Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hey Romeo! Juliet's not really dead!

I screwed up my line. While performing with the hereandnow theatre company at a high school leadership conference at SMU, I said, “A bad thing about being Asian is: studies have shown we are the least likely to report cases of physical, emotional, and physical abuse.” A male student in the audience immediately shouted, “You said physical twice!” Amid uncomfortable gasps, a student in the front turned and yelled, “Shut up, dude!” And the performance continued.

As an actor, I blame myself. I meant to say “physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.” I should have been more focused, said my line correctly, or delivered it with such conviction that no one would notice the error. But I didn’t do any of those things. I made a stupid mistake.

Still, the whole experience made me wonder – when did live theater become a conversation? Are my expectations for an audience unrealistic, or has the younger generation missed a lesson in decorum at the theater?

When I was in grade school, my parents took me to see summerstock at the Corning Summer Theater every season. I remember being mesmerized by A Chorus Line, even though I was too young to understand “Tits and Ass” or comprehend why Paul was crying in his monologue. I barely had a clue what Evita was about, but I knew I loved going to the theater. It was a grown-up event in which I had the privilege of being a player. Matching the number on my ticket to my seat, following the list of songs in the program, hearing idle opinions while milling about in the lobby during intermission. There was a routine to going to the theater, a certain way you had to behave, and it made me feel just as special as the actors on stage.

But to this kid in our SMU audience, was our performance just like any other piece of entertainment in his interactive, on-demand world? A momentary diversion for him to digest and comment on? Was he thinking how many stars he would give us on YouTube? Whether or not he’d “Like” it on Facebook?

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but an audience member’s opinion was always reserved for after-show discussions. At least in my world. This other world that seems to be growing up around me seems a mystery.


  1. I eventually shushed some kids next to me at a very professional, family-oriented performance when they were shouting at the actors and their parents weren't doing anything. At the intermission the parents rolled their eyes at me and had a loud conversation aimed my way about how people around here are always trying to stunt their children when they are just trying to express themselves. Grr.

  2. Frustrating, isn't it? A child who is being quiet at the theater isn't being repressed, they're being respectful. Some people don't seem to know the difference...

  3. there's a whole new generation of lame 'tard children of the corn audiences coming up. i experienced them firsthand touring a whole year of ZIP'S GREAT DAY throughout all of southern california. i even took it upon myself to embarrass one of these demons during one of our shows when she decided to yell out. you can bet she ain't ever gonna make a peep during a live theatre performance again...well, if she even ever goes to one again. saving future theatre audiences one demon @ a time.

    i blame BLUE'S CLUES, DORA THE EXPLORER and all them damn "scream the answers at the television" interactive shows.

    of the corn. all of them.

  4. Lame 'tard children of the corn audiences - that should have been my title!

  5. He should know better! Sadly, it seems like politeness is a dying trait these days.

  6. Totally a dying trait! At least the guy in front recognized he was being a d-bag...