From the publisher...

A.S. Waterman

May-June 2007

We're expanding! As we approach our six-month anniversary, we're working hard to add more features and enhancements. One goal is to make this Web site a more timely news vehicle, so we've added the "New this week" column at the right. We're also planning to launch an interview feature, along with a series of editorials intended to improve the state of theatre in Louisville.

Here's the first.


Audiences Behaving Badly

Shortly after this Web site went live, one of the peer reviewers came to me with an interesting question. He had been impressed with a performance, and wanted to praise it. However, his enjoyment had been spoiled by the behavior of some people seated near him in the theatre, and he wondered whether he should mention this in his review. I told him that I didn't think it was a good idea to review the audience. In retrospect, I think I made the wrong decision.

On the night that I reviewed Italian American Reconciliation at Actors Theatre, a young woman got up to take a bathroom break in the middle of a scene. Her seat was in the center of the second row, and thus she disrupted the view for the entire audience. The actors' performance continued flawlessly, of course; however, it was a few moments before I -- seated directly behind her and hopelessly non-plussed) -- could concentrate on it. The young woman eventually returned to her seat, and shortly thereafter, another young woman (presumably emboldened by the first) also stood up for a potty break. When she returned, all three members of her party began a discussion about it, at which point a gentleman in the third row shushed them. Their resentment was clear (as well as audible), as if it was he who had interfered with their enjoyment of the play, rather than vice versa.

Somehow, audience members have developed an entitlement mentality that focuses on them, not on the privilege of enjoying a work of the performing arts. This mindset extends not only to those who feel entitled to block another's view but also to those who light up the rows with their PDAs and cell phones, as well as the recreational coughers (i.e., those who cough not because they have to but because they can). Indeed, some of the latter seem to be simply clearing their throats during a performance. Why? Are they planning to get up and make a speech?

People who wish to behave in this manner should stay home and rent a movie. Perhaps, if they become proficient enough at that, they'll realize that the audience in a live theatre can't pause, rewind or kick up the volume to catch what they missed. What's gone is gone; and in a live performance, each unique moment is one that will never come again.

Whether we like it or not, members of the audience are a part of each live performance. Those who refuse to learn their parts should be dismissed, in favor of the eager understudy waiting in the wings.

-- A.S. Waterman

Published May 1, 2007


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