The "Slow Audience Participation" movement

The Wife and I saw Les Miserables at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady a couple months ago, and it was as marvelous as the reviews in the Times Union and Metroland suggested. I had never seen any stage production of Les Miz before. Though I didn’t love the movie adaptation, we were both glad to have seen it so we would better understand the plot.

Here’s what I didn’t like: During that last, very stirring, song, six or eight people got up and left, which I found really distracting, especially since they were seated near the front and in the middle section. If they were so worried about getting home, they should have left at intermission to beat the crowds. I’d never seen that particular behavior before.

It wasn’t the only annoying activity during the performance. Someone two or three seats from us kept turning on his mobile device. I don’t know if he was texting or just checking the time; no one of his generation seems to know what a watch is. I’ve seen similar behavior at the movie theaters, even the tony Spectrum Theatre in Albany. Even someone using their device on the opposite aisle and two rows up I will notice, because the illumination distracts me from the film.

At the end of Billy Elliot at Proctors in June, the lead leaves the stage via an aisle on the theater. When he makes his return, he’s literally bumping into folks getting ready to leave. (I was so annoyed.)

Some folks at the Albany Symphony Orchestra at least wait for the final note before they rush off. Likewise, movie goers depart when the credits come up, even when a bit of the movie is still going on, such as in Hope Springs and Bernie.

I was at a conference at the end of April, and two guys were talking through the introduction of the speaker, and even when the speaker began. Exasperated, I turned around, said nothing since that would have been likewise disruptive, but gave that universal palms-up symbol for, “Will you please shut up?”

Apparently, even Broadway audiences are not immune to bad behavior.

The slow food movement>was designed so that people could ENJOY eating more, by eschewing fast food, processed product cooked in the microwave, and the like. Not only is it healthier, it’s more enjoyable to be part of the process.

In the similar mode, I’m suggesting a “slow audience response” movement. Please stop talking when the speaker/movie/concert starts, and wait for the event to actually end before fumbling with your keys. You may actually enjoy it better if you are “present” at the event, rather than treating it as one more thing to check off the to-do list. I KNOW your fellow audience members will appreciate it.
The Muppets of Sesame Street tell you how to watch a movie…

5 thoughts on “The "Slow Audience Participation" movement”

  1. Even though I think “you kids—get off my lawn!!” is the next logical step, I agree with you. People need to slow down—in many ways. For the record, I never rush out when a movie or play is over, which maybe gives me some perspective to add that this is nothing new. I was at concerts more than 25 years ago where folks were ready to leave immediately after the last official song (and I left after the second encore and the house lights came up…). The point is, boorish behaviour isn’t new, only our tolerance of it is.


  2. Roger, you bring up one of my (many!) pet peeves. As a performer, I used to be annoyed when I was really bringing a blues and some boor at the bar blathered on, but that’s the price you pay for singing in clubs.

    Concert venues are quite different. My husband used to get embarrassed when I would give a simple glare or say “Sssssh!” to moviegoers who commented on things during a movie. Once I was seeing a movie with a twist ending, and someone shouted out the key to it all, depriving everyone of their “oh, man,” blown-away moment.

    On the other hand, my friend John Kellogg (ever meet him?) once went to a stage production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” that was, by his admission, really, really bad… there was a scene where the family were huddled upstairs and the Nazis were questioning the residents downstairs, and somebody from the audience yelled, “They’re in the attic!!” John said the entire audience broke up, and he felt just awful for the actors… but he did stifle a snicker…

    As for cell phones, etc., yes, that little blue screen coming up because someone could NOT disengage for even the span of 90 min or so, that’s so rude. My husband has to keep his on for pastoral emergencies, but he has it on vibrate. He simply answers in a low voice, “hold on a sec,” and doesn’t say another word until he leaves the theater.

    I taught him well. Also, now he’s the one who shooshes people, ha ha. Amy


  3. You’re out for the evening, seeing a show, your workday appointments are done until tomorrow. So why do you have to leave the theater before anybody else? Does your bedroom door automatically lock you out at precisely 9PM? Or maybe you alone noticed that the theater is on fire? Or is being first very important for its own sake? I just don’t get it.


  4. I will walk out of a truly terrible movie.

    I will not walk out on a live stage performance no matter how awful.

    Movies have no feelings. People on stage have feelings.

    I am not 100% sure why people don’t think about this.


  5. I find it amazingly odd that some people will stay and linger after a sports event so they don’t have to fight the crowds, but will jump up and leave to get to the parking lot before the end of a theater production. Makes little sense to me.


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