February 4, 2014

February 4, 2014

To My Fellow Theatre Patrons

Dear Fellow Theatre Patrons,

It is the best of times, in that we have an overwhelming number of options when it comes to the visual and performing arts. Concerts. Film. Theatre. Sculpture. Portraiture. From puppetry to mime, you can probably find it being created and performed in the greater Washington, DC area. Not since the halcyon days of the ancients has it been so easy to find Art. Look no further than the nearest Banksy installation.

However, you must admit that the consumption of Art is affected somewhat by the presence of others. Though the proverbial tree in the woods only makes a sound if someone hears it, that person can only hear it IF YOU HAVE TURNED OFF YOUR FREAKING CELL PHONE. And unwrapped your butterscotch candies. And deposited your purseful of loose change in the nearest fountain.

Let’s talk about your grandchildren, whom you brought to the Kennedy Center’s performance of Elf. Though the musical’s content is appropriate for young children, other aspects of its performance are not, including the fact that it didn’t begin until 7:30 PM. I know very little about the ways of young children, but I daresay they are ill equipped to be out in public at that hour, much less sitting STILL and QUIETLY so the woman next to them will stop staring daggers at their smallish heads.

I thank you, Couple Who Brought Their Grandchildren to Elf, for leaving at intermission. I will not thank you, however, for the pile of candy wrappers and forlorn Santa hat you left behind.

Alas, it’s not just the children who affect the theatergoing experience. To the Woman Who Overlaughed at Peter and the Starcatcher: What did you take before the show, and can I have some? Or is the belly laughed that erupted from you frequently and well your regular laugh? This was a Santa-level laugh; the sort of thing you would expect to hear from James Earl Jones when he gets tickled. Peter and the Starcatcher was funny, so I don’t begrudge the laughter (that much). It was just so much more intense and frequent than I could make sense of. Plus there were all those times when you DIDN’T laugh at an obvious joke. It really kept me guessing. In case you were wondering whether your laugh had lost any of its potency, I believe my friend P—the one who was sitting directly on your left—is still deaf in one ear.

When it comes to theatre, we are all in it together. Much more so than with paintings or television or the circus. We must be able to both LOOK and LISTEN to what’s happening on-stage. By which I mean: Yes, I am folding my playbill into a tiny paper dagger for a reason.


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