Are the audience members ruining your theatrical experience?

He has finally found some time out of his busy routine, bought the ticket, took his seat and is ready to immerse himself in the sounds, sights and smells of a theater about to come alive. But wait, all you can hear are phones ringing one after another, fragments of personal conversations and howling children drowning out the sounds of the stage. Some people have decided to walk after the work has begun and others are eating their crunchy popcorn as hard as possible. To top it off, the distracted actor has now decided to leave the stage.

Sumeet Raghavan Earlier this year, annoyed by the constant disturbances of the audience in Nashik, Sumeet Raghavan, leader of the play 'Knock Knock Celebrity', left the stage halfway.

This is not a completely imaginary scenario. In June of last year, annoyed by the constant disturbances of the audience in Nashik, Sumeet Raghavan, lead actor in the play 'Knock Knock Celebrity', left the stage halfway. He later tweeted about the interruptions he faced from the audience during his performance with the hashtags #ZeroTolerance and #NoMobileDuringPerformance.

During one of my presentations, a person from the audience kept talking on the phone. When I looked at him, he gestured for me to continue as he continued speaking out loud. While mobile phone blockers can be used to curb such inconvenience, most people are against them. So how do we educate the audience? They are usually older people who don't know the technology too much and whose phones end up ringing during the show, says Sumeet.

As theater artists, we have to learn to live with him: Naseeruddin

In a previous interview, veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah told us: Once or twice I had to stop my performance halfway, because someone was using his phone. As theater artists, we have to learn to live with him, just like us. We have to live with newcomers, bags of chips and people who cough. We can't determine the priorities of the audience, but we try to give them the best possible performance so they don't need to check their phones!

Snacking during a play

Navina Jaffa, an academic and writer, says: Technology has interfered so much in our daily lives that, even when people go to see a theater or a cultural representation, they cannot leave that world behind and their attention is divided. The fact that one does not turn off the phone or is late for a live performance is actually a reflection of the alienation of modern man.

She adds: The people who have presented their show are in their particular world of great focused energy and want to do their best. This is his acting time, and that kind of commitment has to come from rasika (a term for the audience) as well, otherwise, the energy to build the rasa (aesthetic) is fragmented. If you are entering and creating a break for You and others in that world, you are not doing justice to yourself, nor for the space they are entering and the activity of which they will be part.

Latecomers at a play

'With the phones ringing in the middle, a good moment is lost on stage'

Theater director and actress Deepa Ranganath says: Entry time must be respected and the audience should not be allowed to intervene at any time they wish. Another problem is that some people constantly use their phones and film things that are supposed to be, and that eliminates the exclusivity of the work. She adds: Unfortunately, the phones that ring between the presentation have become so common, but in that process, a good moment is lost. Some people in the audience are absorbed in taking photos or recording videos and raise their hands from different people. Anglos

Ringing phones

Many put the phones in silent mode but still look at the screens

In addition to the phones that ring in the middle of the presentation, children can often be seen running and playing during the presentations. Actress and theater director Deepa Ranganath says: Once, I went to see a murder mystery and a child suddenly started crying just as all the momentum was building up. On another occasion, there was a guy who constantly cursed. Sometimes people keep eating chips or chocolate so loud that it spoils the entire atmosphere.

Dhruv Arora, a theater lover, says: While many of the audiences put their phones in silent mode, they constantly look at the screens, and the light from their phones is very disturbing. Recently I went to see a show, and the person sitting in front of me was still restless and constantly took pictures and videos.

Coughing fits

When Artistes improvises on stage to overcome the interference

Navina Jaffa, academic and writer, remembers incidents when artists improvised on stage and did not allow the audience to interfere with their creative flow. She tells us: In one of the works, there was a scene in which a phone farce rang. At that time, three more mobile phones rang and the actor incorporated him to the scene. It was very timely. She adds: In one of Birju Maharaj's presentations, a telephone rang between the presentations. He used to make this footwork known as Telephone Ki Tihai, so he immediately did this act. What a brilliant artist to turn that disturbance into something so creative and create balance!

Seat Swappers

Rihanna sparked debate over etiquette

Last year, pop star Rihanna sparked a debate about theater etiquette after arriving 15 minutes late for a Broadway show, Slave Play, written by Jeremy O Harris. The singer was seen sending text messages throughout the play. While the playwright didn't seem to have a problem, theater fans called him rude and disruptive.

Two things I learned today about the type of theater creator I am: when my idol sends you a text message saying it is being delayed. I hold the curtain. When my idol sends me a text message during a play that I have written, I answer (sic). Jeremy had tweeted.

In response to this, a member of the audience wrote: “Sending text messages during a program is unacceptable. As it is starting late for anyone who thinks it is better than an audience of paying viewers. Another wrote: Rihanna sent a text message to the playwright during a performance is not great. It's rude. Celebrating it is ridiculous and an insult to all the other theater creators who work in production. #sorrynotsorry, but are you late And text messages? Save your phone, @rihanna.

Rihanna with playwright Jeremy O Harris