Turn It Off!

A local theater hosts a series of Broadway shows. My friends and I have purchased a subscription to the shows for the past five years. We have seen some great tours – Wicked, Billy Elliott, Newsies, The Lion King, Fiddler on the Roof, Mary Poppins, South Pacific and more. Yesterday we went to see Jersey Boys. I’ve seen the show before, but the music is fun to sing along with so I didn’t mind seeing it again.

What I did mind was hearing the extra musical “accompaniments” which happened during the show. Right in the middle of the quiet introduction to “A Sunday Kind of Love” I heard a recording of a dog barking. Then as the actors playing Frankie and Tommy moved to center stage, there was a shrill ringing. Two rows over, a piano began to play “Fur Elise” as Frankie started to sing “My Eyes Adored You.”

How hard is it to turn off your phone? Apparently, really difficult because this happens at every show, concert or play I attend. Every. Single. One. And not only does someone forget to silence or turn off their phone, but then when it rings it takes them forever to locate the phone to silence it. The rest of the audience gets to listen to them try to find their purse or dig around in their coat pocket while the noise continues. When this happens, I feel bad for the performers. If I am annoyed, I can only imagine how they feel. There are some great videos of annoyed actors who have interrupted performances to interact with audiences when cell phones have gone off in theaters. Hugh Jackman discusses his experiences with Katie Couric in this clip:

Cell phones are not new. I have owned a cell phone since 1993, back when Verizon was Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile. I know for a fact it takes approximately 1.8 seconds to make a phone silent or turn it off – maybe a full 3 seconds for the technologically impaired. The theaters even make an announcement before the show reminding patrons to silence their phones. And it’s written in the program. So why do we continue to hear these interruptions?

I have tried to think of valid reasons for keeping your cell phone on during a performance. Maybe you are a doctor and you are on call so you have to remain connected to the world in case of an emergency. Maybe your daughter is pregnant and due to go into labor at any moment. There might be reasons to keep your phone handy. Here are my suggestions on cell phone theater etiquette if you feel you are so important and your phone must stay on.

  1. Put it on vibrate.
  2. Then put the phone in your pocket or on your lap so you don’t have to disturb the entire theater while you look for it.
  3. If you must answer it, for heaven’s sake – leave the theater to answer the phone! Yesterday, the owner of the barking dog phone answered and talked to the caller as he left the theater.

A few months ago I saw a photo of a sign on Facebook. The sign read: Any audience member who disrupts the performance by not turning off their phone will be forced to come on stage and play the bassoon. I think that is a WONDERFUL idea! I played the bassoon in high school. Other than my friends Allison and Penny, who also played bassoon in our high school, I don’t know any bassoon players. Clearly the world needs more of them. If this helps rectify the shortage, what a win!

So, please, leave your phone on during the next theater performance or concert you attend. Help solve the bassoon player shortage. Or, turn it off and let the rest of us enjoy the show.

P.S. To those of you who will now be singing music from the musical The Book of Mormon all day because of the title of this post, you’re welcome for the ear worm.


4 thoughts on “Turn It Off!

  1. Amen! This is one of my greatest pet peeves. I can only imagine how insulting it is to the actors who work so hard to put on a great show. I see this in movie theaters all of the time, and it drives me crazy. Even when people silence their phones they still feel compelled to check them every ten minutes, flooding the area around them with light. Honestly, nothing important is happening on Facebook in the two hours you will be logged off for the movie!


    • Right?! Is it that difficult for people to be present in the real world? Why bother paying for a ticket if you aren’t going to watch the show because you are constantly distracted by your phone?


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