How should performers respond when cellphones, cameras or other electronic devices interrupt their shows?
On Tuesday, June 23, actress/singer Patti LuPone sent a note to New York Times columnist Dave Itzkoff taking him to task for his coverage of her decision to stop a concert in Las Vegas to berate an audience member for using an electronic device. The post received an overwhelming number of reader comments (over 800 as of this writing).
"What do you expect me, or any performer for that matter, to do?" asked Ms. LuPone.
"Do we allow our rights to be violated (photography, filming and audio taping of performances is illegal) or tolerate rudeness by members of the audience who feel they have the right to sit in a dark theater, texting or checking their e-mail while the light from their screens distract both performers and the audience alike? Or, should I stand up for my rights as a performer as well as the audiences I perform for?"
Loud talking during a performance is always a bummer. Audience members using flash photography during performances is almost always prohibited. While pagers going off used to be an issue, now performances are more likely to be interrupted by people answering cellphones. While texting during a performance doesn't necessarily cause any noise, it can be distracting for audience members sitting next to a rabid text-er with a flashing screen.
How do you feel about "modern" audience etiquette (or lack thereof) at performances you've recently attended?
Here is a sampling of the comments posted in support of Patti LuPone's "cease and desist" order:
"Sometimes in the Old West, theatre patrons checked their guns at the door — why can’t theaters require patrons to check their phones and Blackberries?"
"It’s naive to expect theatre management to be able to control this behavior. They can’t patrol the aisles. And how can they reasonably locate an offender otherwise unless someone complains - and by the time they can act, it’s almost pointless. Far better for there to be strong instant reaction from other audience members - that’s what I hope results from this heightened awareness."
"You come into a theatre, as you come into any communal experience including sports event, place of worship, school, workplace, whatever - with certain expectations as to appropriate behaviour. If you can’t civilise yourself sufficiently to meet those minimal standards, then stay home. There are many DVDs you can rent where in the privacy of your living room, you can chat, eat, smoke, you can yodel at the top of your lungs and play your GameBoy with your bare feet, and no one will care.'
Follow this link to read the original NYT.com post and reader comments.