Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lupone Responds to NYT blog on Vegas incident

The New York Times' theater blogger, Dave Itzkoff, wrote up a post yesterday based on Vegas reports the Patti LuPone incident at the Orleans on Sunday night when she halted the show to ask an audience member to stop texting. It was the second similar incident, the first being a more explosive and startling one in January during "Gypsy."

The headline of the June 22 NYT post: "Another Show-Shopping Moment (Not the Good Kind) From Patti LuPone."

Patti was not amused! In a post today, the blogger published LuPone's reaction:

Dear Dave Itzkoff,

Your story about my stopping my concert in Las Vegas on the New York Times ArtsBeat blog was forwarded to me.

I found the tone of your report very snide and feel compelled to write you to ask – what do expect me, or any performer for that matter, to do?

Do we allow our rights to be violated (photography, filming and audio taping of performances is illegal) or tolerate rudeness by members of the audience who feel they have the right to sit in a dark theater, texting or checking their e-mail while the light from their screens distract both performers and the audience alike? Or, should I stand up for my rights as a performer as well as the audiences I perform for?

And do you think I’m alone in this? Ask any performer on Broadway right now about their level of frustration with this issue. Ask the actor in “Hair” who recently grabbed a camera out of an audience member’s hand and threw it across the stage. Or ask the two Queens in “Mary Stuart” (Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer) how they react to it.

I find it telling that my story elicited 47 comments from your readers while a few other stories on the blog elicited a handful, with many getting 0 comments. It certainly touched a chord with people, almost all of whom sounded like audience members, who share in my frustration with what threatens to become standard behavior if no one speaks out and takes action against it.

This has been going on in my career for 30 years since I starred in “Evita,” and, you’re surprised I stop shows now?

Sincerely, Patti LuPone

Itzkoff then asked the NYTimes.Com readership their view. As I write, Patti is winning the argument 19-1, with many commenters saying they don't even care for her but they agree that audience members have become very rude. (My Las Vegas Weekly column this week addresses the matter further.)

The one commenter who didn't agree so far wrote: "I paid my money, and I’ll do damn well what I please as an audience member. If I want to talk or tape or film, ehtier [sic] out in the open or sereptitiously I will do it."

Well, good luck to this bozo who doesn't care about anyone's rights or pleasures but his own. Not even Itzkoff is arguing that line, he just wondered if a performer mid-performance is the right person to address the problem.


E C Gladstone said...

Don't try this at the Popovich Pet Theater! Or the Lion King ;)

chuckmonster said...

This behavior isn't particularly new.

Robert Fripp, guitarist for King Crimson, is known for stopping concerts in the middle of complex songs and pulling the band off stage when audience members violate the rules announced before the start of a performance : "NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY". They usually re-appear 15 minutes later and take the baton up at precisely the same measure that was ceased.

Perhaps Ms. Lupone would be better served by having an announcement outlining her pet peeves before hand. That would avoid her having to dress down paying customers.

Cush said...

Seriously, what is wrong with people. How selfish can one be to access their cell phone or Blackberry during any type of performance. The light from a cell phone is extremely distracting.
A month ago I was enjoying a performance of Madame Butterfly when a woman (of a certain age) pulled out her Blackberry in front of me and sent an email. DURING AN OPERA!!!Not a 17 year old girl texting during a concert. I did mention to her after the performance that the light from her BB disturbed the people behind her. She made some comment about doing what she wants in her "personal space". Sigh!
I did write to the Opera company and they have agreed that they now must place a "no emails or texting" reminder along with the "turn off cell phones and pagers" notice prior to curtain. Sad that people have to be told this.
Anyways, good for Patti Lupone. I would be the first to give her a standing ovation.

Willie Watters said...

I am so glad that this discussion is hapening, thanks, in part, to Vegas Happens Here.

I have a bit of a diffrent take on the matter, and don't really buy-into the argument that performer's 'rights' are being violated by an audience member texting.

Yes,Ms Lupone could see him texing from her position on stage. So what? Ignore it, him. A ringing phone or other rudness that bothers others is, of course out of line, but SHE inturrupted the show and brought attention to something that, had she ignored it, probably few would have even noticed. SHE caused the problem.

