FINE ARTS COLUMNIST
Oh the ever so wonderful sound of a phone receiving a Facebook message during an emotionally gripping scene of play. …Wait a second … that is not good at all! But it is quite odd that it happens all of the time in movie theaters and during concerts, dance recitals and musicals and plays. I can tell you right now that whether you are an audience member or the one pouring your heart out in a performance, it is downright horrid.
Let me clarify that I completely understand that sometimes things happen. Maybe you were in a traffic jam, ran late and came in after the announcement about turning electronics off. If you have an iPhone like me, you know that the silent switch is triggered if you drop it. Stuff happens. And certainly electronics have their place in art today, but I will discuss that toward the end.
But let me ask you this: Why didn’t you just turn your phone all the way off? I mean surely you understand technology enough to realize that “silent” and “do not disturb” are never going to stop everything. And don’t even think about vibrate! This is a problem mostly with our generation. When it happens to those who may be a little older, I assume it is just forgetfulness. But most of the time, young adults just do not want to. Seriously, is it that difficult to not use your phone for just two freaking hours?! I apologize if this sounds harsh, but that is downright rude and pathetic. (The truth hurts.)
Let me go through the list of excuses I have heard and offer solutions.
1. “I need to check the time.” No, you don’t. I certainly pray that the show is gripping enough to keep you there, but checking the time is rude and says that what you are watching is boring and something else is more important than what you came to see. Or worse, that the performer does not warrant your full attention. Also, in a small theatre, we can ALL see your face light up from that cell phone screen. If you have a commitment of some sort, either see another show, be late for the other thing or skip it. You have no idea how much our hearts sink when people walk out. Yes, we see you.
2. “I may have an emergency.” I get that. In this case, you leave your phone with the house manager or an usher who will alert you if something happens. They are good at their jobs; trust them.
3. “My friend is in it and I want to take pictures/videos.” NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! This is a major LEGAL issue! First of all, you taking pictures is distracting to fellow audience members. Second, we see it! Stop it! Now back to the legal issue. We pay royalty fees to earn the rights to perform a show, and there are limitations, which include that we are not allowed to take pictures or videos of the show except for archive/educational purposes approved for our director only. Please. Just stop. Also, another huge note on that: are you going to actually watch the show or just document it like everyone in this generation does…? Come on. (And I have been guilty of this outside of art events, I admit it.)
As I mentioned earlier, electronics can have their place in art. But this is only if it is dictated by the artistic director and actually for the show. I mean, lighting on stage is an obvious one. But we also sometimes use music, sound effects and projectors. This is the only time electronics and theatre should mix. Other than that, we tell the audience to kindly disengage from them.
We do not make these announcements as suggestions; they are actual rules of etiquette. Please, please, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, turn your phones ALL THE WAY OFF! It’s really not that difficult to unplug from the world for about two hours. Do this for your sake, the sake of those watching around you and for those of us that have worked hours upon hours for months. We did not do all of that work so you can come and look at Facebook…it is insulting. Please and thank you. Also, I promise you that you will not be disappointed. You will be able to fully engage in the show, and it is fantastic! We take our work seriously, and we want so badly to share it with you.