Hello dear reader, and welcome back to Thursday Theatre Thoughts! I’ve certainly missed having the time to write these more conversational posts about theatre to share with you. With the New Year in full swing and theatres around the city opening back up after a break for the Holidays, your favourite friendly indie theatre critic thought it might be a good time for a little chat about having a phone on in the theatre.
I have now been to two separate opening nights where Amber Alerts have come through during a performance and I was shocked at the number of phones that were going off in the theatre. This is not to say anything bad about the Amber Alert system; it’s essential and I don’t mind one bit that they’re loud or buzz a lot. However, when there’s just been an usher around or a funny little message before the show to let you know to turn your phone off and that many people’s phones start blaring…it’s surprising to me. And I know that there are plenty of arguments about why some patrons need to have their phone on. There are exceptional circumstances. But I’m going to hazard a guess that 50% of any given audience is not a brain surgeon or OBGYN who needs to be on call 24/7.
Honestly folks, it’s a matter of respect. Not just for your fellow patron, but for the cast that’s up there performing. The second opening I attended where the Amber Alerts went off also had several other phone-created disruptions, and all of this was during moving and difficult monologues. Thankfully the actresses kept going, and eventually the phones were silenced, but they needn’t have gone off in the first place (especially after they knew their ringers were on because of the Amber Alert). I find it funny how the audience will be laughing at the messages about turning off their phones (some companies get very creative with these and it makes it rather fun) but then don’t turn off their phone!
The way I look at it is that whoever might really need me (my partner, my Mama, my bestie) already knows that I’m at a show and can’t be reached. That, or they’re likely with me at the theatre. Everyone else will just have to wait until intermission or the show’s done. I’ve been turning my phone fully off before a show for as long as I’ve had a cell phone (yes, even back in the flip phone days). It’s the least I can do to show my appreciation and gratitude for the theatrical experience I’m partaking in.
So next time you’re going to a theatre, please, I beg of you, turn off your phone. Take the time to unplug, live in the moment, and enjoy some live theatre. The folks around you, and the performers you’re there to watch, will thank you.