To The Man In The Third Row:
I rarely feel the need to confront an audience member, sir, but suffice it to say you were that rare case.
It wasn’t hard to notice you were on your phone. When you’re onstage any little change in the environment sticks out like a sore thumb.
So, while I was trying to give a good performance tonight all I could see was the glow of your face, lit up like you were about to tell a scary story. I found it quite distracting to the moment I was trying to carefully craft onstage.
See, I’ve performed this version of the show over 100 times in the past six months. It’s rock solid. So that means I get to play with it now. I set the script to auto-pilot and go in search of new discoveries. I try to make more eye contact and find new ways to connect. Now that I understand the skeleton of the show I get to make something artistic out of it.
But that means I’m hyper aware of any little change to the theater. And so I couldn’t help but notice you were in the third row, on your phone, playing a game while I was trying to work.
For the past two months I’ve spent every day either onstage or in an airport. (Some days both.) There have been days when I’ve woken up and forgotten what city I was in. I’ve battled allergies and depression. I’ve lost my luggage and lost my voice. All in the name of the craft.
So tonight, running on no sleep, I knew I needed to focus extra hard. I wanted to give a good show. And after 20 minutes I was well on my way to one of my greatest feats - creating an audience out of a random group of strangers.
Then I saw you. And I couldn’t help but call you out.
I needed you to know that you were being disruptive and that being on your phone was disrespectful and a major distraction. I don’t regret that and I don’t regret making you sheepishly put your phone away while everyone else watched.
I did so knowing I would lose every ounce of momentum I had worked so hard to build. But it had to be done, so I channeled my inner Patti Lupone.
The point isn’t about being on your phone or living in the moment. The point isn’t that you embarrassed your wife or really made it awkward for everyone in attendance. (Not for me, though, I’m already thinking about my next show.)
No, the point is that the audience is an essential part of my performance. Without them there are no minds to read or thoughts to send. Without the audience there is no show. So I expect the audience to hold up their end of the bargain. I expect you to meet me in the middle so I can give you the show you deserve.
And if you do, I promise I’ll show you something that you can’t find anywhere else. Not even on your smartphone.