break! I have never seen a sign in a theatre warning folks that there will be smoking of real cigarettes during a performance. I’m not saying that such a sign has never existed but one has certainly never caught my attention. If you think that it is fair play for smoking to be incorporated into a performance provided that the audience is given fair warning then the time for a warning of this nature is not when folks have purchased tickets and are at the theatre waiting for the show to begin…a warning of this nature should rather be issued when the show is being advertised and when tickets are being sold. (Right – I can see that happening.) I mean really….”Honesty is the best policy for those who cannot deal with things like that.”If you fell that “…the whole act of using a fake cigarette rips from you reality as an actor..” do you also feel that you need to be intoxicated or high to portray a character who is drunk or who is on drugs…do you feel that you need to actually have sex on stage if you are portraying a character on stage who is having sex with another character in the play? Several weeks back I saw a wonderful production of “Mary Stewart” by the Cedar Lane Stage. In one of the scenes one of the actors pulled out a cigar. I wondered what in the world was this guy going to do with that thing…realizing that in another part of this actor’s life he is a physician. (I couldn’t imagine that as a physician he would really puff away at that thing…particularly not in a public setting.) What he ended up doing was first putting the cigar in his mouth then pulling out a lighter which he flicked on. He paused for a moment, never lighting the cigar, closed the lighter and placed it and the cigar in his jacket pocket. What a classy way to handle the situation…while at the same time remaining true to the scene.I for one don’t object to smoking real cigarettes on stage because I thing that I’ll get cancer if I inhale the smoke from one cigarette (although I’m sympathetic to folks who feel that way)- I don’t want to be exposed to the smoke because it makes me physically ill…I cough and get sick to my stomach. By the way did you take a double doze of arrogance before you responded to my posting! Cheryl
21. ronnie Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 10:44 am
While I understand both viewpoints on smoking onstage I have to say as a non smoker I breathe in smoke all the time. I have never smoked, not even tried it but I can also say I have never really been bothered by it either. Maybe all my time spent in dark, smokey music clubs. I think it would be rather easy to put an icon at the bottom of ads to denote smoking, nudity, crude language or any of the things that seem to anger one person or another. Then again one could always just call the box office and ask
22. Coralie Farlee Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 12:30 pm
I am VERY MUCH OPPOSED to smoking by actors in live performances. When I was asked to lobby for the “no smoking in workplaces” bill, I was told that live theater would be included. It is not (according to the DC office that enforces the new law). There are at least 4 current productions that include smoking: Gigli at Woolley Mammoth, 2 at Studio, 1 at Arena Stage; Woolley did handle it pretty well, although it WAS a cigar: a couple of puffs, but since I was in the first row, it was really obnoxious. In the “Frozen” performance at Studio, I was “trapped” in the back row against a wall and the smoke didn’t clear for at least 5 minutes — the fan/circulating system did not reach there. My symptoms: headache, nausea, sneezing, teary eyes . . . It’s also VERY DISTRACTING away from the plot/action on stage, since I think it’s VERY RUDE to the audience to do this. JUST HOLDING A CIGARETTE WOULD ILLUSTRATE THE POINT. I would like to consider a petition to prohibit this smoking by actors in live theater. (My assumption is that smoking by the audience members/ushers is already prohibited.) Is anyone else interested in joining in to circulate a petition?
23. ronnie Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 1:10 pm
I do not want this to turn into a smoking/nonsmoking petition, it is great to discuss theatre etiquette but since Coralie did not include her email address I assume she wishes to use our forum as her form of communication for this petition. While DCTR wants to promote discussion we do not want to serve as the message board for Citizens Against Theatre Smoke 🙂 So while we support anyone following their convictions (feel free to include your email addy for others to contact you directly) we will cut off this thread if it just becomes a “sign me up” or a slug fest. Maybe a better topic of discussion would be: Does just holding a cigarette provide enough realism that one might not be distracted from an otherwise spot on performance? (Throwing that out there)..
24. Janet Y Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 4:46 pm
Please please, can I add just one more comment? A non-smoking section of a public place is like having a non-peeing section in a swimming pool.
25. ronnie Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 5:27 pm
You can add as many as you want I just don’t want it to get out of hand with the smokers and non smokers. There is no smoking in theatres anyway, we are only discussing if their should be smoking on stage right everyone?
