It's the glow that kills the atmosphere: brightness surrounded by a seeping luminescence. In the darkness of the theater, it draws the peripheral vision of even the most determinedly focused spectators.
The source? Some jerk, text-messaging during the show.
Banning texting at the theater is a crucial extension of the prohibition against cell-phone use during performances, but I'd never heard a pre-show announcement forbidding it until last weekend, when I went to see the stageFARM
's "The Gingerbread House
" at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
in the West Village. When I wrote about it
the other day on True/Slant, saying that if a device glows in the dark, it shouldn't be turned on during the performance, I didn't expect to hear someone I respect arguing for the other side, let alone suggesting general codes of behavior at the theater need some rethinking. Then I opened my e-mail.
"I'm not sure I care if people are texting or not," wrote a friend who works in theater, adding that he'd once caught students texting each other about the show during a weekday matinee. "That's not a bad thing."
I begged to differ, and thus began our little e-mail brawl, his part of which he's given me permission to quote here.
For my friend, texting has been a recent topic of staff discussions, in which people have been divided about how to deal with it.
"Why are we so precious about the way in which we view theater?" he asked me. "Does it always have to be quietly and in the dark? Why can't theater be more like baseball? I can talk, eat, hear screaming voices, see people moving around and watch the game all at the same time -- and not really miss anything. I think we have to shake things up a bit. Stop demanding human beings -- coughing, fidgeting, farting, eating human beings -- be themselves when watching a play."