Dealing with the Distraction

We’ve all experienced it.

We’ve all been the cause of it at one point or another.

It’s so common, there are public service announcements dedicated to making sure it doesn’t happen.

And yet, it still does.

It can happen in front of you, behind you, or right next to you, and there’s very little you can do about it.

What is it, you ask?

It’s the dreaded cell phone ring in the middle of a performance.

Actually, it’s not just the cell phone. It’s any distraction. A candy wrapper, a flash photo, a voice behind you that thinks it’s whispering. None of these things were ever intended to be a part of the show. And yet, they happen every day and every night in theaters and at stages all across the world. No one is safe.

Dealing with this as an audience member is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Nor would I blame an audience for an adverse reaction to such a disrespectful distraction.

But…

Your reaction as an actor is your choice and is completely within your control.

It’s been my experience that when these distractions occur, (and they do) (and they will) your best course of action is simply to continue on. Do your part. Play your role. Tell the story.

Will your concentration be jarred? Absolutely! I would hope so! A foreign sound or action has entered your world. However, it’s entered the audience’s world as well, and they are looking for you to be the steady home base that they can return to. The audience, the ushers, the house manager, they will all help you regain focus and maintain your world. But you’ve got to give them a reason to come back to it and to trust that you’ve got the show and your role under control.

It has become a bit of a fad that artists of all types stop what they are doing to address a distraction in the audience. It’s exciting for the audience when it happens, it might get a quick laugh, maybe some applause, and sometimes it even gets some press. The only problem is, the artist’s tantrum becomes the story and probably the most interesting thing to happen in the show that night. And from that, you’ll never get your audience back.

This may be just my opinion, but it’s true.

Do you think there’s ever a time when it’s appropriate to drop character, break the fourth wall, and address an audience member directly?

(Medical emergencies. Of course. Don’t be that guy who brings that up.)

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