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


  1. Well done you. What can I say - you'll be glad to hear that I'm back on track, having seen Macbeth at the Barbican tonight. I'll post it later.

    The Barbican in London is where Les Mis started, and it's coming back later in the year (yes there'll be 2 productions concurrent when it comes). We'll be there.

    Also, Andrew Lloyd Webber has invited my mother and I to be his guest at any performance of Love Never Dies of our choosing. So when my mother comes visit we'll have that as one of my 52 too, I hope!


  2. Funny I should read this entry on your blog just after writing this to a theatre in Glasgow, Scotland:

    Dear Manager,

    I was one of a group of three adults who attended the performance of Camelot at GilmorehillG12 on Thursday, April 15th.

    The performance was impressive but our enjoyment of it was ruined by the fact that the people behind us had brought with them a very young child.

    The child repeatedly kicked the back of my partner’s seat. When my partner asked that this be stopped he was told by one of the adults with the child, “He’s only four.” They were unapologetic, and that they should not have brought so young a child to something manifestly unsuitable (this was not The Singing Kettle) seemed to pass them by entirely. Thereafter the child continued restless, moaning, talking, crying out, wriggling about. The adults with him talked to him to try to soothe him. I got struck in the neck; by the child, I think. Not only were we continually tense, anticipating the next cry or jolt, but my concentration was further reduced during the latter part of Act 1 as I sought, in the darkness, to identify vacant seats to which we might move in the interval. What I gather is the moving climax to Act 1 entirely passed me by.

    My partner spoke to the duty manager in the interval, but he was unwilling to speak to the party in question. We did manage to find other seats for the second half, but that was an additional hassle to people who were already victims.

    Would you please exercise supervision of audiences and exclude very young children so as to prevent such disturbance again?

    If you do not, you risk considerable disruption. It was only our own consideration for the rest of the audience that led us to suffer in silence (for the most part) instead of remonstrating more loudly and persistently with the offending party, stumbling and groping round the theatre in darkness trying to find other seats while the performance was still in progress or even calling out for the performance to be halted while management dealt with this disturbance. Other customers may be less forbearing than we were.

    Yours sincerely,

    Paul Brownsey