By now, you've probably read something about Patti LuPone and the cell phone incident.
If you haven't, just Google it and read many accounts. One of my favorites is from the
Now, anybody who knows me, knows I love my iPhone. I use it regularly for business, and personal use. It is rarely not close by. My electronic devices are crucial to how I run my business.
When I am in a waiting room, or in the theatre, or in other places of public space, I TURN IT OFF.
What has happened to our theatre goers and why is Patti LuPone getting the blame, or at least the headline?
Frankly, I salute her for making the statements she has made. It's about time. But she shouldn't have to.
What's wrong with people?
What happened to knowing how to behave in different social situations?
Going to the theatre, has become an extension of someone's personal living room. The respect, the sanctity, and the accessibility seem so lost on society. And the willingness of the theatre staff from the top to deal with this lack of respect, seems non-existent.
It is so easy to then make this issue about Patti LuPone. It is not. It is about YOU - the person who talks through a movie when you aren't the only one in the theatre; it is about YOU - the person who sits in live theatre and texts or checks Facebook during the show; it is about YOU - the person who talks at a table or the bar loudly enough while someone is singing on stage.
It's also about YOU - the person who came to the theatre with said talker/texter - who doesn't tell your companion to shut up or turn it off; It's also about YOU - the usher, the theatre manager, the security - who doesn't simply take the device and escort said offender out the door.
Let's not confuse this shall we?
If people start being held accountable for their actions perhaps this has a chance. Why do the performers have to be the ones who end up saying something?
Why is it so hard to learn to behave appropriately depending on the venue?
If you are at the theatre, why aren't you paying attention to what's going on, on stage? If you are bored, leave. Some of us pay a lot of money on tickets and we didn't do that to hear you chat, sing along, or see your screen light up every 3 seconds beside us.
What I am always amazed by, is the indignation by the offending party when you say something! (And trust me, I SAY something!) That stunned disbelief that someone would actually tell them to stop in public space from doing something that is offensive.
Whether it's Madonna texting during
, or the twit teenager who tried to plug his phone in to charge it on the set of
, it is behavior that needs to stop.
So, we know Patti LuPone said something, stopped the show and read the riot act. Now, who was the woman who was using her phone? We need to know the names of these people. They can't stay anonymous. Playbill tracked down the idiot at Hand of God and we know who he is. We know who Madonna is. These people need to be exposed. Why? Because when your name is suddenly revealed, if you really REALLY believe you weren't doing anything wrong, it won't bother you will it?
The theatre is a place where we go to be entertained, to be challenged, to be changed; The beauty and mystery of theatre is that we can be in the same place with many others - all strangers - and still experience something magical and unique.
That possibility of magic, that promise of awareness, that incredible mystery of the human experience needs to be honored. It needs to be given the respect it rightfully deserves. It deserves your undivided attention, your willingness to invest, and your respect.
Your living room, your ordinary, your shopping bags, your conversations, your cell phone - have NO place in the theatre.
YOU are welcome: your curiosity, your eagerness, your attention, your spirit, your laughter, your tears, your energy!
Leave the rest of it on the street or at coat check.
The theatre is sanctuary for many; it is a place of hushed expectation; it is a place that comes alive with language and song and creates magic in the places in between.
Even if you have no idea what that means, but still want to go to be entertained, you can still learn to respect the space you have entered.
So, start paying attention to where you are. Speak up if someone beside isn't. Don't let an actor who has work to do have to break 4th wall in order to make a larger point.
If you are at the theatre, BE THERE. Trust me, when you power your cell phone back on, it'll still be there! And then you can actually discuss the EXPERIENCE of the theatre for real via social media and text on your phone, after you have actually had the experience!
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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