July 12, 2015

#NoSelfieForYou: Texting at Live Performances is the New Normal.

Flickr/Blondinrikard Fröberg: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blondinrikard/14792323215/

“Tonight was the first time I asked stage management not to allow a celebrity (who was texting all through Act 2) backstage. #noselfieforyou ~ Lin Manuel-Miranda

My first daughter was born way back in 1963, and when she was baptized, the priest gave us instructions.

“Oh, yes,” he said, in the middle of a list of dos and don’ts, “No cameras during the baptism.”

“No cameras?”

“That’s right—if the baptism itself is not important enough for you to give it 100 percent of your attention, then stay home. In order to be fully present for the sacrament,” he added, “You need to be fully present. Cameras take your attention away. You can take pictures afterwards”

His shocking words made a lasting impression on me.

If it’s not important enough for you to give it 100 percent of your attention, then stay home.

Some five decades later, I bet Kevin Spacey, Hugh Jackman and Patti LuPone would not only understand, they would agree.

A while back, LuPone stopped a live performance of Gypsy to call out a member of the audience for taking pictures while she was performing. She insisted that they be ejected from the theatre.

If it’s not important enough for you to give it 100 percent of your attention, then stay home.

To some of us, when attending a live performance—a play, a musical, an opera or symphony—the performance, and the performers themselves, command and deserve the focus that our 100 percent attention provides.

Just like that old-fashioned/new-fashioned priest said at my daughter’s baptism, “Taking pictures takes your attention away.”

For others, when we are sitting in a live audience and we use our phones for any purpose—texting, taking pictures, checking Facebook—we are dividing our attention. We are also saying, through our behavior, that the phone—and what it can do or bring to us—is more important than the play or performance at hand.

In an interview, LuPone stated:

“I don’t know why they buy the ticket, or come to the theater, if they can’t let go of the phone. It’s controlling them. They can’t turn it off and can’t stop looking at it. They are truly inconsiderate, self-absorbed people who have no public manners whatsoever.”

This sounds like the definition of addiction to me—phone and social media addiction.

“Get them out of here,” LuPone said when she halted Gypsy, “Get them out.”

Think about it.

When was the last time you had a telephone conversation, ate a “to-go” meal, drove your car or drank a cup of coffee and did only that?

When was the last time you gave 100 percent of your attention to any one thing?

The problem is not the phones themselves. The problem is the inability to focus.

We are becoming less and less capable of giving all of our attention to one thing. Even in a darkened theatre, surrounded by other people—who allegedly are in attendance for the purpose of paying attention to the one thing that is transpiring on the stage—even with the (very expensive) tickets we paid for, and even with the compelling performances of world class actors.

We can’t do it. We can’t leave our phones at home.

I think that we may be looking at the “new normal.”

Nick Silvestria—a 19-year-old Long Island college student—jumped onto the set of the Booth Theater, before a performance of Hand to God, and tried to charge his dying phone in a prop electrical outlet.

His reason? “Girls were calling all day—what would you do?”

He publicly apologized at a news conference in front of the theater on Friday, though in an interview he said he didn’t think texting in a theater was “that big of a deal.”



#FaceWorld. {Poem}


Author: Carmelene Siani

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Blondinrikard Fröberg


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