Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Service of the Golden Rule Ignored

Monday, November 13th, 2023

Golden Rule

I often wonder if people think about the ramifications of their actions. Empathy needs to be taught and it seems to have been left out as a priority for too many.

Please stay silent, dear audience

I attended an amateur production of a musical in a small theater filled largely with the actors’ friends. I was on the verge of screaming “STOP PLEASE” if I heard another earsplitting “WHOOOOOOOOOO!” in the middle of a song or after an uttered inconsequential phrase or when a minor actor appeared on stage. Did these people think that they were at a sports event? If it happened once or twice, OK. But it was constant. Grumble.

In addition to the usual request to turn off phones and unwrap candies before the start of the production, I wish the audience was also asked to leave the hollered WHOOOOOOs and shrieks in a stadium or at least to wait for the end of a song though better yet—don’t do it at all. Energetic and enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation at the end says it all.

Do you need to pull away so soon?

Even if I’m not hoping to catch a bus, it drives me nuts when the driver pulls away from the stop just a few feet, only to brake for a red light. [See the photo below for placement of bus stop and traffic light.] I’ve written about this before and have notified the MTA as well. Because they are no longer at the bus stop, even though a few feet away, most drivers won’t open the door for a passenger pleading to get in. Aren’t the drivers supposed to transport as many passengers as possible?

A friend caught up with a bus on a weekend and asked the driver to please wait a moment for her colleague who is disabled and can’t run. The driver responded that there was a bus right behind [which any New Yorker knows is subject to interpretation as “right behind” might be eight minutes away]. The driver closed the door on her face. She yelled through the closed door, “she’s here!” The driver hesitated before reopening the door. Her friend thanked him and slowly slipped her MetroCard in the fare slot. Off flew the driver—using his gas pedal to show his anger and impatience. Her friend, unsteady on her feet, almost fell.

Empathy, compassion and etiquette would eliminate these irritations don’t you think? Can you share other instances of Golden Rule trashed?

From a bus stop like this one the driver can see the traffic light and should not pull away if the light is red.

Service of Legislating Art

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

I was once forced to follow another PR agency’s format both in presenting to the client the year’s placement results and my proposal. I froze. My mind didn’t accept their system. I had to fight to overcome what was to me cockamamie, convoluted organization. Normally, I plow into such a task with no trouble, especially enjoying the proposal part once I’ve determined my approach.

You can’t equate my dilemma with the creativity required to write a play or movie, but if the talent is given parameters and restrictions, inspiration must be tested. Nevertheless, I thought of my nightmare after hearing what a playwright’s agent told me and what Richard Dreyfus recently brought to light about the Oscar’s guidelines.

The agent said that in her stable of playwrights there is one of Hispanic background who has more work than he can handle. The others can’t get anything produced either because the subject matter or their characters don’t meet new strictures which specify required percentages of diversity and/or because the writer isn’t part of a minority.

And film? According to Lisa Respers France, CNN, “beginning in 2024, movies must meet certain criteria for representation to be eligible for the Academy Award for best picture.

“Films have to meet at least two of four benchmarks, which cover – among other things – whether the lead actors are from underrepresented groups or if at least 30% of the cast and crew come from these groups. Dreyfus criticized the new rules because, France quoted, “it’s an art. And no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give into the latest, most current idea of what morality is.”

I am sad about this because while most recognize and hope to repair past wrongs, the powers that be show, once again, that they aren’t able to do so in a way that doesn’t negatively impact some. This solution is much like the one I described in a recent post, “Service of a Well-Meaning Initiative That Creates More Problems than it Solves.” To level the playing field so more would be able to buy a house the Feds ignite divisiveness by raising the monthly mortgage payments of buyers with good credit scores and large downpayments giving more favorable terms to riskier borrowers, reducing their fees.

I proposed a solution for the mortgage situation—focus first on putting a chicken in every pot rather than on home ownership and take away the halo around the latter–but have come up blank regarding how to achieve equity for creative endeavors. There must be a better way than putting virtual handcuffs on writers. Any ideas?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Kismet or It’s a Small World

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

A friend who, like me, doesn’t answer a phone call from an unknown name or number, did one day. Long story short, the person on the other end of the line became his girlfriend.

