Leonard Jacobs talks about the ineffective enforcement of the theater cell phone ban in New York City, as well as some other unruly behavior by audience members. He points us to an essay by a Denver critic about audience antics, which includes some anecdotes about how thespians have dealt with annoying patrons.
So, we have audience members interrupting performances with their cell phones and actors interrupting performances to chastise those with cell phones.
What about an actor interrupting a performance with his or her own cell phone?
This nearly happened to me during a performance. I had been on the phone until moments before the show, dealing with tickets and an audience member who was lost. (Ahhh, the joys of acting and producting.)
As I entered the scene, I realized that not only had I left my mobile phone turned on, but I had neglected to remove it from my pants pocket. My costume had a long outer jacket and so trying to reach into my pocket would have been very distracting. And my phone is the type that gives a burst of music when opened.
During the scene, I was trying to send ESP signals to my phone, ordering it to stay silent. I don't think I have ever broken, so quickly, in to so great a sweat under the lights.
I didn't miss a single line, and the phone didn't ring. However, once I got off the stage, I had to deal with something right away before my next entrance.
Well, wouldn't you know it! Ten minutes later, as I entered the scene again, I found myself thinking, "You, imbecile!"
Yes, I once again had left the phone on in my pocket, but by now I was a veteran of this particular predicament and kept my cool. I realized that if the phone went off I could cover it. It wasn't as if I was in a Shakespeare or Chekhov play, where a phone would be an anachronism. No, I was playing a present day physician!
I started to improvise a little scene in my head for dealing with a possible call, but before I got too far it was time to exit. Like a long distance driver who didn't notice he missed his exit until he is in the next county, I really can't remember going through that scene. After the show people told me that they thought I was really on in my performance that night.
I wasn't the only thing.