An Unexpected Trauma In The Drama
Judging from my lengthy reviews, I am sure you all have sensed my love of theater. I consider it the ultimate of all our art forms, and honor all those who work in this most collaborative of professions.
At the August 21st matinee performance of “The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin” the unthinkable occurred.
This plot packed, subtle drama was in its crucial denouement (love that word!) which involved the delivery of a critical monologue by Christopher Denham with another actor, i.e. the title character played by David Morse, also on stage for this important closing scene.
Well, I ‘m sure you have guessed what happened….in the midst of Denham’s subtle, tender delivery of the play’s end, an incredibly lengthy albeit musical cell phone went off from far back in the orchestra section of the theater. The audience froze; this ringtone was in direct, mano a mano competition with some of the most important lines in the play. To the recipient’s credit, he immediately tried to leave the theater (his exit was, unfortunately, also incredibly loud) as it was apparent he did not know how to shut his phone. But the damage was done. The audience was totally distracted and disturbed, concentration was broken.
Amazingly, and professionally, the actor, Christopher Denham stopped – stayed in character- then David Morse who was in the midst of a move on stage, also paused until this disturbance clearly was over. Kudos, especially to Christopher, how he held it together during such a jarring experience is beyond me. True professionalism, great instincts. And that is yet another reason to applaud theater actors. The HERE and the NOW so dominate their actions, be prepared for everything in this brave new world we have swiftly entered. What would Aristotle in his timeless analysis of theater, the “Poetics,” advise?! Probably the only solution is the one Christopher Denham quickly presented. Again, congrats to both actors as David also deliberately stopped his stage action, he was in total sync with his colleague.
How to solve this recurring problem? At this particular performance, the pre-show announcement requesting that you shut your cell phones was, of course, politely pronounced. The ushers (who were plentiful) prior to curtain, and after the loudspeaker request, went down then up the aisles personally asking that you shut your phones. It certainly seemed like all bases were covered. What more could they have done?
I have racked my brains over this, it was also an upsetting, distracting event for the audience members – technically we all missed the play’s ending as we, too, had to get back into time, place and character.
Perhaps a member of the cast can present themselves prior to curtain, and personally and professionally request the audience shut their phones – but pause while they actually do as such – then pleasantly and personably thank the audience, after a sufficient amount of time has passed, for the “offing” of phones and honoring this request. This can be done in a light hearted manner that would not be offensive, but indeed effective.
Any other ideas, thoughts, opinions or suggestions as to how to solve this recurring problem?
By: Joanne Theodorou