A Very Special Level of Hell

…you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.

-Firefly

At a recent performance I was reminded of this quote.

As Ryan and I sat in our seats, the conversation behind me began to raise my shackles.  The two women were loudly discussing their views of the ACA.  Now I am a passionate supporter of the ACA, but I still realize that there are faults in the execution of the law.  What bothered me about their conversation was they were bashing the law, but clearly were misinformed and spouting false “facts”.  I tried to ignore the conversation, instead focusing on examining the set design.

The show began, and quickly my annoyance at their conversation drifted away as I was transported back in time to the world of the play.  But that illusion was shattered during the second scene when the woman behind me began riffling through her purse and makeup bag so she could reapply her lipstick.  She was reapplying her lipstick during a play in a dark theater.  After another bout of fumbling, the purse was put away and I tried to focus again on the performance going on.

Throughout the rest of the first act there were a few whispered comments from the women behind me, but nothing enough to warrant making a comment.  During intermission Ryan and I escaped to the lobby to avoid overhearing another en-ragingly misinformed conversation.

The second act began, and again I was jolted out of the performance by the clinking of a compacts as she reapplied her lipstick.  You couldn’t have done that during intermission I wanted to scream, but held it in.

As the second act progressed the tension of the play built.  It was a ghost play, so the audience often gasped or screamed, with the occasional nervous laugh thrown in.  None of these bothered me.  They were legitimate reactions of people who were allowing themselves to get caught up in the play.  But as the tension built, the whispers behind be grew.

“Don’t open the door.  Don’t open the door.” whispered the woman behind me.  Something I have said while watching a movie, by myself at home, but would not utter in a movie theater let alone at a play.  Did I mention we were in the second row, so I’m sure the actors could hear as the women asked each other what was happening.  It is annoying enough when people talk during movies, during a play is an entirely different level.  There is no invisible wall that prevents the actors from hearing/seeing the audience.  Actors have to listen to the audience, to hold for laughs or screams.  Beyond that it is the actors job not to let the audience distract them.  But if you are talking, texting, or moving about it is a distracting and disrespectful to both the actors and your fellow audience.

Finally I had enough.  I knew the play and knew a big moment was coming up and would be enraged if these women ruined it for me.  Turning quietly in my seat I forcibly whispered “Stop talking”.  The woman diagonally behind me stared at me in horror.  Whether it was horror that she had been called out or that I had startled her I didn’t care.  They didn’t say a peep the rest of the play.  I was able to forget about them, and let myself imagine I was alone in an empty theater watching the horror unfold in front of me.  How the play is meant to be seen.

When the house lights came up at the end of the show I didn’t linger to see or speak with the women behind us.  Had they been students, or younger I would have stopped to explain why you don’t talk during a show.  I’ve done it before and either gotten an apology or a moody shrug off.  But these women were middle aged and should know better.

A special level of hell, hope they enjoy their seats there.

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