Last weekend I went to a smashing performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” produced by The Blue Hill Troupe. It was magnificent. Founded in 1924, the troupe’s mission is to create enjoyable theater performances for New Yorkers and make money for NYC charities. Members range in age from 21 to 100 and they put on two shows a year. So many actors want to participate that they had two for every major part—the chorus stayed the same– and divided up the performances.

As I arrived early, I spoke with the woman next to me who was there to see her son perform. After a few minutes it was clear she wasn’t from these parts so I asked her where she lived and she said New Hampshire. I mumbled that my stepdaughter lives in New Hampshire. Turns out this woman is the postmaster of that town, population 1,600.

But that’s not all.

There was a two-page spread in the playbill featuring troupe member pets—dogs, cats and a bird [photo below]. I mentioned that I was charmed by it and we began to speak about pets. She said that her son, who lives on the Upper West Side, had taken her to The Black Lab Café for breakfast. Here dogs bring their human partners for coffee and light refreshment. It’s also a great place for those without dogs who long for one to pat or scratch behind the ears. Most four-legged guests play along. Guess what? My New Hampshire-based stepdaughter had sent me a gift card to this café where I recently enjoyed afternoon tea with a friend! According to thecookingworld.com NYC has some 27 thousand restaurants. Some coincidence–right?

Do you have any memorable examples of kismet or evidence of how small our world can be?

Service of Intellectual Property—in Theater Too?

Monday, March 20th, 2023


Zurich, Switzerland. Image by Jörg Vieli from Pixabay 

I rented office space for a decade from a law firm that specialized in intellectual property. It’s big business. For years I represented brands belonging to a corporation in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list and one of the first things I learned was how to refer to the corporate name–there was only one way, no “the” or “corporation.”

Friends who directed organizations such as the International Linen Association in addition to promoting the fabric watched out for inappropriate linen references. One example might be a textile using the color “linen” when the fabric was made of cotton or calling a line “Linen,” when it was made to look like it but was polyester.

More recently, The New York Times reported “David Stärkle, who oversees the enforcement of the Swissness legislation for the Swiss government, said that it would be misleading for Toblerone to continue to include an image of the Matterhorn, a symbol of Switzerland, on its packaging when some of its production was happening outside the country.” The wording on the packaging of the sweet treat—first made 115 years ago in Bern—will also change. It will now reference its founding in the country but will no longer be “Toblerone of Switzerland.”

Champagne can’t be used on a bottle by an adjacent region of France even if the product is as delicious and bubbly.

I get all these examples. The next one not so much.

After the movie musical “RRR” won the Oscar for the Best Original Song “Naatu Naatu” there was a kerfuffle by some about the performance on stage March 12. According to Yahoo News, even though the singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava were Indians, none of the dancers were of South Asian descent nor were American choreographers Napolean & Tabitha Dumo. Lead dancers at the ceremony were Billy Mustapha who is Lebanese Canadian and Jason Glover, American.

According to Yahoo, “The two lead dancers in the song Ram Charan and Jr NTR did not perform on the award night….. Jr NTR told The Juggernaut the original actors didn’t want to take part in the performance to keep the focus on the singers.”

I saw the performance and it and the music were riveting. Check with my friends: I texted in real time that it was my choice to win. I didn’t think about who did what any more than I would have about the nationality of the actors in any show.

If the execution is superb, who cares? In fact, I most admire the famous actors who so convincingly become their characters I forget they are there. One was Robert Morse in “Tru” where he played Truman Capote. Morse was heterosexual and Jewish. Capote was neither. So? Another was Billy Crystal when he became his aunt standing on a Broadway stage with no props or costumes in “700 Sundays.”

