Archive for January, 2012


iPhone Fiasco At The NY Philharmonic: No Surprise To Me

January 14, 2012

By now you’ve probably read about the conductor of the New York Philharmonic who stopped a performance Tuesday night when an audience member’s phone started ringing incessantly. They’re  calling it the “Marimba” ringtone heard round the world because of the media attention it has attracted.

The culprit has said in an interview that it was a new iPhone and he didn’t realize that a timer was set to go off. He said he feels dreadful.

What I don’t understand is why more isn’t written about, and more action take against, thoughtless and rude audience members. Because this incident happened at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, one of the most prestigious venues in the world, it’s gotten a lot of attention.

But many of us theatre goers have suffered for years under the deterioration of audience conduct, have endured bad behavior by people who have no class, no home training, no appreciation for performers and no respect for their fellow human beings. And theatres refuse to get aggressive in their policies,  seeming to believe everybody who comes to their venue has a perfectly lovely time and everybody shows the utmost etiquette.


Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about and why the actor on stage couldn’t stop his show to deal with ridiculously rude behavior going on in the audience.

Nearly three years ago I attended a matinee of “Christine Jorgenson Reveals” at the Lion Theatre on 42nd Street, a tiny space on New York’s Theatre Row. This is a one man play about Jorgenson, an ex GI who became world famous in the 1950s for having a sex change operation.

When I say tiny, there were no more than two dozen people in the audience. I’m guessing the place only holds 50 or so people, so the audience sits just feet from the stage.

What happened that day I will never forget and I tell people that it is the most pathetic behavior I have ever witnessed at a live show.

I remember everything seemed fine at first. The audience was in their seats, the house lights slowly dimmed, and the actor, Bradford Louryk, made his entrance, took a seat center stage and began the show.

I would say it was 15 minutes in when my attention was yanked from the stage by three women seated across the aisle from me and one seat back. It started with a loud rustling and crinkling sound coming from the woman at the end  of the row. Then I heard the pull and tear that could only come from…no it couldn’t be…no one would bring this in to the show…yes it was…a big, shining bag of chips.  A family size bag of Doritos as a matter of fact.  The three women proceeded to share, rattling the bag as they passed  it back and forth grabbing fistfuls, crunching and grinding like they were home on the couch watching “The Real Housewives.”

Pity home is where they didn’t stay. And if only that was the worst of it.

Ignoring my glares, it was only a matter of time before their thirst got the best of them and I heard the popping of a bottle top. Oh yes, a 20 ounce Pepsi to wash down that salty, cheesy snack. Chugging it back, the soda swishing and gurgling with each gulp,  followed by the obligatory, “ahhh.”

Still ignoring my stares and glares and now those of at least two other audience members, I was on the brink of confronting them and if everyone in the theatre heard me, so be it, I thought.  I would rather hear an audience member chew out the rude and ignorant than listen as they chomp  and splinter one more Dorito like starving woodchucks.

And then, the worst offense, yet. A cell phone started ringing. Muffled at first. Then one of the women began thrashing through her purse. The rings grew louder as she lifted more debris from the top of her bag.  She located it and pulled it out, the rings now full blast.  And then she took the call. Yes, that’s right, the woman answered her phone. Right there in her seat.

“Hey, I’m at the play….yeah…it’s not bad…I was wondering what you want for dinner….” She  didn’t even attempt to whisper.

As I stood to cross the aisle and tell her what she could do with with her phone, she must have had an attack of human decency. She got up and walked out, her phone in hand.

The actor had to have heard at least some of this and since the exit door was next to the stage, I watched him cast a steely glance as she trotted out the door.

If the actor did hear the eating, the drinking and the phoning, he too may have wanted to stop the show just like that philharmonic conductor.  But that’s not an option in “Christine Jorgenson Reveals” because the entire performance is lip–synched to the recording of a rare 1950s radio interview of the real Christine Jorgenson. It is so precise the actor couldn’t break character for one beat or risk ruining the show.

Unfortunately for all of us there were audience members more than willing to ruin it for him.

Most theatres include restrictions on cell phones and other policies in the printed program, or make a pre-show announcement. But what about the people who think they’re above those rules? That their phone must be on at all times? That it’s ok for them to talk out loud?  That it’s quite alright for them to satisfy their junk food cravings while watching the first act?

I think theatres should print on tickets, in the program, put a disclaimer on their website,  and make a pre-show announcement: “Anyone disturbing the enjoyment of this performance through use of a cell phone, loud talking or other behavior that anyone with the slightest bit of sense would know not to do, will be removed from the theatre, not given a refund, and be told never to return.”

What do you think? Do you have a story that tops this one?