The Failure of an Audience

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

– William Shakespeare

Audiences, since the time of Shakespeare, have been an integral part of a performance. Audiences provide the laughter, the tears, the sobs, the sighs, the groans, and the giggles that performers have come to know and expect. When these audiences become rowdy, or disrespectful, or just plain inattentive, the effect becomes obvious on the performer: their energy sags, their happiness wanes, their accuracy diminishes. It’s every performer’s worst nightmare. And bad audiences aren’t just bad, they’re getting worse: John Moore of the Denver Post relates:

Because people need the reminder — and the stories just get more and more absurd. After a while, mere gum-clacking, loud talking and candy-wrapping stops fazing you because they are now such common occurrences. People behind you will use the back of your chair for a footrest. People in front of you will drape their coats into your lap. Even answering a ringing phone during a performance isn’t all that unusual anymore. It was [not] unusual last week when the woman sitting next to me at the Denver Center’s “Blind Date” placed the call, and initiated a conversation.

(10/30/2011)

But why bring this up now? Well, today, our school had an assembly. Protege, the prep varsity show choir, performed. fifteen or so minutes is probably how long Protege’s show lasts – a very short time in comparison to say, a three-hour opera, or a two-hour band concert. And yet, although it is unexpected, I saw twelve people sitting in front of me, all talking on on their cell phones (not to mention the absurd amount of tweeting and snap-chatting going on). How rude! I can understand if one is someone who just doesn’t like performances of the arts. That’s perfectly fine for me. But to lack such common courtesy, such common sense, such expected behavior, is simply not acceptable. And even when Protege was done performing, and the school principle resumed speaking, these twelve people continued being obnoxious and uncivilized.

Part of this failure, to be sure, could be that this audience was simply uneducated. They are teenagers, after all, not necessarily wealthy adults going to the opera. But still, I don’t care if you’re thinking about lunch, or you’re worried about a test in your next period, you still have to pay attention and be respectful during a performance. In other words, an audience must play their part just like Protege played theirs and like the school principle played hers.

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