Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where's the Respect?

"It's mortifying," said actor Benedict Cumberbatch, pleading with fans to put cell phones and cameras away during his performances of Hamlet in London because "there's nothing less supportive or enjoyable as an actor" than seeing the red lights of recording devices in the audience.  -- From Time, August 24, 2015
I'd have thought the Brits would have been more respectful of the work that goes into putting on a performance in a theater, unlike the Americans who have no problem using cell phones or other gadgets during theatrical performances, as Patti Lupone complained not too long ago. Americans are just boors when it comes to culture, right?

Americans, in my opinion, rarely understand the value of silence.  And when I look around at the people in their 20's and 30's now, I see few of them not on one gadget or another.  Especially talking on cell phones.  I cannot get used to someone sitting on a city bus and talking in a normal voice but no one around is paying any attention.  Then I see the black thread of a wire snaking down from the ear and connected to a lump of black plastic between two fingers. Talking on the phone. No thought given to the people around her or him in the public space of the city bus.

Where's the respect?  The consideration?  For Cumberbatch and Lupone, it's a matter of respecting their work on stage.  They, and all other performers, work hard to entertain their audiences, they give their best every time they walk on stage, and they deserve complete attention, respect and consideration for their time and effort.  Why do some people still disrespect them? 

I wonder.  When I'm out in public, observing other people, I wonder who's teaching courtesy nowadays to young people?  Who's teaching how to behave in public spaces?  Who's teaching those younger than 40 that there are other people in the world besides them, and they need to be respectful of them in public.  You can look at it as getting along with others or treating others the way you want to be treated.  But I despair that without basic courtesy and respect, we are fast losing any vestige of a civil society.

Attending a play in a theater, a live performance, requires certain behavior, like attending a concert or movie.  That behavior takes into consideration the other people watching the performance in this public space as well as the performers on stage.  Below is my list of things a person can do to be respectful and considerate at a live performance or movie (I exclude music concerts like rock concerts, pop, hip-hop, etc.):
  • Please arrive a few minutes early to give you time to get settled in your seat.  Arriving late is disrespectful to the people seated around you and to those on stage, unless the circumstances were beyond your control.
  • TURN OFF cell phones, pagers, iPads, iPods, and any other gadgets during the performance.
  • Put away the camera!  Most venues have a no-photos policy.  And no, you're NOT the exception to the rule.
  • When the performance or movie begins, zip the lips.  That means, shut up, stop talking.  Cultivate your much neglected skills of listening.  If you're talking, you're not listening.  If you're listening, you might actually realize that the audience is always a part of the performance. The people on stage can see and hear you. They can feel your energy. They talk about you at intermission and after the concert, usually not in flattering terms.
  • Understand that a great deal of time and work went into the performance that you're attending.  You've paid good money to attend.  Be respectful.  Be empathetic which means to imagine yourself in their shoes up there on stage -- would you want your work and efforts to be rudely interrupted or stopped?
  • Look up on the internet "good manners" and then invest in an etiquette guide.  You'll stand out in the crowd for your good manners at social gatherings whether in public or private spaces.
And if you cannot do the above, then please stay home!

Photo courtesy of Disney, Inc.

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