Quiet in The Theater

Yvonne AK Johnson Theatre DirectorBroadway is arguably the best place to enjoy an authentic theatrical experience. The massive auditoriums, lavish stages and talented performers have been drawing in crowds for decades. However, a change is coming to the theaters that many fans are booing. As technology becomes more prevalent, less respectful audience members are interrupting shows with camera flashes and text messages.

Growing tensions reached a breaking point recently when a teenager climbed onto a stage mid-performance to recharge his phone in a prop outlet. Though the teen admitted to being inebriated, actors are so incensed by this trend they’ve begun to fight back against interruptive influences. Snatching phones away from texting troublemakers, the thespians are reclaiming their stage, one IPhone at a time. Patti LuPone, acclaimed actress and broadway veteran, has threatened to quit the stage due to the rampant electronic incursion.

Longtime theater goers have also voiced a displeasure with the level of disrespect. “I’ve just spent pretty close to a day’s salary on theater tickets,” says theater aficionado Robin Satty, “I don’t want to be distracted by people turning on their phone to check the time of text.” Many feel that the hyper-connected world we live in is damaging theater culture. Entertainment that predates the television, theater is struggling to compete in the digital age.

Theaters, though, are attempting to adapt their rules to meet millennials half-way. During a showing of “Godspell” several years ago, the theater experimented with “tweet seats.” Set in the very back row of the theater, these seats allowed for silent use of mobile phones without disrupting the show for surrounding audience members. Though this process has yet to be adopted by many theaters, it’s a compromise worth considering if they would like to continue bringing in fresh faces.

The decline in theater etiquette has been a topic of conversation ever since t-shirts were allowed to mingle with sport jackets. While some affronts to proper behavior may be from a bygone era, today’s interruptions run the risk of disengaging the performers entirely. Bright flashes, humming buzzers, and even shouting patrons have become commonplace, prompting actors to stop the show entirely until the offender is plucked from the audience.


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