Six years ago this month, theater etiquette made headlines. Patti LuPone confiscated a cell phone from an audience member who was texting during her performance of “Show for Days,” then ranted: “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.”
Also in July of 2015, the attempt by 19-year-old Long Island college student Nick Silvestri to charge his cell phone in a fake electrical outlet on the set of “Hand to God” before a performance drew so much indignation on social media and attention in the regular press that he held a well-attended press conference to apologize. His action most memorably prompted “Hand to God” set designer Beowulf Boritt to remark: “It’ll keep me from ever putting a toilet on stage.”
With physical theaters reopening after more than a year of watching theater alone by your computer, will New York theater people go back to complaining about smart phone use and snoring and profligate standing ovations? Will they feel the need for etiquette re-education — for themselves or (more likely) for other people? At a time when there is much talk of making theater more accessible when it returns, will that temper the rage at newbies who don’t know “the rules?” Or will there be more of the kind of theater etiquette debates we had in the links below, which go back as far as a decade?