In Case You Missed It: Did Something Happen With a Cell Phone?

News   In Case You Missed It: Did Something Happen With a Cell Phone? It was the week of the audience interference all across New York stages, with the battle over deteriorating audience etiquette reaching new highs, or lows, depending on how you look at it.

Audience members disrupted performances of Hand to God on Broadway and Shows for Days at Lincoln Center Theater. Both incidents involved cell phones. This is nothing new. Every since the advent of the cell phone age, live theatre has been under siege by hand-held technology. Barely a week passes without some woeful tale of a theatregoer unable to disengage themselves from their electronica during a live stage performances, thus ruining the show for their fellow ticket buyers and the actors as well. At this point, the New York theatre world collectively sighs and heaves its shoulders at each new offense, knowing there is almost nothing that can be done. You can’t fix stupid, and you can't fix rude.

But the twin occurrences of the last week took the battle to a new level not seen before.

The first was the more absurd, and is sure to live in the annals of theatre lore for a long time to come. Twitter and Facebook lit up Sunday evening and Monday morning after several cast and audience members reported that an audience member had clambered onto the stage of the Booth Theatre and tried to plug a cell phone charger into a prop outlet on the set of Hand to God. That’s right: The guy not only had no borders, he also had no sense, thinking a stage outlet would actually be functional.

Playbill.com actually tracked the dim-witted offender down. And he was more than happy to talk. "I was the one," said Nick Silvestri, who is from Long Island. He’s a 19-year-old lacrosse-playing Nassau Community College student. He said the incident was not a dare, as had been rumored. He really just wanted to charge his phone. Why did he do it? What was the emergency? "Girls were calling all day. What would you do?"

"I saw the outlet and ran for it," he continued. "That was the only outlet I saw, so I thought, 'Why not?' I was thinking that they were probably going to plug something in there on the set, and I figured it wouldn't be a big deal if my phone was up there, too."

It's not just the Booth that got the Silvestri treatment that night. At a bar on Eighth Avenue and 45th Street, about a half block from the Booth Theatre, he tried to plug his phone into the USB port on the big-screen TV in the lounge at the back of the restaurant, but "I got yelled at by the manager."

All the world is Nick Silvestri’s outlet.

But Silvestri and Hand to God's moment of infamy was brief. It was stolen from them by Patti LuPone, star of Douglas Carter Beane’s Shows for Days. LuPone, who, as the saying goes, does not suffer fools gladly, had apparently had it up to here with a persistent texter — "a very pretty young woman," as LuPone later put it — during the July 8 evening performance of her play.

She didn’t stop the shop. She didn’t yell at the person. (She’s done that before, as have many other actors.). No, she went further. She literally snatched the phone out of the texter’s hands!

And, with that, a second social media and traditional media cycle began.

 

Enjoy . . .

Posted by Matt Johnston on Friday, July 10, 2015

LuPone being Lupone, she issued a dramatic statement questioning her continued work on stage in the wake of the recent incident: "We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones. They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark it ruins the experience for everyone else — the majority of the audience at that performance and the actors on stage. I am so defeated by this issue that I seriously question whether I want to work on stage anymore. Now I'm putting battle gear on over my costume to marshall the audience as well as perform." Should she quit acting, I recommend LuPone’s next job be in security.

The twin fracases got the national media to a pay attention to the stage, which it only occasionally does. And Hand to God did its best to may lemonade out of lemons. The producers created an ad for the show that slyly asked "Need a Charge?"

And the event caused the show's set designer to become known. Vanity Fair asked Beowulf Boritt (excellent name!) if the incident raises the bar for him as a set designer. Boritt, in response, gave them the quote of the week. "Does this give me a new standard?" he asked rhetorically. "It’ll keep me from ever putting a toilet on stage."

***

The musical Spring Awakening, by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, is indeed returning to Broadway and has set dates.

The show has booked the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The staging is based on the Deaf West Theatre production that will be performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English by a cast of 27. It will begin performances Sept. 8, open Sept. 27 and continue through Jan. 9, 2016.

Since the show is set in the late 19th century, there will be no outlets in the stage set.

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