Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Open Letter to the Theater-Going Public of St. Louis

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Whilest enjoying the Tuesday performance of Mel Brooks' Tony Award Winning Musical smash The Producers with many of you, I became irked by the behavior of a select few.

Not that your behavior was the worst I have observed at a theater; no, in fact, you were all a most gracious audience. You laughed when it was funny, you clapped when it was deserved. You gaped at "Springtime for Hitler" because there is something about seeing it actually performed that is just mind-blowing and incredible. You can't believe they're actually doing that on stage. But it was as this number was finishing that I started to notice something odd. Some of you got up and left. And, not even after the song was over; some of you left just before it ended.

Did you think that was the end of the show? It wasn't, just so you know. It was the end of the show within the show, so I can see the confusion. But then, why did some of you leave before the end of the number? This bothered me just a bit, but then the action picked up again. Leo and Max read the good reviews, Roger and Carmen walked in on them fighting, Franz tried to kill them, it was all good fun.

But then, just after Leo and Max got sent to jail, as "Prisoners of Love" was starting, something else happened; more of you got up to leave. Again, as the song was starting. And through the song, even more of you got up to leave. And then once the song ended, even more of you followed suit. The actors weren't even done bowing to you, their audience, and you were leaving. Distracting those of us who wanted to let the actors know how much we appreciated the show and, trust me, angering the actors. Look, I know most of you have nine to five jobs, but those people on the stage, this is how they eat. Imagine, for a moment, that your boss expects you to finish a project. He expects you to be finished by three o'clock. It's a big deal for him, he keeps checking up, and he's apologetic about it, he's not being an asshole. He just wants to make sure that you do your normal excellent job in a certain amount of time. Imagine that ten minutes before you finish it, he announces to the whole office that he's going home for the day, and not to bother him, he'll be in tomorrow. Well, wait a minute, boss...didn't you want to check and make sure my project is done?

This isn't a perfect example, I know. But skipping out before the curtain call is like looking at most of a Picasso. Or even more accurately, like going for the first three movements of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and then leaving halfway through the fourth. Picasso painted the whole thing. Beethoven wrote the whole thing and the orchestra rehearsed the whole thing. Don't they deserve credit for what they did? Sure, Mel Brooks wrote the musical and sure, he wasn't there Tuesday night. But the musical you saw was the particular interpretation of that play by the director, artistic team, pit orchestra and cast there at The Muny that night. How dare you walk out on them without giving them their proper thanks! How dare you leave while they were in the middle of entertaining you! And sure, you may have paid for the ticket so it's not like they're entertaining you for free (unless, of course, you were sitting in the free seats), but then you didn't get the full money's worth!

Please take heed. Having written and directed two plays, having performed onstage and in the Pit Orchestra, let me tell you this about the Theatre; we give you the show, and you get the joy of being entertained. We put lots of hard work into it, and what we get out of it is your applause and your appreciation. If we can put a smile on your face, and make your hands clap, the least you can do is wait until we're able to show you how much we appreciate it by smiling and bowing. The audience may get to interact with the characters onstage, but those characters aren't the people behind them. Stay until the curtain call and bows. It's the only true moment of interaction the performer gets with you the whole night.

Thank you.

Elliot M. Rauscher


bridget said...

jeez elliot...don't you know those 9-to-5-ers have a long drive home? remember a stretch of highway 40 is shut down. leaving early gets them home in time to get to bed at a reasonable hour...i just hope they are lying in bed trying to imagine how the show ended, consequently interrupting their sleep and making them tired and crabby the next day!

Annie said...

Just... wow. Don't people understand it's not like leaving a baseball game in the 8th? Sheeesh.

Becca said...

people left early? Was it bad or something? Maybe they had to get home to watch something supremely more entertaining on TV?

I don't know, Elliot. It's St. Louis. Seriously.

Btw, I love the new banner and photo. Spot on. I need a banner for my crap-o-la blog. : ) Hehe...

Molly said...

Perhaps the first wave of leavers left b/c they were offended by Springtime for Hitler... life imitating art.

Muny audiences have been doing that for a long long time... As a child, I recall going to see the Unsinkable Molly Brown with my Aunt and a couple of cousins... she whisked us all away as soon as they got in the life boat. I felt cheated. I STILL feel cheated. It turned me into a die-hard stay-till-the-last-minute person.

Nice rant. You should try to get that published in the P-D, or one of the suburban journals... eh?