Monday, February 16, 2009

Please Don't Flash the Bunny!

I just finished playing the "Old Lady" in a wonderful production of "Goodnight Moon". Chad Henry did an amazing job of adapting the beloved children's book written by Margaret Wise Brown. Many parents read this book about the Little Bunny who keeps finding reasons not to go to sleep to their children until the book's pages are worn from all of the page turning and love.

I was the only adult in the musical. The average age of the cast was 13. Being the only adult has its challenges, but these youth actors were pros.

The reason that I am mentioning the ages of the cast is because as you can imagine, I felt very motherly towards them. When they got sick I told them to drink more water. When they broke a shoelace, I gave them a new one. When they were too loud in the green room...well, I told them. Over a six-week rehearsal period and a five-week performance schedule doing 9 shows a week, we got to know each other very well.

"Goodnight Moon" was an adorable show visually. It was intentionally designed to look just like the book, and it did. Our mostly young audience sat spellbound for the most part. "He sat at the edge of the seat the whole time!" "She wants to come and see the show again!" "This is our first show, and we'll be back!" "He's never been quiet for a whole hour since he was born!" were some of the many comments that we heard in the receiving line.

We had many first time theater-goers. And with first time theater-goers, mistakes are bound to be made. (Can you feel the tension mounting???)

Most people understand that having a cell phone go off during a movie or live theater production is not acceptable. It is disruptive and rude. I heard a story of an actor who chased the offender with the cell phone out of the theater screaming at him (the offender apparently decided to answer his phone and have a discussion during this actor's scene onstage). Most actors that I know have had similar thoughts, but haven't carried them out.

At the beginning of each of our shows an announcement is made welcoming the audience and then giving them a few simple rules. One of those simple rules is: "Flash photography, cameras and recording equipment of any kind are not allowed in the theater." Seems reasonable to me. Clear, concise and easy to understand.

Let's review the reasons flash photography is not allowed:

1) It blinds the actors. They could fall and break something.

2) It is rude. It distracts other theater goers who might not like a bright flash to occur during their theater going experience.

3) It is illegal. The set designer, costume designer, director, choreographer, writer, prop designer are all artists who have created a piece of art. Copyright laws are broken when someone takes a picture of their work without their permission.

4) Did I mention it blinds the actors?

Even with the pre-show announcement and the fact that it is also written in the program, there are inevitably people who don't know any better. A flash will go off here and there. When that happens, the House Manager politely asks them to stop. This usually works. However, one day we were besieged. It was as if a group of people had carefully planned their attack. Here is what I imagine their meeting sounded like:

MARY: OK. We'll take a few flash pictures during the show. Not too many - we don't want to get caught.

BRUNO: That's right. I just got out of the joint. Food's terrible! I'll sit in the left of the theatre. Mary, you sit in the right.

SPIKE: I'll sit in the middle of the theatre, so they can't get to me. Besides, I still got that warrant out on me.

MARY: Good thinking, Spike! During the finale, take as many flash pictures as you can. I don't see any cops! The car's waiting out back.

SPIKE: Got it!

During our finale, we sang: "Keep a Positive Attitude". As you might imagine, it is an upbeat, happy, optimistic song, and we were all smiling and singing our hearts out. That's when Spike clicked off at least five flash pictures in a row. Bruno and Mary were clicking away as well. I had held it in for as long as I could. But we all have our breaking point. This Bunny's carrot cracked.

You see my photograph. I don't look very intimidating. Actually, I am almost 5'9" and dressed like a...bunny, so I had that going for me. We were all being blinded by the constant flash. The cast kept smiling and singing. But like I said, my carrot had cracked.

I stepped out of the line and toward the audience. I held up my hand like Diana Ross when she sings: "Stop in the Name of Love". I looked right at the perpetrator and shook my head: "NO!" I wasn't smiling. I had lost my positive attitude. I was thinking about the kids. How they had performed through sickness and health, broken shoelaces and ripped pants. Struggled with keeping up at school, and all of the drama that we all went through at that age. And yet, here they were singing and dancing and smiling only to be blinded by Spike.

