Friday October 30th, 2015
Howdy again blogosphere! Another week has flown by since my last posting. Show is plugging along and I honestly think it gets better and better. The more ease and confidence we have in it, the more the audience seems to love it. Live theatre is like nothing else. We love our audience but sometimes it gets a bit nuts. You've all probably heard of some recent audience moments in the news- Patti Lupone stopped a performance when a cell phone went off to 'school' the audience. And during the Broadway play Hand to God someone from the audience got up onstage and tried to charge their iphone using one of the outlets on the set. It is a set so the outlet wasn't real.
We’ve had a few crazy moments of our own. Last Sunday matinee (I think it was Sunday matinee) when the four of us came out in the blackness to start Act 2, I follow Rory and we rush to our places before the lights come up. Well, a few steps in I bump into Rory who seems to have bumped into something himself. I hear him mumble, “What is going on here?” and I assume he bumped into a chair or something. The lights come up to start the act and we find, no, he hasn’t bumped into a chair….but a lady. I guess she was chatting with another friend a few seats away from her in the front row and when the lights started fading she (are you ready for this?) climbed onto the stage as she thought it would be easier to get to her seat by GETTING UP ONSTAGE! Well, our blackouts are pretty dark so when she couldn’t see where she was going she decided to (here it comes!!) SIT DOWN ONSTAGE! So, then we entered and Rory not seeing her walked right into her. Lights came up and there was this woman on the ground center stage and everyone was confused. Danny, gentleman that he is, helped her to her seat. The audience was all abuzz and wouldn’t seem to settle down so finally after a few moments when things seemed back to normal I said “We all good?” and we started Act Two. Live theatre folks! There is nothing like it.
Speaking of live theatre, I went on Wednesday to the matinee of Therese Raquin at the Roundabout. My mom was in town and wanted to see it so I got us tickets. I am not going to talk about the play itself but the experience of being in the audience was truly mind-blowing. I could not believe the amount of talking, whispering, candy wrappers, movement, and enough coughing to fill up a tuberculosis ward!! It was so incredibly distracting. I really felt bad for the actors. Not the mention the fact that the theatre there at Studio 54 must have thin walls since throughout the performance we could hear cars, trucks, people talking on the street, etc.- tough to do a play set in the 1800’s while you are hearing the BOOP BOOP BOOP of a truck backing up outside.
But, the whole thing got me thinking about audience etiquette. We LOVE our audiences and certainly those of us who make most of our living doing live theatre would be nowhere without them. BUT I do think that people could use a reminder about how to behave in an audience. Remember we onstage HEAR EVERYTHING! Every cough, sneeze, movement…EVERYTHING!
We understand that people have to cough sometimes or move a bit in their seats or open a candy wrapper. But here’s some advice as someone who has trod the boards for a while-
1. If you have a cough or cold when you come to the theatre try having water or lozenges ready and nearby. If you have to open a candy or lozenge wrapper do it quickly. Rip that band-aid off! Trying to do it slowly may seem like a good idea but it doesn't work. Trust me!
2. If you have to take off or put on a jacket try to pick a time when there is a lot going on onstage. Ideally a tap number. Or if there is no tap number try to avoid the quietest moment of the play.
3. If your cough becomes really bad just go out of the theatre to the lobby until you feel you are able to return. There was a woman at Therese Raquin who must have hacked up both lungs and probably some other internal organs. I'm hoping she survived. What can I say...? I'm a worrier!
4. Don’t talk. Don’t whisper. We can hear you. And your neighbors can too.
5. Turn off your cell phone. Most nights now either a phone goes off or someone gets a text and we all hear the little tune. If you turn on your phone at intermission, then please remember to turn it off at the top of Act 2. Or just turn it off and put it away for the evening. The actors, director, designers, stage managers, crew, etc.. all have worked so hard to transport you to another world for that few hours and when your phone goes off it jolts everyone from England 1969 (or wherever that play takes place) and back into 2015.
6. Turn off your phone’s screen well before the play starts. We come out in the darkness at the beginning of the play and almost every night there are cell phone screens lit up in the audience of people finishing a text or email or just trying to figure out how to turn it off. I treasure that first moment of darkness- whether I am onstage or in the audience and I hate to lose it.
I don’t mean to scold or pull a Patti Lupone but I just love the theatre so much. I love going as much as I love performing in it. It is that rare, live experience where a group of strangers in a dark room get transported to another world. It’s different than movies in that way in that it is completely live and never to be exactly the same. And it’s certainly different than TV where you can pause, go to the john or get a pint of ice cream. Every person in that particular crowd onstage and off plays a part in that particular evenings live event. And I think if everyone took just a moment to think of all of the other folks involved in that experience we could potentially have nights of cell phone free, quiet, focused, thrilling theatre. Great moments when you can truly and literally hear a pin drop. To me there is nothing like that.
That is all my ranting. If you ever see me at the theatre and I am talking or texting or opening a candy I hope you will remind me.
See you at the theatre soon!
Ciao for now, Jay