I think I go to more live theater performances than the average Charlestonian, probably 6 or 7 shows per year on average. That probably qualifies me as an expert (West Virginia law, so I'm told, allows anyone who knows more about a subject than the average person to be admitted in court as an expert, so if anyone out there needs a theater witness just let me know). Tonight I attended Capital High School's production of "Phantom." The show was as good as one could expect from a high school theater department and featured some phenomenal talent, including two girls who were finalists in the Symphony Idol competition held earlier this year.
The most powerful performance of the evening was put on by the air conditioning in the theater. It ran full blast from the time I sat down 30 minutes before the show started until 15 minutes before the 2 1/2 hour show ended. For nearly three hours I got to experience what it must be like to be the ice trays I keep in my freezer. I sat right under the vent and despite my best efforts at shielding myself from the constant assault from the frigid wind I felt positively hypothermic by intermission and deep into the second act I felt as if I had ice crystals in my hair. It was a miserable experience. When the air finally went off I began to warm up and soon I was drifting off to sleep.
But I was awakened by the real reason I felt moved to blog this evening: Rude people who talk during performances.
At "Phantom" I found myself sitting in front of two women and a man who seemed to be oblivious that there was anyone else in the theater. They spoke in normal voices as if they were sitting in their living room and discussed the quality of the voices of the players, the props, the music, EVERYTHING! They started talking shortly after the house lights went down and had comments on each new development on stage throughout the show. "Oh, she has a pretty voice" they said after the lead (Sarah Pauley as Christine) began to sing her first aria. Well, duh?! They usually give the lead to the best singer, don't they? Does it require a play by play commentary from you?
I've noticed that more and more people talk during live performances than they used to. I think that people are so used to watching TV and chatting through programs that they just have developed an insensitivity that makes them forget that they are disturbing others and sometimes they actors with their banter. But then there is the whole answering the cell phone during the movie thing to give weight to the argument that people are just stupid, thoughtless and insensitive.
Anyway, go see Phantom if you're a fan. It plays twice more this weekend. But take a parka, mittens and a hat. And perhaps a "Quiet Please" sign.