The flashing stopped. I stepped back in line. I put my smile back on. I finished singing and dancing with the cast.

Did I do the right thing? I felt badly for the 700+ other audience members who weren't taking pictures. But it had to be done. A lesson had to be learned. Hopefully those people who felt compelled to take pictures of the cast won't do it anymore. And if I have saved even one bunny from being flashed, well then, it was worth it.


CGabriel said...

I saw your Big Bunny on stage and you were terrific. Intimidating and overpowering...yet sensitive, lovely and rather coy.

Pictures in the theatre are maddening. You captured the essence of it beautifully in your post. Allow me to share my cell phone "experience" while on stage a few years ago:

Working at a major theatre in Minneapolis, the play had just begun. I was downstage with another actor in one of the play's opening scenes. Suddenly, a woman's cell phone begins ringing. She answers and says the following: "Hello...oh hi Harry...what...yeah, we're at the show...WHAT?? WOULD YOU SPEAK UP..." --

It was at this point, we stopped the scene and began staring at her. The audience was roaring their disapproval of HER...but she continued on... "No, I have no idea what time the play ends..."

At that point, the actor I was working with looked down at her and said "About 10-o'clock." This time, the audience roared their approval of HIM, she sheepishly closed her phone and noticeably shrinked down in her seat a few inches. did the RIGHT thing!! BRAVO!!! The theatre is not one's home living is not a movie is not the mall...IT'S A THEATRE!!!

Hopefully, you gave the offenders a much-needed education in theatre etiquette.

David G(ollum) said...

As a friend and life long student to Old Lady Bunny, I felt it necessary to interrupt my homework for a short moment to write this down.

Many times I find it odd that people have a hard time following directions. Being the soundboard operator for “Goodnight Moon,” I can honestly say that there is no way any member of audience did not hear this warning before the show. I am so depressed that common courtesy has gone out the window for these few snap-happy jerks who miss so much of they show by viewing it through a camera lens (or back of a digital camera). Have we seriously lost the ability to follow directions, a skill taught by every parent and teacher?

Furthermore, I do believe many people think that, since this is only a children’s theatre company, we, the employees, do not take the “no flash photography” rule seriously. IT IS TAKEN SERIOUSLY. Just like the Guthrie, Orphium and Ordway, the rules and consequences still apply!

It was a wonderful show and should be remembered as a wonderful SHOW, not a glossy print on the refrigerator!

All the World's a Blog said...

Thank you for your comment, CG. I'm so glad that you saw the many layers of subtext and complexity that I tried to achieve with my Big Bunny.

Your cell phone experience was quite amazing as well. I must say, I got a good chuckle out of your story. It is absolutely astounding to me that a person could be that dense. How could she have thought that nobody would notice? Or did she even care?

In the end, all we can do is our part, be it as a Big Bunny or a fine actor / writer such as yourself.

Keep up the good work! I thoroughly enjoy your blog!

Anonymous said...

I too saw your Big Bunny on stage and was delighted with the entire experience! You were funny, charming and sang beautifully. I now have a new appreciation for "pandemonium!"


Trudy Honeycutt ~ Folk Artist said...

Hi, Jennifer!! I just found your comment over on my daughter's blog...Sullivan Spot...and thank you for the sweet comments!! Madison is a great fan of Goodnight Moon!! She has a giant book collection, with many favorites.....and she just turned 3!! Lucky girl!! ~~Trudy~~

Mermaid Queen said...

What a darling bunny you make sis! And whatever happened to manners matter? Hopefully people will think first before they try to flash you again. ;)

Anonymous said...

I too saw your Big Bunny on stage and thought you were terrific. My family and I loved the entire experience.

And, thanks to 'Good Night Moon', I can no longer here the word pandemonium without thinking of bunnies and bedtime!



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