Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dear Patti LuPone

Dear Patti LuPone

Yesterday, wags including those at The New York Times were all atwitter -- including on Twitter -- that Patti LuPone stopped a show cold during her act at the Orleans in Las Vegas.

Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times Arts Blogs wrote, a bit snarkily:

Just when we were starting to remember Patti LuPone as a luminescent if detail-oriented theater star -- and not, say, the sort of person who brings an entire show to a halt when she catches an audience member snapping photographs of her -- she goes and does it again.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that Ms. LuPone, the two-time Tony Award winner, stopped in midperformance on Sunday night at the Orleans hotel when she saw an audience member using an electronic device.

“What were you doing?” Ms. LuPone asked the audience member, according to The Sun. “I promise not to be mad at you. Just tell me, what were you doing — videoing? Taking photos? Texting? I really want to know.” The fan, wisely, did not respond. Ms. LuPone then threatened to have the fan thrown out if it happened again, before she resumed singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”

Ms. LuPone earned an unwanted recording credit earlier this year when audio of her berating an audience member who tried to take pictures of her at a January performance of
“Gypsy” was posted on YouTube.

Today, Itzkoff posts a letter from LuPone responding to his piece:

Dear Dave Itzkoff,

Your story about my stopping my concert in Las Vegas on the New York Times ArtsBeat blog was forwarded to me.

I found the tone of your report very snide and feel compelled to write you to ask -- what do expect me, or any performer for that matter, to do?

Do we allow our rights to be violated (photography, filming and audio taping of performances is illegal) or tolerate rudeness by members of the audience who feel they have the right to sit in a dark theater, texting or checking their e-mail while the light from their screens distract both performers and the audience alike? Or, should I stand up for my rights as a performer as well as the audiences I perform for?

And do you think I’m alone in this? Ask any performer on Broadway right now about their level of frustration with this issue. Ask the actor in Hair who recently grabbed a camera out of an audience member’s hand and threw it across the stage. Or ask the two Queens in “Mary Stuart” (Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer) how they react to it.

I find it telling that my story elicited 47 comments from your readers while a few other stories on the blog elicited a handful, with many getting 0 comments. It certainly touched a chord with people, almost all of whom sounded like audience members, who share in my frustration with what threatens to become standard behavior if no one speaks out and takes action against it.

This has been going on in my career for 30 years since I starred in Evita, and, you’re surprised I stop shows now?

Patti LuPone
As someone who was there for that now fabled penultimate performance of Gypsy, I can tell you that I much prefer an actor who stands up for her rights as a performer and those of the audience by doing exactly what's she's doing.

Thank you, Patti! You and the polite members of your audience deserve better.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 23 June, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Marc Shaiman responds in the New York Times Arts Blog:

Besides all that the others have written, I will also go so far to say that when I see other people “disconnect” to text or Email (or even read the program excessively…ask me sometime about my experience at the opening night of “TITLE OF SHOW”), well, I find that even more distracting then the light itself. Suddenly, I am thinking “that person just missed that moment…why are they here?…are they really that oblivious to those around them?…WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE WORLD?!?”

There are certainly more troubling things going on in the world. Some say I should get over it. I just want to enjoy the show/movie and I WANT to share the communal experience, not sense detachment from the people around me.

I applaud Patti for speaking out on this subject.

At 23 June, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erik says,


At 24 June, 2009, Blogger Dale said...

I absolutely support Patti and can't believe it doesn't happen more often. Everyone chuckles at the pre-show announcements and then just goes ahead and does whatever they want anyway forgetting that the audience has a role to play as well. I'm alternately saddened and angered at many audiences I've been a part of.

At 25 June, 2009, Blogger Marinda Dove said...

It's mad isn't it - do people think they are at the cinema or something?!

M x


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