THEATRE ETIQUETTE

It’s sometimes astonishing how people come to the theatre and (as my grandmother used to say) “don’t have the sense God gave a goose.” Last night during A Little Night Music, a man sitting in the front row fidgetted and fussed through my whole first scene and song. Apparently he was noticed earlier but he really got fussy for me. Don’t I feel special? He would make a big deal of leaning over on his knees, then straighten up and fold his arms, then fuss with his hat and make sighing sounds. Clearly he had been dragged to the show by his wife. And he wasn’t having it but lucky me, he REALLY didn’t seem to want to listen to me. Awesome. Okay, you’re in the front row and tall (so when he leaned forward, he was basically onstage with us) and wearing a bright orange shirt. Do you really think I can’t see you? It was insane. It was like being in a bad sitcom.

Which reminded me of another incident. Nothing makes an actor madder or crazier than when someone comes to see your show, sticks around to see you afterwards and then says nothing to you about the show when you come out the stage door. They stand there and talk to you about other stuff after you’ve just worked your ass off for them and 200 to 2000 people and don’t say a word about what you just did. And it’s especially mind-boggling when it’s someone in or near the business who should know better. When I was doing The Wizard of Oz this past christmas, a friend in the business and his girlfriend came to see the show. They stuck around after the show to say hi to myself and Sharron (Matthews who played the which – and is nominated for a Dora Award for her performance by the way). I was playing Hickory the farmhand who then becomes the Tinman. They were both very friendly and talkative. But he didn’t mention the show at all. And after about 6 minutes into the conversation, his girlfriend says to me, “I loved your farmhand.” . . . . . . .I waited for the punchline . . . . . nothing . . . . . I LOVED YOUR FARMHAND!!!!!!!!!!! I just worked my ass off for 85 minutes in a soup can that I couldn’t sit in, with no intermission, with an audience full of kids, sweating like a mo-fo and all you can say to me is I LOVED YOUR FARMHAND!!!!! Come on, people!!! Is it rocket science? Needless to say, the conversation didn’t last much longer. And it’s not that she’s not a really nice person but REALLY!??? MY FARMHAND????!!!! hahaaha Sharron and I had many laughs about that but not before some choice words of condemnation over lunch that day.

Yes, we are a sensitive people post performance. By we, I mean actors, singers, musicians, live performers in general I’m speaking of at this moment. I think it’s because we work so hard at what we do. And part of what we do is walk out on stage or in front of a camera and we open ourselves up and lay ourselves bare. Vulnerable, we are naked emotionally. And so after a performance, it’s just bizarre and means something if someone hangs out and doesn’t say a thing about what you just spent the last 1 1/2 – 3 hours bleeding out for them. It’s not like they can pretend they didn’t see it.

People are funny. When it’s Joe-Public, then you just have to suck it up. But when it’s people in the business, they should know better and they need an ass-whoopin’. That’s right, I said, whoopin’ and I’m not sorry. 😉

I just realized those two stories are about people who didn’t like me. But I said I’d give you the straight goods, y’all and being Thom Allison is far from always being gravy. And I just referred to myself in the 3rd person. It must be a sign of my trying to distance myself from the emotional shame of being dissed in two shows in the same 6 month period. Ah, show biz!

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Published in: on June 22, 2008 at 2:52 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. OMG, Thom, how can anyone not like you?! I wish I’d seen your Farmhand…

    On the other end of the spectrum, it drives me nuts when you do give an actor a compliment after they’ve obviously worked their butt off in a show and they decide to NOT accept the nice things being said about them!!! Someone who can’t take a compliment, someone who can’t just say “thank you”….you know? (You’re not that person, by the way!).

    C. xo

  2. I totally agree, Claire. I do admit, I used to be terribly guilty of that. And occasionally lapse into that world but knowing ungenerous that is, I try to snap myself out of it, ASAP.


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