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For Whom the Cell Phone Tolls October 19, 2009

Posted by Bill in Manners, Personal.
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Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig had to ad lib during a performance of the Broadway play A Steady Rain when some idiot’s cell phone went off not once but twice during the show. Jackman stayed in character as a Chicago cop and merely said, “You want to get that?” Not only did the idiot forget to turn his phone off, he then evidently didn’t realize it was ringing because it continued to go off, prompting Jackman to say, “Come on, just turn it off … unless you want to get up here and tell your story.”

The cell phone owner was evidently very popular that night because it went off again a few moments later. Craig urged the owner, “Come on. Don’t be embarrassed. We’ll wait. Just turn it off.”

Without having seen the video (I’ve tried but the TMZ site is overloaded and they shut the YouTube site down) My guess is the phone belonged to a woman who was scrambling to find it in her purse after it went off.

Kudos to Craig and Jackman for managing to work a rude interruption into the texture of their play. Stars everywhere are having to compete for the attention of the members of their audiences with cell phones, IPODS, TREOS and people who just don’t have the courtesy to stop talking once the lights go down. If you listen to the recording of Tori Amos playing Little Earthquakes at a concert in Montreal, you can hear her stop in the middle and scold some members of the audience who are talking rather than listening.

Bill and I went to see a Neal Diamond concert a few years ago that was completely ruined for us by the guy sitting behind us who loudly screamed along with Diamond on every song, completely drowning out the voice we had paid big bucks to hear.

I have a theory that a lot of this decline in civility started with the advent of videotapes. It used to be that people could only see movies in theaters, or wait several years for them to be shown on television. However, when people started being able to watch nearly first run movies in the comfort of their own home, they could make as much noise as they wanted. If you missed something someone said because your mother called on the phone, no problem. Just stop and rewind. If you wanted to shout out whodunnit halfway through the video, no problem. If you wanted to stand up and dance around the living room while John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were singing on screen, no problem.

Thanks to the ability to watch movies and concerts in the comfort of our own homes, we have forgotten how to act when we are out in public, sitting in an auditorium with other people who have paid a lot of money to see the same show we are seeing. We’re used to talking, listening to our IPODS, dancing, pausing the action, rewinding, restarting and in essence doing whatever we want while the show is playing. We’ve lost sight of the fact that in live theater, there is no pause button.