Hugh Jackman has received a great deal of press over the last 24 hours for stopping a preview performance of his new Broadway play, A Steady Rain, while an audience member's cell phone rang for almost a full minute. I think reports of Mr. Jackman's reaction have been greatly exaggerated. (One report I heard said that Jackman "ripped into" the audience member in question.) Actually, I think he was fairly patient. You can watch the clip yourself.
This made me recall a similar episode during the penultimate performance of Patti Lupone's Gypsy, during which some hapless audience member dared to take a picture. Patti's response was deliciously Classic Lupone. Watch and listen.
As an actor, I admit, I feel a certain degree of satisfaction when I watch these clips having had to perform through picture-taking and cell phone ringing and some even more distracting behavior. However, I never stopped the show. I can't. I'm not a star. Really, the only actors who can get away with these sorts or responses are the ones whose names appear above the title.
In the case of Jackman and Lupone, both have worked hard to get where they are and, in my opinion, are deserving of their success. And whether it's fair or not, their celebrity and fame gives them a certain amount of leadership within a company of actors. But, for example, if the picture-taking had happened during "Little Lamb", the girl playing Louise would have been expected to just soldier on through the song. Every actor knows the oldest rule in show business is the show must go on.
As actors, part of our job is to have the technique and concentration to continue in the moment despite whatever distractions may happen in the audience. You owe it to everyone in the audience who is not behaving badly and the rest of the actors on stage who are working collaboratively to create the reality of the play. One actor deciding to abandon that collaboration is arguably more distracting than any cell phone ring or camera flash.
Also, in our "community" of the theatre, as Miss Lupone so eloquently puts it, we, onstage, know that there is a staff of ushers and a house manager out there whose job it is to deal with offending audience members. You can't see it in the Hugh Jackman clip, but I promise you, there was an exasperated House Manager or usher standing in the aisle, arms waving wildly, trying to communicate to the cell phone ringer to get the heck out of the theatre. Someone from the stage jumping in to do this job makes the entire episode more humiliating and disruptive than it really needs to be. Now, I admit, this is the ideal philosophy I'd like to adhere to in the best of all possible worlds, but...these reactions, though I don't condone them, are kinda fabulous in an "actor's ultimate revenge fantasy" sort of way.
The great irony here is, that while recording these reactions may not be distracting, it is illegal. Can you imagine what Patti would have done if she'd known?
After many requests (okay, mostly from my mother), I'm making an honest effort to get back to blogging. Blogging filled a creative void for me when I was unemployed and helped me stay sane through the grind of a survival job. So here I am again, unemployed--but with a Master's!
This is me on my graduation day with my proud parents. They gave us medals! (The school, not my parents.)
One of the reasons I didn't get back to blogging sooner is that in the year or so since I stopped, I joined Facebook. Yes. I finally gave in. Peer pressure from the kids at school--for real. After all, I didn't want to miss out on all the newsy updates from my exciting new friends like "Tom is eating yogurt" (not his real name) and "Amy is going to the gym" (also not her real name). I might miss something!
As a result, I can now only think in short, third-person, declarative sentences about the minutiae of my life. I'm constantly thinking things like "Michael is appalled at the price of Heirloom Tomatoes" and "Michael thinks the A train should stop at 96 St." It would make for very short blog posts. Luckily, I don't actually publish these things as my Facebook status either--though many people do. You know who you are--not that there's anything wrong with that. By the way, this is one of the reasons I will never, ever, join Twitter. Unless it was to write something like this. (NSFW: language)
So, my dear, vast readership, I will attempt to update you on my status with an entire paragraph in the first-person:
I graduated from The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Academy for Classical Acting at the George Washington University(try fitting that on a resume) in late July. It was one of the best years of my life. I worked really hard and loved every minute. I made wonderful friends and learned more than I ever thought possible. I highly recommend it (especially to you who ended up here by google searching MFA programs). I spent August in DC working on my final "not-a-thesis" paper which is due on Dec. 1. I'm in good shape with that--I've fought the Facebook sentence structure as much as possible. I moved back to NYC the first week in September and am living with Scott in his studio apartment. It's cozy. But that situation may change soon. I'll keep you posted. Right now I'm adjusting to life back in the city and trying to remember what it was like to be an actor here. I went on my first audition the other day. It went well, but it was a long shot. If anything happens, you'll know. Right now I feel a little like Rhoda Morganstern at the end of her opening credits: "New York, this is your last chance!" Cue hat-throwing.
As a New Yorker who sometimes keeps a car in the city, I am normally not in favor of anything taking up a parking space other than a car. Today, however, I have to make an exception. New York City is taking part in an international event called Park(ing) Day. (http://www.parkingdaynyc.org/)
The idea is to convert conventional parking spaces into engaging, people-friendly public spaces for one day a year. The aim is to spark discussion on the importance of parks and public space in normally auto-clogged cities like New York. Parking spaces all over New York have been transformed into art installations, exhibits, or performance spaces, like "Shakespeare in the Parking Space", which I made a special trip to see.
In a spot located on Columbus Avenue between 60th & 61st Streets, some Fordham University students set up a simple platform and a bench (all one really needs to perform Shakespeare) and treated passersby to sonnets, monologues, some contemporary poetry, songs and the inevitable "original rap". Some of the Shakespearean selections included Hermia and Helena from Midsummer (pictured below), Juliet Act 4, scene 2, a marvelous St. Crispen's Day speech from Henry V delivered with all the gusto only a college boy can muster, and even a female Hamlet.
Hard-boiled New Yorkers, normally too busy to even look up from their Blackberries, stopped to listen, laugh, applaud and take pictures, including a group of construction workers on their lunch hour (pictured below).
I must admit my word-nerd, classical theatre-loving heart was moved to see this earnest group of students performing Shakespeare as it was meant to be: in the open air for the masses. I doubt Shakespeare could have anticipated the noise from buses and ambulances whizzing by, however.
It's good to know that if I don't get any work after completing my MFA in classical acting, I can always high-jack a parking space to perform.
Manhattan Chowder is back in the Big Apple after a wonderful year in DC. (More on that in future posts.) In the meantime, I've been spending the last week or so I've been home falling back in love with New York. She has been putting on her freshest face for me with beautiful September weather (mostly). A walk through busy Riverside Park yesterday revealed this photo: City kids playing baseball as only they do--under the Westside Highway with Trump's Towers looming above.