From the publisher...
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