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Post-Thanksgiving tales of turkeys in the audience

November 28, 2008 |  5:39 pm


Now that another Thanksgiving has passed, we are blessed to cease listing all the things for which we are thankful, and return to dwelling on those for which we are not.

One of Culture Monster's least favorite things is bad audience behavior -- sniffing, coughing, texting, scratching, talking, chewing, late-arriving, foot-tapping, hair-flipping, page-turning, singing along, dropping things that must be fetched immediately no matter how many rows forward they have rolled since hitting the floor -- and, of course, hats.

For those of you who are planning to attend a live performance this weekend: Hey, you're not home eating leftover stuffing with your fingers in front of flat-screen TV, honey. You're at the theater.

Usually, theater management chooses to try to prevent such occurrences with a polite pre-show warning to turn off cellphones and pagers, unwrap cough drops and candy.  But at a recent performance of "Year of the Hiker" at Theatre Banshee in Burbank, which frequently presents Irish plays, company co-founder Sean Branney instead honored the Irish storytelling tradition by regaling attendees with shocking tales of audience members behaving badly.

There was the woman who wore a pair of holiday earrings that flashed throughout the performance. Another woman not only answered her cellphone, but launched into a full conversation -- then, when others shushed her, walked up the aisle, still talking, and continued her chat in the lobby of the small theater, where everyone could still hear her.

But this was Culture Monster's favorite: During a performance of "What the Butler Saw," what the audience saw was a gentleman who took off his shoes and socks and clipped his toenails, apparently misunderstanding the intended purpose of theater footlights. Enough to make any theater banshee scream.

In honor -- or is it bafflement? -- of this monstrous behavior, Culture Monster invites other theater personnel, as well as audience members, to file comments on your own audience horror stories.  But please, don't do it during the show.

--Diane Haithman

Photo: An audience at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles. Credit: Ann Johansson / For the Los Angeles Times