26. Anon Says:
June 2nd, 2006 at 9:35 pm
Cell phones and other disruptive behavior in theatres. The question that leaps to mind is why people who have spent money on tickets and gone to the effort to get themselves to the theatre in the first place even need to be told what is and isn’t appropriate in that setting. Yes, mistakes happen – someone forgets about the phone. But when it rings, what is the logic behind ANSWERING the thing instead of turning it off immediately? In the case of talking, opening candy and other things…those aren’t mistakes, those are conscious decisions. Not to be overly dramatic, but someone who does things like that is in a very real sense stealing from the rest of the audience – they paid for their tickets too, and the disrupters are not letting them get what they paid for. Actors seem to be learning a new skill: filtering out noise from the house, and what else can they do? But it’s a shame, because ideally there is a give and take between the stage and the house that makes each performance unique. If actors have to put a filter between themselves and the audience just to get through the show, everyone involved has lost something. Smoking on stage…Sometimes it’s called for and fake looks fake. A good actor can fake drunkeness, but no one is good enough to make you see smoke that isn’t there. But yes, the audience should be warned beforehand, just like with strobe lights.
27. Bill Says:
June 5th, 2006 at 10:25 am
While I agree that people should not pack a lunch or a dinner to eat in the theater, Nor should they make calls from their cell phones, if the theater sells candy in the lobby then you cannot expect people to open it in the theater. They shouldn’t do it but its going to happen. I have always felt that the rules about noise were for the AUDIENCES benefit so they would not be distracted and annoyed. That it wasnt for the actors. If the sound of a candy wrapper breaks your concentration you need to get into an another line of work. I would love to see what modern actors and audiences would make of the groundlings. lol
28. Bill Says:
June 5th, 2006 at 10:30 am
P.S As a one time three pack a day smoker and as a now 1/2 a pack a day smoker I can honestly say that most shows do not require smoking. Unless it is a plot point or mentioned in the script over and over again I don’t think actors should smoke on stage. Its a cheap easy piece of business. But with that said no government should be allowed to ban it. Theater is a way to express ideas and thoughts and to limit it in anyway is limiting free speech.
29. Anon Says:
June 5th, 2006 at 10:51 am
“If the sound of a candy wrapper breaks your consentration you need to get into another line of work.” But if I’ve paid for a ticket and the sound of a candy wrapper breaks my concentration on the show, I don’t get to ask that they start the show over again, even if the actors didn’t even hear the wrapper or care. It’s first and formost about abuse of the rest of the audience. Obviously there is a grey area. One piece of candy here or there isn’t so bad, though why it can’t be opened in the lobby during intermission is a mystery. (Or saved till later!) But that’s not what we are talking about. 20 years ago people just didn’t do things like this to the point that it got so noticable. Sure, granny needs a cough drop because unwrapping it is better than listening to her cough, nobody gets upset. But now, it’s as if the invention of cell phones has created the general idea that all bets are off as far as being considerate in theatres. Everyone doesn’t behave this way, but the small percentage who do are really changing the theatre-going experience for the rest of us.
30. Joel Says:
June 5th, 2006 at 3:50 pm
Here’s a real nightmare story-Yesterday I was at Studio Theatre watching Caroline, or Change with The Ushers. To the right of me was a woman who was playing with her cell phone as the show began and then was text messaging her friend during the show. To the right of me was a man who was sleeping and snoring. Behind me was a man who had a one pound bag of M&Ms which he slowly unwrapped and crinkled loudly for over 20 minutes, I finally couldn’t take it, and aked the candy man to stop. He wouldn’t. So, I turned around again and said, “If you don’t stop making that noise, I will have you removed from the theatre. Show some respect for the actors and everyone here around you.” Finally, he stopped. So, was I supposed to sit there and take it? The theatre was sold out,, and there were no extra seats. We theatre goers have to stand up for our rights. If you need losenges, unwrap them before you get into the theatre. What’s so hard about that? It’s a no brainer. And it’s plain courtesy. And I was told that a cell phone went off during “Lots Wife’” at the most emotional moment of the musical-on Saturday night, despite the ushers’ gallant attempts at Studio asking people after the intermission, and before the second act began. to make sure they shut their phones off. Sometimes, you just can’t win. But you can still stand up for your rights. Joel
31. ronnie Says:
June 5th, 2006 at 4:16 pm
I guess everyone is different. And theatres are different as well. Warehouse encourages taking your vodka tonic in to see the show. Now maybe they have seen it and know you need to be “lickered up”.
I remember a few shows where I have had a cold and did not want to cough. I would recomend altoids for that tickle, the box is pretty quiet and unlike Joel you will not have loose candy in your pocket
32. jayne Says:
June 6th, 2006 at 9:44 am
Very funny article and horribly, horribly true