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Lou Harry's A&E

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Arts & Entertainment, etc.

In-theater texting and cell-phone ringing: A modest proposal

June 1, 2011

Unfortunately, reports of cell phone ringing in theaters continues (see Frances McDormand's handling of it on Broadway on Saturday). And texting continues to be a source of frustration for those of us who actually want to focus on what's happening on stage (Thank you, annoying person with the bright screen three rows in front of me at the last Dance Kaleidoscope performance. Or the couple in the mezzanine who couldn't resist taking photos of themselves as the ISO played).

My question: Will anything work? No matter what is said in pre-show announcements, no matter how unfair it is to others, will anything work to get a cell phone society to shut the things off for two hours so that everyone can enjoy a play without distraction?

How about an announcement before each show that says:

"Please raise your right hand and repeat after me:  'I, state your name, agree that I will personally refund the ticket cost for every member of the audience if my cell phone goes off. Further, if I am so weak that I cannot refrain from texting during the two-hour running time of this show, I give my permission for the stranger next to me to grab the device and crush it under his or her foot (during the intermission, of course).'"

Would that help?

Or do you have other ideas for pithy announcements that could help stem the tide of rudeness that continues to damage the live performing arts experience?

What role should fellow audience members have in policing? Or should it all fall on ushers? Have you faced off with anyone over cell phones, texting, or other breaches in audience etiquette? Your thoughts?

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