I just got home from seeing a fabulous performance of Gutenberg! The Musical! featuring my fellow classmates, Evan Gambardella and Jake Murphy. The musical was fast and full of laughs, but also full of a lot of other unnecessary noise, not from the actors, but from the very loud audience member sitting next to me. From the minute the lights went down and the Musical Director, Robert Lucchesi, began playing the piano I was locked in and ready to watch. By the time the first remotely funny line happened, the person next to me began laughing hysterically. Not a crazy thing to happen, seeing as this is a comedy. A few moments later, more and more laughter from her, but louder this time. And then a couple comical signs were displayed and she started reading them out loud, not even trying to whisper, not even saying them to any particular person, just saying them at the actors, essentially.
At first I ignored it. The actors were doing a superb job. It was entertaining and I was fascinated by their ability to switch characters so easily. And finally as I was getting settled into the action once more, the person next to me shouts out “WHAT THE FUCK” as yet another hilarious line is said. And then “SHIT” and more and more talking and expletives and hollering. I was taken out of the action time and time again, and I was really annoyed by it. Then again I am easily distracted and easily annoyed, but this made me think about what it means to be an audience member.
We are not taught proper etiquette for anything, really, let alone proper manners for the theatre. When you enter a performance space it is essentially common knowledge that you turn off your cell phone and stop chatting with your neighbor once the lights go down. But what happens next? How vocal is one allowed to be during a performance? Laughter and tears when appropriate are wonderful and certainly fuel the performances, but when it becomes excessive as it did in the performance I saw tonight, it can ruin the experience for everyone nearby.
But it is also really exciting that an audience member was that moved by what was happening on stage. I hope I can incite that much passion out of a person through my performance, but I also think it is worthwhile to consider the people and performers when calling out from the audience.