Do I defend rudness? Never, but what she did, potentially embarrasing a person who may well have had a legitimate reason to be texting, may have itself been rude, or at least avoidable, which makes me suspect she was all to happy to discover the texter so that she could go into her Broadway schtick.

I respect, and have for years defended performer's rights. In courts of law and in public opinion. But I suspect that her action during her Las Vegas concert was an overreaction.

Here's an idea for the singing star (and it is sad that the public would even need this reminder): mention from the stage at the outset that using phones is rude and distracting to others in the audience. Then, if someone is, in fact, using their phone, have an usher straighten it out.

Perez Hilton was texting on Twitter during a recent Criss Angel show. The content is unimportant but the result was a lot of press, including, I believe, Vegas Happens Here breaking the story. BUT HEY- where was the outrage then? Whom came to the defense of Criss and his 'rights?' Is it only popular Broadway-types who are defended? (Note: Criss Angel's magic production has real secrets, actual copyrights, that need to be protected, rights that are easily violated by even a quick photo). But the resulting stories didn't seem that interested in such things and the audience in the magic show was unaware of the Twittering going on. (As for Perez- I hear he was just slugged by the manager of a popular band about who he's been writing and while I find him rather gross, I am very upset that anyone would result to violence).

I think it is rather funny that Ms. Lupone speaks of rudness. Her actions were likely rude; the texter she saw may not have been.

Speaking of rude, I happened to have heard about the Sunday night incident by reading Steve Friess' blog and, for whatever reason, I posted a comment asked why some in her crowd would cheer her for speaking that way to an audience member. I even wondered if this wasn't unavoidable as she did this (probably correctly) during a Broadway performance. And the result of my lame little comment were personal, pointed and a bit condesending criticisms of me. Me. What the hell did I do, except not buy-into the crowd's reaction?

I often find the internet tough talkers funny. You meet them in person and they are usually quite meek, but online, they are loud experts, bordering on snobs who seem to know it all. That's why I enjoy meeting the texting tough guys. I can take as well as I give but why be rude? Is that cool? Do you show your allegiance to rude performers by being rude yourself?

There may be a bigger problem, one that cel phone use in public places is just an example, and that is rudeness, of any kind.

Focusing on the patron's (possible) rudness and ignoring the performer's avoidable rudeness, and defending it by being rude is leading us all in the wrong direction.

Ms. Lupone could have made her point without pointing-out an audience member. In fact, she should have.

Me? I'm happy to politely (or agressively) make my point in person to anyone willing to discuss the matter. I say: let's start off the discussion in a civil manner. Maybe even talk softly with me, but be aware, I'm able to do so because I happen to carry a big stick. I suspect some of the rude people maybe are less endowed.

Ms. Lupnoe: Continue to sing beautifully, but maybe drop the big schtick.


Willie: I'm on a layover in SLC but just wanted to reply that I think the reason why people are cheering PL's taking a stand is because audience members often feel so powerless against rude people with their phones, textings, their talking, etc. Nobody wants to confront their neighbors, especially in this unpredictable day and age, but after so many shows and movies subjected to this kind of disruption and distraction, the silent majority finally feels heard and as though someone with some authority is saying what they feel. It IS distracting when people are creating unnecessary noise, light or motion in place where attention is supposed to be trained on the stage.

OK - gotta get on the bird. Will approve comments to come in a few hours when I get in.


Willie Watters said...

Thank you for your thoughful reply.

That is a good point: many people may well be cheering for that reason. And good for them.

But- there seem to be a number of others who support her because she has a mic and a pretty dress. If a loud voice and bugle beads is all it took to win over a crowd, Frank Marino would've been elected President years ago.

mike_ch said...

She sounds like she was being nice about it on stage, but good grief, the followup.

Would you like some cheese with your whine?

Anonymous said...

I was at the same performance as Steve and thought Ms. LuPone was perfectly within her rights, to say the least. Ditto her silent teasing of the latecomers, another bane of theatergoers.

Regarding PDAs, while "Saint John of Las Vegas" was no better than a mediocre film, it didn't help that my view of the screen was impeded by the very, very BRIGHT glare emanating from Johnny Brenden's every-busy Blackberry or whatever it was. His parent should have taught him some manners.

David McKee

Michael said...

Good discussion and an interesting perspective from multiple angles.