Ann Arbor Theater Vixen: Jenn McKee's Blog

{September 11, 2009}   Talking to myself

A fitting title for a blog, perhaps, but this is actually a reference to an experience I had last night in the Mendelssohn Theater while watching “The Producers.” Not that I spoke aloud to myself, but the person seated next to me did freely during much of the evening.

I confess that this is a new phenomenon for me and a somewhat baffling one. Like everyone, I’ve sat next to chatty folks who exchange comments with each other throughout a show – much to my annoyance – but never before had I experienced the equivalent of sitting next to someone with a Bluetooth.

Clearly, this person was an insider who knew many, if not all, of the performers on stage. Most of the comments were things like, “He’s so good!” and “Oh, my God, Dave!” and “So funny!” I get the whole “enthusiasm for friends’ work” thing. I really do. I cheer my friends on when they’re pursuing their projects, too. But when I do so, I’m not doing so aloud, at a show where people are trying to focus on a story that’s being told.

I’ve often said that people who talk at movies are acting like they’re at home, chatting while a DVD plays on the TV in their living room. But is talking to no one but yourself an even further extension of that? Yes, I’ve occasionally uttered something beneath my breath during a show, but that’s a rare exception, and will happen, at most, once. These comments were coming after nearly every number.

Maybe this person knew I was there for a review and thought I needed a little nudge. Or maybe the person just has no internal filter that discerns what’s worth giving voice to and what’s fine being left in the confines of your head. I don’t know. It’s strange, of course, because going to sporting events, like Michigan football games, encourages just this type of interactivity; but the nature of that spectator activity is worlds apart from theatergoing.

So I’ll confess that sometimes I wish theaters offered isolation booths so that the ultra-noise-sensitive among us could watch shows in peace. Would this move us away from the subtle sense of community established in a live theater audience? Perhaps. But out of respect for all the work that went into what’s happening on stage, I sure would like to be able to concentrate on it without distraction.


Kathy Waugh says:

I couldn’t agree more! Sadly, I know too many people like you just described . . . I probably know that person. Ugh.

Dana says:

Did you ask them to shut it? See theatre with Bart. It’s crazy! He has no problem asking people to be quiet. Nicely and NOT so nicely. He uses the word Buddy.

Jenn McKee says:

Alas, I never have the nerve to tell them to shut it. I’m more of a glare-thrower – not that it does me any good. The whole thing’s crazy because each time, I ask myself: why am I not asking them to be quiet? And the answer is, because I feel like I would come off sounding rude. Of course, this person is being profoundly rude to start with, but even so, I can’t get over my own fear of committing rudeness. And I don’t think I could pull off saying “buddy” in a sentence without sounding like a complete jack-ass, so I envy Bart his ability… 🙂
Before Lily was born, and Joe went with me to more shows, I had better luck because Joe has no problem whatsoever being the “bad cop.” But not surprisingly, when it’s just “good cop” on duty, nothing much happens.

Heather says:

I have the same issue at libraries. If you need to talk on your cell phone, leave the library and go outside and hang out with the smokers.

On a related topic, I had a woman who was 50+ feet away from me falsely accuse me of not cleaning up after Turbo (the dog) when walking her a couple days ago. Once I pointed out that I knew what I was doing, she was apologetic, and then launched in a long-winded tirade about people that don’t clean up after their dogs in our park. I wouldn’t have been offended if she had been more polite, but her rudeness was a complete turn-off (let alone her making an assumption from far enough away that she couldn’t see what was actually happening).

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