Q: I'm so embarrassed and frustrated with myself. I went to see a show with some visiting in-laws, and they turned out to be really rude audience members. Two of them whispered to each other through the whole show, and the other one kept texting! I didn't feel comfortable shushing them. But I really wish I had, because I think my future employment has been harmed. Somehow I hadn't noticed until the lights came up that a director I've been wanting to work with for a long time was sitting right behind us. As I was about to say "Hi" to him, he made a comment about how some people have really short attention spans and kept walking. Is there any way I can fix this?
Actor and career consultant, Velina Brown.
A: There may not be anything for you to "fix." While it is unfortunate that your guests were so "etiquette challenged"—and it's true that in general you want to be careful about being in the company of rude people because it can reflect badly on you—in this particular case, it seems that you are jumping to a conclusion. We don't know that the director was referring to you or to the folks next to you when he made that comment.
Your concern is understandable, though. It reminds me of my own "to shush or not to shush" experience. I had come to see some friends in a show, and directly in front of me two people snickered and whispered to each other throughout the dramatic performance. Every time one actor in particular would enter they would really start laughing and pointing. But the distracting rude behavior went on throughout.
I, like you, didn't ask them to be quiet. They were so out of control I didn't know if doing so would just cause more of a ruckus. There was no intermission and therefore no clear space to talk to them or see who they were until the show was over.
Once the lights came up, I recognized them instantly. They were actors that had auditioned for me in the past. The director of the show was sitting near me, and he recognized them too. Needless to say their behavior during the show had not made a very good impression. Later, my director friend flatly said there was no way he would ever cast either of them. But after the show The Rude Ones were all smiley and friendly and trying to shake the director's hand. However, the damage had been done.
I actually felt kind of bad for them, because they just had no idea how thoroughly they had torpedoed their chances with that director. I wanted to say, "You know what, guys, if you don't like a show or someone's performance you can rant and rave about it all you want in the car on the way home. If you are on foot, don't do it within a three-block radius of the theatre, and definitely not during the performance. Three words, my friends: The golden rule. If you have a tendency to lose your way on the path of good manners and common sense, reminding yourself of how you would like others to behave while you are performing onstage will get you back on track. If you'd rather not have to slog through whispers and derisive snickers while you are onstage, don't be whispering and snickering while someone else is on stage. No amount of glad-handing afterward can make up for it." But they were having such a good time.
As for your situation, if you were not whispering during the show and you were not texting during the show, then I don't see how anyone would hold you responsible for what the people next to you were doing. The Rude Ones whispering in front of me were who I was annoyed with, not the people sitting next to them. However, if you feel pretty sure that the director has lumped you in with your discourteous guests, I don't think there is much you can do about it besides not sitting with them in the future. If you have another opportunity to speak with or audition for this director, don't waste it by reminding him of a bad experience that he hopefully has already forgotten. And really, unless the people you are with are your children, you really can't expect to control them. If they are adults they will do what they want, and all you can do is control yourself and who you choose to spend time with.
My advice is to just proceed with your marketing as usual. Avoid going to performance events with rude people. And let it go. You didn't do anything wrong.
Since taking on producing the shows she wanted to see while in college, this month’s Featured Member and two-time Lemonade Fund benefit producer, Megan Briggs, exemplifies how a theatre artist can blow past the constraints placed on early actors to create her own play and develop works that support the field. Read all about her here.