Monday, June 20, 2011

When Famous Theater Actors Strike Back

My theater pet peeves include talking, emailing, texting and any other rude voluntary action which interrupts or distracts from the performance. While announcements are made before the show, there is always some sort of interruption at the vast majority of shows I attend. 

Since Ms. McDormand continues to be on my mind days after her Tony get up and speech, I cannot help but recall a recent incident I read about where she called out an audience member who took a cell phone call during a performance of Good People. Here is the write up from the NY Post:
A ringing cellphone stepped on Frances McDormand's lines at a climactic moment in Broadway's "Good People" the other night. The ring echoed from the balcony, drawing gasps from the audience, which included Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. Incredibly, the woman with the phone took the call, saying, "Hello." McDormand said, sternly, from the stage, "When you're done, we'll resume." She continued when the rude playgoer stowed the phone.
Ms. McDormand is not the only famous actor to strike back by interrupting a performance and confronting the culprit. According to a NY Times interview, here is an incident described by Denzel Washington during a performance of Fences last year. 
There are all these women coming to see me, to see this actor they like, and I appreciate that,” he said. “But at some shows, women are carrying on and snickering too much. Like at our Mother’s Day performance. Some audience members wouldn’t stop talking during an Act II speech. So I walked down to the front of the stage and stared at them, silently, for 30 seconds. They stopped, and I went on.”
Hugh Jackman called out an audience member during previews of A Steady Rain, according to a Crain's article
It [crude video shot by audience member] shows Mr. Jackman breaking character to tell the owner of the ringing cell phone, "You want to get that?" as the audience erupts in cheers. As the ringing persists, Mr. Jackman pleads: "Come on, just turn it off." He then paces the stage of the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, waits about a minute for the ringing to stop and the play resumes.
But the best has to be when Broadway diva Patti LuPone berated an audience member for taking pictures during a performance of Gypsy. Here is an account of the incident captured in all its glory on


Whether you believe an actor interrupting the performance is professional or not, I can only sympathize with those who have to tolerate these interruptions night after night, performance after performance. 

As an audience member, it is a no win situation. If you try and ask the culprit to stop, then you too begin to add to the disturbance and furthermore risk a confrontation. If you are a famous performer like Ms. McDormand, Mr. Washington, Mr. Jackman or Ms. LuPone, then I guess that you can strike back and hopefully teach the culprit a lesson.

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