Sunday, April 4, 2010
Show #18 "H.M.S. Pinafore" at Lakewood Playhouse
I was all set to enjoy a fun, fluffy evening of Gilbert & Sullivan's musical silliness. There was even the bonus of having Randy come along with me for the ride. (He doesn't think G & S shows are his cup of tea.)
We sat in one of my favorite sections at the Lakewood Playhouse. I had already read the program and took note of all the marvelous artists working on this show. So, I sat back and waited for the spectacle to begin...
Then I looked directly ahead of me and observed a young father with his 3 year old daughter sitting in front of us. Uh oh...what are we in for tonight???
My concern was well founded. I wondered what a wiggly pre-schooler was doing here, past her bedtime at a show that probably holds very little interest to her young sensibilities?
Then about 15 minutes into the first act, I had my answer.
Just as the chorus of singing beauties entered the stage, the little girl stood up, pointed at one of the actresses and shouted, "Mommy!"
Then, in response to that call, "Mommy" glanced toward her precious girl and surreptitiously waved at her.
I understand that a youngster wouldn't understand theatre etiquette, but Mommy should have known better. Her on-stage greeting only lead to more and more distracting behavior.
As the evening wore on, the patrons seated directly in front of and next to this little girl grew more annoyed. It was obvious to all of us. I, too, became quite annoyed, as she prevented me from enjoying some of the finer moments of the play.
It wasn't until the second act, when this child started to cry that her father finally scooped her in his arms and carried her out of the theatre. But by that time, it was too late. She had already spoiled the experience for too many paying customers.
Now, I am not anti-children. I raised two fine sons, but never brought them to live theatre until they were mature enough to understand proper audience behavior. It is patently unfair of any parent to expect this sort of propriety from a child this young.
Should theatres have a policy about babies and young children in the audience? At the risk of some people shouting "bah humbug" at me, I would say, yes. And what about cases like this, when a parent is one of the actors in the play? Well, my stage debut occurred in a play about the Vietnam War. My character, along with others, used a lot of raw language to tell the story. I did not feel this was appropriate for my young sons to watch. Even though this was one of the most exciting days of my life, Tim and David had to stay home that day.
Moms and Dads, there will other times your precious children can see you on stage. Think first about what is appropriate, both for your child and the rest of the audience, cast and crew.
It's about being a respectful actor. It's about good parenting.
Graphics courtesy of Samantha Camp