British Critic Stirs Debate Over Phone Use in Theatre
As technology continues to creep further and further into every aspect of our lives with the advent of smart phones, wearable technology, and more, the performing arts-- and especially theatre-- have been attempting to find ways to adapt to the changing times, while also preserving the unique experience that sitting in an audience can provide.
In recent years, a number of theatres around the country and world have had "relaxed" and social media-friendly performances, specifically designed to encourage audience members-- often of the younger generations-- to engage with the production in similar ways to how they do so with a TV show or movie that they are watching at home.
While this has not become a trend regularly employed by some of our largest theatres, especially on Broadway, today, the place of audience cell phone-use became a topic of discussion as London-based theatre critic Laura Kressly inadvertently set off a mini-firestorm with a single tweet.
Theatre is for you, babe. It's for everyone. If you need to check your phone, go ahead and check it, don't worry about what self-righteous audience members think https://t.co/oOWKcIT3N9- Laura Kressly (@shakespeareanLK) May 15, 2018
From there, theatre fans and professionals alike began to debate the topic on social media, many of whom were not in support with Kressly's position. Broadway star Jessica Vosk was not a fan of this philosophy.
Yeah so. If you need to check your phone during a show, STAY HOME AND WATCH NETFLIX. Xoxo- actor person. https://t.co/8oDziaz0ad- Jessica Vosk (@JessicaVosk) May 15, 2018
British stage and screen star Lizzie Roper said that performers have a much different perspective on this than many others.
You've obviously never performed on stage and had to deal with the distractions of dealing with phones being turned on in the audience. If you don't get the 'sacred space' of the theatre probably best you hang up your 'critic' boots- lizzieroper (@lizzieroper) May 15, 2018
Broadway Record's designer and cabaret director and performer Robbie Rozelle voiced what many people said online, that audience members using phones not only distract performers, but also negatively impact the people who have paid to see the show.
No one paid to be distracted by someone's smartphone blinding them and taking them out of the world the actors are creating onstage. Somehow we managed to go a century without people needing to check their phone, we can continue that and respectfully waiting until intermission. https://t.co/pywbzlPvxq- Robbie Rozelle (@divarobbie) May 15, 2018
Toronto theatre-artist Ryan G. Hinds brought up the point that while some people apparently need the stimulation of a phone to deal with anxiety, it should be done at one of the aforementioned casual performances.
this is absurd. If overstimulation is a thing, and you need your phone to deal with anxiety, a lot of us do relaxed performances. The reality is that most people who pull out a phone in the theatre have been conditioned not to know better. https://t.co/lxrgBFi7EY- Ryan G. Hinds (@ryanghinds) May 15, 2018
Additionally, many theatre fans seemed to be especially offended by the practice.
Nope. Disagree wholeheartedly. Unless it's a performance/screening where the audience is informed it's okay, phones should stay off and in pockets/bags. It's disrespectful, rude, and distracting to the performers and audience to have phones out during theatre/movies https://t.co/nbEodRxjdF- Justen Bennett (@justenbennett) May 15, 2018
That being said, a number of people also saw some merit to Kressly's stance, even if they didn't agree completely.
While I disagree with the statement. I do think audiences need to adapt and learn to look past the glare of phones. It's getting worse and will continue to do so. Nothing can be done. I've worked FOH and unless you want to cause a bigger scene ejecting there's nothing can be done- Samuel Tucker (@samgwentucker) May 15, 2018
Don't want to be a hypocrite - I've been distracted by other people using phones before. But if you've ever been a carer, new parent, supporter of someone in crisis, you'd hope that people would have empathy for those who *don't* have the luxury to shut out the outside world.- Peter Kirwan (@DrPeteKirwan) May 15, 2018
Is there a line though, in your opinion? Because I sat behind a person a few weeks ago and was close enough to see them just constantly scrolling through Instagram, and I didn't say anything because I actually thought about your pioneering acessability through a relaxed attitude- Charlotte O'G (@TalkStageyToMe) May 15, 2018
What do you think? Should theatres and productions evolve with our more technology-centric times, and allow for cell phone use in the audience? Or should rules banning the practice become more strictly enforced?