Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Being LuPone

Oh Patti. As the New York Times reported yesterday, Patti LuPone interrupted her show in Las Vegas on Sunday because an audience member was using an electronic device. (What the device was is not known.) She asked what the audience member was doing, threatened to have them ejected if they didn't stop, and only then returned to singing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." This comes after her memorable freakout at the second to last performance of Gypsy earlier this year, due to someone taking pictures. (Though that person was apparently a paid, professional photographer who she'd been warned about beforehand.) LuPone read the story and sent a response to the reporter, which can be seen here, along with its 437 (!!!) comments.

My basic response to this can be seen in the comments to the first article--I am number 22. (Does that mean I can say I was published by the New York Times?) It is absolutely true that audience behavior today has serious problems--talking, crinkling, cellphones (both getting calls and texting) and recording are a plague. Also, it really should be the job of the house staff to stop this--they should be telling people to stop, confiscating devices, etc. I've seen it happen at least once in my own theatregoing.

However, isn't there a better way to do it? Is stopping the show and yelling at the audience (especially in the middle of a signature number) really the only effective way to take care of it? It seems like a bigger distraction than the device use is. It's one thing to briefly pause to make a comment, or to confiscate it yourself (like a Hair castmember apparently did), if the show's flow isn't stopped completely. It's another to go off on someone and completely break the illusion.

Of course, I'm not totally impartial, as I said. I'm not a fan of either LuPone's onstage persona (mushy diction, wobbly pitch, histrionics and all) or her offstage theatrics (anyone remember when she had a shit fit because the cast of Noises Off was collecting for BC/EFA?) so I may be judging her more harshly than I otherwise would. If Audra McDonald did this, I might be a little more lenient. (Then again, I can't imagine Audra getting quite that angry.)

So what's your opinion? Is theatrical behavior that bad these days? Was Patti justified? Am I too hard on her?


Anonymous said...

I find it funny that her freak out in Gypsy was recorded (even if it was just audio). We all love discussing the freak out but can we please discuss the irony of a freak out against breaking distracting/illegal being captured by someone doing the thing she was freaking out about...? I think the fact that this was caught proves that we need to improve front of house crack downs.

Further more...The next blue tooth headset I see blinking during a show is going to be destoyed! I have been to quite a few shows inwhich someone has had a bluetooth in ear. You are not talking on it...you better not answer...TAKE IT OUT! I do not look cool with a flashing blue light in your ear...

Although Patti might have been a little to much of a diva, the point NEEDS to be made. Theatre is an art and needs to be given the respect it deserves.

Sugar Mama said...

As a house manager, I heartily concur that audience behavior has deteriorated. Front of house staff do their best and I have often been alerted at intermission by the stage manager or an actor about devices being used out of my visual field and have dealt with this. People are usually pretty OK with the correction.

Another pet peeve is the talking: intro. music does not mean "finish your conversation"; people forget they are not at home in front of the TV and others can hear them, even at a whisper, including the LIVE actors if the theatre is small enough!!
Thanks for the post!