I understand the business reasons for intellectual property. But I think that it is a shame when such specificity intrudes on theater. How many high school, college and amateur productions will be constrained should such thinking take hold? If there aren’t enough Jewish children in a class does that mean that “Fiddler on the Roof” is off the table? Did people squawk when Paul Newman played the lead in “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” about a conservative country club couple in Kansas City in the ‘30s and ‘40s? Your thoughts?


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

Service of Theater and Concert Etiquette

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

National Youth Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall June 13, 2022

I first wrote about theater etiquette in 2014 where I shared a friend’s experiences seated near audience scofflaws at a few Broadway shows. In one she suffered through the noise created by a woman behind her. First, her raincoat that she sat on crinkled every time she fidgeted, which was often. Next, there was the sound of her opening candy wrappers and finally her loud whisper to her companion asking what time it was that drove my friend to say “shush.” At another show, a woman next to her mother texted throughout the performance, tap, tap, tapping away with the light on her phone an added distraction.

The set of “And Then There Were None” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown, NYC

A year later I mentioned that Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missing a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days” at Lincoln Center because, said LuPone afterwards, the lit screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She is known for such reactions to audience members who irritate her. This May, during a Q and A after a performance of “Company,” she called out a member of the audience whose mask had slipped below her nose.

This week I attended “Songs of Renewal” at Carnegie Hall to hear choruses and choirs–voice and clarinet–and chamber singers. In seats in front of me was a child about 9 who could not sit still and her parents. On and off went her sweater. She was on her mother’s lap and then in her seat and then back again on mom, squirming, facing backwards, then forwards. Her parents were oblivious to how her performance impacted those nearby. I was thrilled when they left before the end [which many did. It was late for a school night]. A few rows ahead of us young people in their late teens took some freed up seats. Although masks were required, they were oblivious. Two of four began to make out as though they were at home alone. One never pulled up her mask after that.

In contrast, the next night I saw a spot-on performance by the St. Bart’s Players in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown. In a diminutive space holding 50, the audience was perfectly behaved. My host mentioned that although many had friends in the topnotch cast, they didn’t break the rhythm of the performance by applauding at each entrance.

I recall a New York Times restaurant review many years ago by Mimi Sheraton. The food and service were perfect but the fight by customers at the next table reduced the grade she gave the place. Theaters don’t give etiquette or personality tests to audience members–though both Carnegie Hall and The Robert Moss Theater checked for vaccinations and required masks. At the latter, in addition to turning off our phones, we were asked not to open noisy candy wrappers. I just checked out the Ricola lozenges that Carnegie Hall has made available for decades to avert coughing jags. The wrapper is silent when you open it.

Do you have pet peeves about audience behavior when attending a concert, musical or play?

Service of Can You Go Home Again? Do Revivals Work for Businesses Like FAO Schwarz or the Playboy Club or Comedies?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

I’m intrigued by the concept of revivals. Two once successful businesses that closed are attempting them now–FAO Schwarz and the Playboy Club—and a prominent theater critic wrote in his Neil Simon obit that they don’t work when it comes to comedy.

Charles Passy covered the Schwarz and Playboy stories in Wall Street Journal articles, “FAO Schwarz Is Set to Return, And It Needs People to Dance on the ‘Big’ Piano– Midtown Manhattan store will be staffed with demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing costumed roles, including toy soldiers” and “Playboy Club Returns to New York, Bunnies and All, but Will It Hop? Industry experts question if the club’s concept will still work, as it comes back to the Big Apple after a three-decade absence.

I have memories of both. On a visit to FAO Schwarz with a first grade classmate and her mother the girl pointed to Santa and reported to my six year old self that he didn’t exist. I attribute happier recollections of the store with gift reconnaissance for my nephews. As for the Playboy Club, it paid bunny wait staff four times what other jobs I’d applied for after college offered. The reaction I’d expected from my father—he’d had a fit when he learned I’d modeled fully clothed for an art class—was only one of several good reasons I didn’t pursue the opportunity.

