Smoking ban for 'Jersey Boys'

July 8, 2008
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Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago production of "Jersey Boys" (an outstanding show, by the way--and that's me talking, not Jones) has gone smoke free.

He's not talking about the theater. He's talking about the show itself. Apparently the laws in Chicago don't allow for artistic use of cigs. And when someone in the audience complained, well, the law is the law.

Does this sound as out of hand to you as it does to me?

  • Completely agree. I'm so fed up with all this stuff.
  • Political Correctness will yet prove to be the death of Free Speech. Where in the Constitution does it say we have a right to not be offended? Plus, since when do audiences dictate the details of art?

    Horrible law, but I'm betting it's one of those that largely goes unenforced until some nimrod with nothing better to do than worry about self-righteously protecting other people's children complains.
  • Ridiculous. Though my favorite smoking ban story has to be the bar in Minnesota who got around the smoking ban by calling their nights out performances and the patrons actors.

    Perhaps that's what Chicago fears?
  • How dare they smoke in a large, well-ventilated theatre?

    Anyway, given Chicago's reputation as a home for gritty, experimental, and otherwise unusual theatre (I just can't bring myself to say edgy), I wonder how often this rule is breached in much smaller performance spaces (and with no one the wiser)?

    Oh, well, if you're in Chicago and put off by this, you could always check out a horse - er, something, anyway - of a different color, in the form of a play called The Mysterious Elephant and the Terrible Tragedy of the Unlikely Addington Twins* (*Who Kill Him), which is playing right now at the Chopin theatre.

    No, I'm not a member of the Strange Tree Group, who's mounting this new and certifiably unorthodox production. Just a fan.

    Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em. Just not inside the theatre.
  • Sorry, I'm with the theatre on this. It may not make a difference in a 'large, well-ventilated theatre' but cigarette smoke has really bothered me in small venues. I realize it is part of the play but it takes away from the experience for me because the smoke is irritating.
  • How could it NOT be enforced? The fact that an actor is doing the smoking does not make the smoke less harmful to those that work at the theater. Ventilation systems don't protect people from the smoke that comes out the end of a cigarette. Even the companies that make the fancy systems will admit that.

    There is a reason why they call it acting. If the cast isn't good enough to fake smoking then I'm not sure why anyone would pay to see them in the first place.
  • You can't smoke weed on stage even if you are an actor with glaucoma and a prescription for the drug. I'm sure the absence of the substance isn't enough to deter people from enjoying the show.
  • Creative producers can find a way to keep the show's intentions clear. They should look at this as an opportunity to highlight their creativity! Actors and patrons alike deserve to have smoke-free air and not be exposed to all the chemical and cancer causing toxins in cigarette smoke. I don't imagine theaters would want formaldahyde released on stage just because it's in the script!
  • They smoked during Carmen last year as the title character works in a cigarette factory. Even though I am not opposed to smoking for the sake of art I choked during the smoking scene and could not stop coughing. I was two thirds of the way in the back of Clowes Hall, a large, well ventilated theatre. I say cut out the smoking, who needs it? Use pretend cigarettes just like they use pretend everything else on stage. This should not be a big deal.
  • American Theatre magazine has an interesting story on this subject in the current July/August issue. Evidentally, 20-some states have some type of clean air legislation prohibiting smoking in workplaces and public spaces. While some states specifically exempt theatres if the smoking occurs on-stage during a production, in the other states without such an exemption it would technically be prohibited, although the article notes that the prohibition is rarely enforced (with regard to theatres) unless there is a specific complaint.

    In Colorado, the ban includes both tobacco and herbal substitutes. So the Curious Theatre in Denver (a member of the National New Play Network, along with with Indianapolis' own Phoenix Theatre) has challenged the legislation in court. Basically, they are claiming artistic freedom - that because of the ban, they would be unable to perform certain worrks where on-stage smoking is integral to the plot. So far the state court and appeals court have ruled against the theatre - they did not consider smoking to be expressive conduct. But they have filed an appeal with the Colorado supreme court and if that fails, there is always the U.S Supreme Court. So stay tuned.
  • More from the Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones on the Jersey Boys smoking issue. See his posts for 7/9 and 7/10
  • I'm really at a loss to think that the City of Chicago has BANNED smoking on-stage. They have banned artistic impression. I'm really sick and tired of the bleating and braying of a few, dictating to the great many.

    Let's be grown-ups here. Human beings do smoke, human beings do drink alcohol, human beings do curse and punch and maim and kill other human beings, and they do all of these distasteful things....are you sitting down....sometimes TO EXCESS. All of these, oh let's be kind and say, foibles, add layers to ourselves. The playwright uses these layers to create characters to tell his story. We, as artists, try and reflect the human condition, and we must be able to have, foibles, in order to make our characters layered and rounded and not one dimensional. We should be able to look at life in all of its splendor, and all of it's unsavory sides as well.

    If a character smokes, and that smoking is relevant to the plot and story, how can you present the character if you can't allow him to smoke onstage. If a character has an acerbic tongue, and curses, and that cursing is pivotal, how can you do the play justice if you cut out all of the curse words.

    I would wager that this all came about in Chicago (or really pick anywhere, because it is happening elsewhere) because a few anti-smoking zealots sat in the first few rows of a play where the characters smoked. They then complained to their Alderman, who brought up a resolution at the City-Council, and before you knew it...smoking was banned. I just don't think there was a revolt because of all of the smoking on stage. It was just a few complainers that brought this about. So, a very, very, very small percentage of the total audince in the city of Chicago brought this about.

    I directed a children's show once that was about pirates. We had a very few instances in the show where prop knives were brandished, one instance of a fight, and some token ale drinking. Very Tame. The producers of the show wanted me to tone down the violence because 4 patrons had complained that it was too violent for their children.

    The theater had 300 seats. We did a total of about 66 shows. So, out of a possible 19,800 audience members, four...FOUR, thought the show was too violent. I was asked to change the blocking and the show for FOUR people. My response was...THEY WERE PIRATES...not exactly the most savory characters on the high did you expect them to act ? Besides, these kids weren't learning about violence for the first time by seeing this show, their video games and the TV they watch at home had far more violence than they were seeing onstage.

    I really think that it's incredibly...well I cant think of a better word...STUPID, to ban these kinds of things. It waters down what we do as artists. How can we accurately reflect the human condition, if we can't ACCURATELY reflect the human condition.

    To quote a good friend...that's my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.
  • OK, I'm going to be a 'grown-up' here and acknowledge that grown-ups DO drink alcohol, curse, punch, maim and kill--but I personally like to minimize being on the receiving end of the last 4!! I also like to know that I can attend a play or any other social event and not have to be subjected to someone else's smoke. How do most of us feel about smelling someone else's unrelentless farting in a public place? Obviously that is a human
  • (part of previous post which got cut off somehow)

    foible but we certainly do not like it and they don't even threaten public health! Finally, the bleating and braying of a few actually turns out to be millions of Americans who support bans on smoking in public places.

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