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Cara Joy David

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The Audience Says It All, and Yet Nothing

Posted: 11/21/11 01:11 PM ET

I was almost late to the theater Saturday night. Thanks to a ridiculous amount of traffic, I was still in a cab at 7:58 p.m. My mother, who was heading with me to see An Evening With Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin, was flipping out. (I opt for the calmer "there is nothing we can do at this point" stance in situations such as these.)

Her level of anxiety was less related to fear we would miss the first song than it was to concern our late arrival would be disruptive to other theatergoers. Because if there is one thing both of us believe in, it's the importance of good theater etiquette.

My favorite story of all the ones that I've ever written starred Patti LuPone. It was about eating in the theater, which back when the article was published in 2007 had just begun to be somewhat accepted. LuPone was against it. Her anger towards the munching and crunching made my story. Shortly after the piece ran, Kevin Spacey arrived on Broadway in A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Even though the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where the revival ran, allowed eating snacks in the seats, Spacey demanded this policy be suspended for his run. With this in mind, I ran downstairs at intermission of An Evening With Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin to check if snacks were allowed back to patrons seats during this particular production. When I found out they were, I was disappointed. But I soon realized it didn't matter -- no one around me was eating during the second act.

While it is too early to review the show itself, I believe I can permissibly review the audience at An Evening With Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin. Let me tell you -- this is the audience I want when I go to the theater. Granted, I think I may have been one of three dozen people there below the age of 40, but, regardless, this was an almost-perfect audience. There was only one set of people I saw come into the orchestra late. I didn't hear the vibrations of any phones. I heard no crinkling of wrappers. Talking during the performance was minimal. I didn't see anyone taking videos or photographs. (This all may have been happening, but at least it was on the down low.)

It's sad that I've been so beaten down by recent experiences that I am shocked by what I would like to think of as "normal" theater behavior. Sad, but true. You see folks, the last two Broadway shows I've attended have been replete with photo takers, late-comers, talkers and loud chewers. There is never a need for photo taking in the theater; there are signs and often announcements that say not to do it.

Arriving late, well, it has happened to me four times in about 1,000 trips to the theater. As I stated, it almost happened again Saturday night. So, even I have to say that there is sometimes a valid excuse for it. It's rare though.

Talking... well, I understand the occasional comment. What I don't understand is full conversations. (I would tell you how long the people in front of me at The Mountaintop spoke about Angela Bassett's hair, but I've been trying to block it out.) In terms of eating, never have I been tempted to munch on popcorn during a show. Yes, it's typical at the movies; a Broadway theater is not a local cinema.

People spend a lot of money to buy Broadway show tickets. Part of me understands audience members thinking that price of admission allows them to behave as they want. The much larger part of me doesn't get it. When you are taking a photo, it's usually with a camera phone. Is that photo going to be great or novel? Is it going to be something so much better than you can download off the show's website? Likely not. And while you are taking that photo, and reviewing the ones you have taken, you are missing the theater experience. You're missing the play you paid for. Not only that, but your moving around, trying to get the best picture angle, is distracting to the person behind you; your behavior is damaging another person's enjoyment. I don't understand it.

All of these views make me seem hopelessly behind the times I suppose. But there I shall stay, sitting quietly listening to the performers onstage.