Terry Teachout’s Neil Simon obituary began “All comedy dates, and every pure comedian sooner or later becomes passé—even one as beloved as Neil Simon.” After “Lost in Yonkers,” wrote Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Simon would never again write a full-fledged box-office smash, and none of his plays has since been successfully revived on Broadway save as a star vehicle. His last bow there as a playwright, a 2009 revival of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ directed by David Cromer, closed after nine performances.”

Teachout observed: “And while his plays remain popular with amateur troupes and smaller companies elsewhere in America, most of the major regional theaters tend to steer clear of his work.”

In an op-ed piece in the same paper associate editorial features editor Matthew Hennessey wrote that theater today is “dominated by crowd-pleasing jukebox musicals and adaptations of popular movies. In the last few decades of the 20th century, Simon, who died Sunday at 91, was a household name.” Broadwayworld.com proved Hennessey’s assertion. A headline last week was “Jerry Zaks will bring Mrs. Doubtfire musical to Broadway.”

Hennessey continued: Simon’s “domination of the Great White Way from the 1960s through the ’80s has no contemporary comparison. The current toast of Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, has staged two original hit shows in a decade. In 1966 Simon had four plays running in Broadway houses at the same time.”

Do you think that FAO Schwarz and Playboy Clubs will/can fit today’s customers? What about revivals of once popular comedies–do they all become passé? Perhaps “Mash” and “Honeymooners” fans, or those who tune in to the TV version of “The Odd Couple” –derived from Simon’s play–don’t buy tickets to Broadway or major regional company theaters because they are simply too old or too poor? Or maybe laughter is out of fashion on the Great White Way?

Service of You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Bus with Selfish Passenger

This post is similar to “Service of Chutzpah” that I wrote this winter: In spite of the greatly improved weather and beautiful long summer days, the clueless, thoughtless bug is still in the air.

Bus Stop

I was on a bus when an able woman in her 40s entered with a marketing cart bulging with purchases. I empathize: I don’t have a marketing basket but after a visit to Trader Joe I often carry two heavy shopping bags. On the style of bus we were on that day, I’d head for the connecting area between the two sections where there’s plenty of room to stash bags, suitcases or a marketing cart—on the metal floor in the photo above.  

If you look carefully, you can see her shopping cart hogging the aisle in the front of the bus. The subsequent logjam resulted in frazzled nerves and delays. When the bus driver asked her to move the cart, she didn’t budge until she got out four stops later.

I don’t have that kind of nerve.

The Show Must Go On

Here are two early July head-slapping examples involving members of NY theatre audiences.

Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missing a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days.” She’d been texting throughout the star’s performance at Lincoln Center. According to Beckie Strum in the New York Post, her co-star Michael Urie said her performance, “…was good and it didn’t disrupt the momentum of the play.” Lupone told Playbill that the LED smartphone screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She was particularly annoyed because earlier that day the matinee performance was punctuated by ringtones and the screech of a faulty hearing aid.

Before a performance of “Hand to God” at the Booth Theatre another audience member jumped on stage to try to charge his cell phone on what turned out to be a prop that wasn’t plugged into an outlet. Robert Viagas wrote on playbill.com, “It’s nice that people feel at home at Broadway theatres — but perhaps they shouldn’t feel this at home.”

Behind the Curtain

And in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Pia Catton wrote “Phones Rankle Offstage, Too.” In just one example she described a typical incident. “Opera singer Jennifer Rowley, who performs at the Metropolitan Opera and London’s Covent Garden, said she once auditioned for a director who, exasperated by her chosen song, started out barely paying attention. ‘He immediately pulled out his phone and starting texting while I was singing,’ said the soprano, whose high notes ultimately proved more captivating than his screen. ‘When it got interesting, he stopped.'”

I can’t tell if these people—none of whom are kids–are stupid, feel entitled, are unconscious, suffer from extreme selfishness or come from a different planet. And you? Have you noticed or read about other such incidents of late?

Service of Arts Attendance

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Alexander Forbes wrote “Why Falling Arts Attendance Has Major Implications for the US Economy,” in artnet.com. He based his arguments on the result of National Endowment for the Arts {NEA} studies.

