I am always amazed at how different the theatrical experience can be for different people.
Tonight I saw the new production of Les Misérables in Toronto and had a lovely time. Fantastic seat, wonderful performance and, were it not for the two most annoying children sitting across the aisle from me crinkling every piece of paper and water bottle known to man, a near perfect experience.
I’m sure the person seven seats away from me had no clue about the existence of these pure demon spawn and had a truly wonderful time. Prior to the show beginning I also had an issue with the man directly behind me. I realize that I am 6’7” and not the smallest person in the world, so should you ever find yourself behind me try to keep in mind that A) I can hear you complaining, and I am already aware that it’s an issue; B) While constantly sucking your teeth will let me know you are annoyed, it won’t fix the issue; and C) That I did not buy this seat to spite you. I’m sure the actors on stage had no clue that any of this was on our minds.
I always assumed that at my own shows, when I was on stage, I knew what was happening in the audience because I can often see many of them during the show, but I found out that this is very far from the truth. This weekend I found out that a woman I brought up on stage had seen the first half of my show back in May. I say half because in May, in the middle of my show, she went into labour and had to leave to give birth. And nobody even noticed. Yep. You read that right. Just politely up and left.
I had a particularly bad show in Orlando, Fla. last weekend. A combination of events led to a strange and uncomfortable show for me. Most of this audience was, unbeknownst to me, liquored up beyond repair because the bar at the theatre was selling $1, free-poured high balls. I like to consider myself a confident entertainer who can handle a lot of things, but a small army of intoxicated Americans is a hard wall to climb. A sea of drunken hecklers is never fun. So many of them shouted out constantly throughout my show that I felt most of the timing on my favourite jokes had been ruined. To be honest, at the end of the show when I walked off the stage I was so angry I wanted to get on a plane and never come back. I didn’t. I stayed, put on a smile and went out to the lobby to shake hands, take pictures and sign things. A large amount of people came up to tell me that it was one of their favourite shows of all time and that they really hated those hecklers. Really? How can that be? How could it be my worst show and your favourite? Maybe we all felt the same way about the annoying people in the crowd.
It’s amazing how one person in the audience can ruin the entire thing for everybody. I recently took in the new movie 12 Years A Slave. A gripping, beautifully dramatic and raw story about a man wrongly sold into slavery in the 1800s. A great film that brought me to tears by the end. However, seated directly behind me were two young black ladies who not only showed up 20 minutes late to the movie but proceeded to yell at the screen. It made my blood boil and while the movie was gripping, I think most of the people in that theatre spent an uncomfortable amount of time trying to figure out how to tell two young black ladies, without coming off as the world’s biggest racists, to shut up because we were trying to enjoy a movie about slavery. You can’t do it. There is no way.
I even tried sucking my teeth.