Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A few things to remember when going to the theater

I have been an ardent theater goer and arts warrior for over 20 years. In that time, I have witnessed some amazing things (the absolute joy of my nephew Gregory experiencing his first Broadway show) and some outrageous occurances (a playwright cursing out a patron when she refused to stop talking on the phone during the performance).

There is so much for black folks to see in NY theater this season: FELA! RACE, MEMPHIS, THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, A COOL DIP IN THE BARREN SHAHARAN CRICK, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, LANGSTON HUGHES IN HARLEM, THROUGH THE NIGHT, FENCES (with Denzel!!!)...And I definitely want to encourage everybody to be in the house when the curtain goes up. However, I'd just like to share some things that will make the theater-going experience more -- shall we say -- pleasant for everyone:

HATS. Don't wear your amazing crowns -- church hats, or other major head gear to the theater. You may be "wearing that hat," but the PEOPLE SITTING BEHIND YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO SEE THE SHOW. They can't see over or around up-do locks either.

DINNER AND A SHOW. What a wonderful way to spend an evening engaging in food for the body and spirit. Can't finish the meal? Don't ask for a doggie bag to take with you. The usher working on Broadway will not allow it in the theater. Even if you manage to sneak it in, please don't unwrap your goods and chow down during the performance. The actors, and everbody else in the theater, will hear and smell what you're eating.

CALL AND RESPONSE. Black folks come from a "call and response" tradition. "Talking back" to the actors can add a lot to the theater going experience -- when it is honest. Making comments to upstage what is going onstage is, well, annoying.

CELL PHONES. Turn them off before the performance begins. Or put them on "silent" or "vibrate." If you forget to silence your phone, don't act like it is not yours and continue to let it ring. And please don't answer it and start a conversation. Actors will call you out or curse you out -- all in character of course.

GIVE texting, sexting, tweeting, updating your Facebook status and emailing a rest during the performance. That blue or white light is distracting. Yes. The actors and just about everyone in the audience can see it. Besides, why would you want to miss a minute of a performance that you spent $75 to see in order to check on somebody who's ignoring you anyway?

BE ON TIME. If you spent your hard earned money on orchestra center tickets, be in those seats when the curtain goes up. All eyes will definitely be on you as you make all the people in your row get up to let you in. You will hear much sucking of the teeth if you purchased H107 and H108 and arrive twenty minutes late. I saw a Tony-winning performer have a spotlight follow a sister to her seat when she was 20 minutes late for his show. Everybody was having a good laugh except her.