Attendance at musical performances—jazz, classical, opera, musical theatre—as well as plays, ballet, art museums and galleries, all of which he called “benchmark activities,” have declined between 1992, where 41 percent of US adults attended at least one, and 20 years later, in 2012. That year, 21 percent visited a gallery or art museum and 33 percent went to any benchmark activity.

Of those who attended an event, 73 percent “said their main reason for doing so was to socialize with friends or family, while 22 percent who wanted to participate in an arts activity but didn’t, say it was because they didn’t have someone to join them,” wrote Forbes.

So who is attending, according to the NEA? “Despite similar household incomes and education, people who call themselves middle-class were more likely to attend the arts than those who identified themselves as working class.” Forbes noted the obvious fact that people who define themselves as working class may be working on weekends and evenings when events take place and museums and galleries are open.

He reported that the misunderstanding by some that arts are “for elites by elites,” is worse than before. “Anti-arts rhetoric has become particularly malignant in the years since the economic collapse with many populist-leaning politicians worldwide attacking the arts as unnecessary luxuries that one percent-ers like to enjoy and make the rest of us pay for.”

So what do the arts contribute to US GDP? Forbes wrote $698 billion in 2012 or 4.32 percent of GDP. Note: He clarified that the figure included film, television and advertising industries along with the usual suspects.

Yet he didn’t point out essential information: What percentage of the $698 billion do TV and advertising represent? [I’m giving film the benefit of the doubt and determining that people attend movie theatres though clearly Netflix sales count in this number.] He compared the total to the construction industry with “only” a $586 billion contribution to GDP and transportation and warehousing–$464 billion.

Forbes highlighted the trade surplus generated by the arts–$25 billion—which, given that we don’t export a great deal these days since we stopped manufacturing much, is significant. He also reported that “for every 100 new jobs created in the arts, 62 new jobs are created, on average, in other industries.” And: “For every dollar of increased spending on artworks, $1.98 of total economic output is created. In the case of museums, every new dollar of demand creates $1.76 of gains.”

Do you think that the impact on this country’s economy of fewer people attending “benchmark arts activities” will be as damaging as Forbes suggests should the downward slide continue? Do you attend such events to socialize? If nobody is free to go with you, do you stay home? Are there other potentially dire consequences of this downward trend?

Service of Theatre Etiquette

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Erica Martell, an avid theatregoer, proposed this topic based on recent experience in two New York theatres.

Sitting behind her in one was a woman with a nylon coat that made noise when she moved. It took her quite some time to settle down even after the show started. The crinkling was distracting–just writing about it makes me grind my teeth–and it began again farther into the show.

In counterpoint to the coat chorus was a five minute period of sorting through her bag to find a candy and then the cacophony of the unwrapping. Erica said she’d had it and made a loud “shush” noise. At intermission a man thanked her for the “shush” as he was equally irritated.

But that wasn’t all. At a critical point in the final act Ms. Infuriating whispered loudly to her seatmate: “What time is it?”

A week or so later at another Broadway show the woman sitting next to her mother texted throughout. Erica didn’t say anything this time. But we spoke about the man in a Florida movie house, about a month ago, who shot someone in the audience for doing just that.

When people tweet about the event they are attending–and are encouraged to do so in some instances–etiquette gets a blow. While the event producers encourage the buzz, they aren’t thinking about others around the person whose tapping on a smartphone or tablet—even the light generated by these devices–bothers neighbors. And what about the speakers confronted with bowed heads? Do you think that everyone is tweeting or posting rave reviews and updates on Facebook? I bet many are responding to texts, checking emails or buying supplies.

I told another friend about Erica’s topic and she shared what happened to her. She had to call over the usher to quiet a couple who were speaking a foreign language nonstop after the curtain went up. She said. “Why would you attend something you didn’t understand?” People attend operas all the time when they don’t understand German or Italian yet they don’t have a pass to speak during a performance even if there aren’t any English subtitles.

Such lack of manners can also spoil concerts, movies and lectures. What causes such breaches of etiquette? Can you share examples and effective solutions?

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz