Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Behavior modification

I've talked about theater etiquitte on this blog before. I've even put together shorts for our CenterTV show on the subject (that would be me with the bag of Funyuns) and I'm now working on a few different pre-recorded curtain speeches for the various halls here. So with my sensitivity to the subject, I was delighted this morning to see a local critic get into the act with a bit of commentary on bad behavior:

"The only things that marred this excellent production were a few examples of unfortunate audience behavior.

Folks, if you get up during the show, be advised that those of us still in the theater can hear your loud lobby conversations - and we would rather listen to the people on the stage.

Also, if a cell phone should happen to go off during the performance, try to express your horror silently. This also applies to discussions about the play, which would be best reserved for intermission or afterward.

When a production is this good, the least we can do is hold up our end of the bargain."

In the live curtain speeches I do here, all those points above are usually covered ahead of time. I'm never looking to be insulting to anyone straight away (that's not saying the fangs won't come out on the second or third offense), and I think using humor is often the best route when trying to remind folks about how they should behave in a theater - for their own enjoyment, for the enjoyment of everyone else there and out of respect for the artists on stage.

It's not just Tampa, I've seen comments about audience members in New York and in Chicago, but we do seem to need a bit more encouragement than some other places I've been.

My most recent brush with bad behavior came when I went to see Dave Chappelle just a few weeks ago. At the beginning of Dave's set, a guy behind me with a cellphone starts yelling "HEY! HEY! YEAH, I'M AT DAVE CHAPPELLE ... NO, HE JUST STARTED ... WHAT ARE YOU DOING? COOL. NO, THIS IS AWESOME ..." Good thing that only went on for about 3 minutes before the girl sitting next to him burned a hole in his forehead with her stare and he hung up.

Feel free to gently remind those you're traveling with or sitting near in the theater if they're ruining it for everyone. Let's make this a group effort, ok?

Got a horrible theater behavior story? I sure would love to hear it ...

- David J.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My wife and I saw Cinderella at Morsani hall and it featured such fun distractions as a squalling infant in it's mothers lap(both of which are against TBPAC's unenforced policies) and a little girl next to us who thought it was a sing-along performance and kept kicking her legs as she sang along to every single song.

Kiss Me Kate was ruined when the normal couple in front of us didn't attend and a mother daughter combo conspired to almost get throttled by about 6 members of the audience as the mother bought the girl a baseball cap before the show which she proceeded to take on and off repeatedly during the show waving it in front of the group behind her. Also at Morsani. I believe the show should have been called "Kiss the Hat" rather than Kiss Me Kate.

Across the bay during the beginning of the 2nd act of Camelot, as Lancelot got 1/4 into If Ever I Would Leave You, the guests who had access to the private lounge were allowed to enter late and in the middle of the song thus ruining it by loudly stampeding to their seats. This wasn't a trickle of a few people, it was a good 50 or so.

I was also at a Jobsite production where a few audience members seemed to think they were watching tv in their living room and could freely talk and comment. Much to your displeasure I believe.

I lived in Cincinnati for 5 years and saw a load of theater there and that sort of behavior just never happened. Ever!

On the other hand, I know an acquaintance here who left a show at intermission because his wife was coughing too much and he thought it was disturbing the audience!