Hold the Phone! Critic Kevin Williamson Sounds Off on Theatre Etiquette Following Natasha Cell Phone Incident

By Michael Gioia
17 May 2013

Williamson's response to poor theatre etiquette quickly spread across social media platforms and sparked conversation amongst frequent theatregoers. Although some praised Williamson for standing his ground — and acting out against constant distractions exhibited at the theatre — others contested that his actions only made matters worse.

"At that point, there was already a fair disruption underway," he said. "She'd gotten quite loud when I was trying to talk her into behaving herself. Yeah, unquestionably what I did was a disruption, [but] I think I can make the case that I did it in the greater good, [although] it wasn't quiet."

What should be done in these situations where phones are taken out to text or cameras are used to photograph performers (as in the time Tony winner Patti LuPone stopped the show in 2009 when a theatregoer tried to capture her performance in Gypsy)? "You've got ushers there for a reason, particularly in the big Broadway houses," added Williamson. "You know they're monitoring because [if] you take out a camera and start videotaping, you'll be visited very quickly, so when their economic interests are on the line, [the ushers are] pretty reactive and pretty robust, but when [it is in] the interest of people who are paying $200-250 a ticket, they are taking a laisser-faire approach. I think the houses should be more aggressive about that. I think that if once a month or twice a month, [the house staff] would eject someone over this, the word would get out pretty quickly — you would establish a sort of social norm there. But when you tolerate it, people will do it."

Representatives for the production did not respond when Playbill.com reached out for comment. Williamson said there is "talk of criminal charges" in his original National Review article; currently no legal action is being pursued.



Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, the recent recipient of the 2013 Richard Rodgers Awards for Musical Theater, began previews May 1 for a run through Sept. 1.

The play, according to producers, "invites you to join Tolstoy's brash young lovers for an evening you'll never forget, as vodka flows and passions ignite in Dave Malloy's electropop opera, ripped from a slice of 'War and Peace.'"

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