In the past week alone I’ve had to ask three people to put their phones away during my show. And that’s just the past seven days. This is an all too common occurrence at my performances but people should know better.
First of all, it’s simple theatre etiquette. When you see a show you’re supposed to arrive early, silence your phones, and be respectful of the performer. Common. Freakin’. Sense.
Plus, there’s a big announcement at the beginning that strictly prohibits photos and videos during the performance. It’s not a voiceover recording - it’s a human person that literally says “There are no photos or videos allowed during the show, so please take a moment to silence and put away all electronic devices.”
But somehow, people still feel the need to take out their phones and try to record a part of my show. It’s usually when their boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife is onstage. I see them reach into their pocket or purse and can sense that they’re about to start filming my act. Some of them try to be secretive (which means they know they aren’t supposed to be filming!) and others just hold it up in front of their face without even trying to hide it.
I’m not polite about it. I don’t say “Oh, excuse me - hahaha - if you don’t mind, would you please put your phone away!” No way. I make it weird.
I stop everything I’m doing and put all attention on the person. I say “Put your phone away. No videos or photos. Didn’t you hear the announcement earlier?”
Then I wait. I watch in silence as the audience member has to turn it off in front of everyone and put the phone down.
Then I usually tack something on like “Isn’t it enough to be here right now? This is for us! Can’t we just enjoy this together?” and let it linger in the awkward silence I’ve created.
I don’t think people expect me to confront them, let alone to create such an uncomfortable energy in the theater. But I love it. I have no problem leaning into that strange feeling and forcing people to reckon with their actions.
I know some performers who encourage people to take photos/videos during the show and share them far and wide. “Don’t forget to tag me!” they say, forgetting that the immediacy of live theatre is better than any post, hashtag, blurry photo, or shaky video could ever be.
Maybe those performers are better self-promoters than me, but all I care about is my show. I’m only interested in what’s happening in this space right now, with the audience that came to see me on any given evening. I’m not asking you to leave a like, subscribe, buy my merch, or more - I’m just asking you to hold up your end of the deal.
You come to my show to make a simple transaction. You pay your hard earned money for a ticket and give me your time and attention, and I’ll give you a night you’ll always remember. Those are the terms of our arrangement and I will always uphold them.
You deserve the show you came to see and if that means making it weird or eliminating distractions as I see fit, then so be it. But I’m not here to mess around - I’m here to hold up my half of the bargain.
What about you?
I’m deleting all social media soon. If you want to keep up with this blog, join my Thursday Thoughts Mailing List.
I’m in my final week of shows at Liberty Magic in Pittsburgh. Only five shows to go and there’s just a handful of tickets remaining.
I did some mind reading on the radio in Pittsburgh last week. Check out a live performance here: