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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Walking Out

George Hunka, before his hiatus, takes a moment to win friends and influence people by beating the shit out of pretty much everyone associated with "100 Saints You Should Know" at Playwright's Horizons.

I dunno. Maybe the play blows. I haven't seen it. I'm pretty sure no one was specifically attempting to abuse the audience. I don't see much evidence of Artaud at Playwright's Horizons.

Certainly, I've seen much ballyhooed stuff that I found not-so-good. I've even felt the way George seems to be feeling: baffled and furious that something given this many resources seems so criminally inept.

But I never really walk out. I mean...I never walk out. Of anything.

George notes:

"Poor 100 Saints, perhaps -- workshopped within an inch of its well-intentioned but pale, weak life. I left at intermission, I'm afraid, not compelled to return by the tree-injury ex machina that closes the first act, but since Ms. Fodor, the director, the cast and Playwrights Horizons are producing a play that knows more about itself than the playwright or any of the creative team, I hope nobody will take the above words personally."

Now, George didn't go to this show as a reviewer in any official capacity (unless he was given free tickets by Playwrights Horizons) so it's his right to walk out. I'm sure many people walk out regularly. In fact, I know so. I've seen them. But I find myself pretty much glued to my chair whenever I see a show, whether or not I'm there to review it.

The reason: I just think that even a pretty bad show has to have been sprinkled with a little love, and it's the least I can do to give them my attention for the duration of the experience. Who knows what it all adds up to? And, in the end, my job isn't hard, even if I don't enjoy the play. I'm watching the play, being generous with my attention. Even the very worst productions aren't there to personally offend me.

I guess I sympathize with anyone putting plays on the stage. It's hard for me to imagine turning my back on them and heading to the bar early.

If I'm reviewing the production, of course, it's more than just sympathy that keeps me watching: it's responsiblity. If a given production is going to wind up with a bad review from me, then it's pretty much only fair that I watch the entire play. Simply put: I think it invalidates my opinion to not experience a play from beginning to end. To give a production the middle finger in print after only watching about half is pretty much something I wouldn't be comfortable doing.

I'm curious what readers think about "walking out." What's your limit? Have you walked out? When you do - why do you? If, like me, you don't - why not?


Anonymous said...

I walk out on shows all the time . . .

If they're that bad, I go . . . and it sounds like this one was exactly that.

The circumstances whereupon I wouldn't walk out are thus:

I'm reviewing the show . . . then there's an obligation to review the whole show.

If I have friends / collaboraters whom I work with often, I stay out of allegance to them.

However, if none of the above attach, and the show truly blows, I walk out simply because life is too short.

Believe it or not, I've actually walked of a production of one of my own shows . . . it was so badly staged, badly acted (actors calling line) and rewritten without my permission and most of all, it simply stunk . . . that I walked out.

The absolute worst shows I've ever seen has been on Broadway . . . the revival of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (the story of which, believe it or not, I'm a fan of) . . . none the people could sing, the staging was bad, everything was bad . . . I left.

I remember doing the same with SWING on Broadway, which stunk, and with WILD PARTY (the Mandy Pantakin version) which was REALLY bad.

There are great shows I've seen (I saw the original run of HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE with the original cast and was rivited) but the really terrible ones do a disservice to the audience and should be walked out on.

Life is simply too short - one can learn from a bad show, sure . . . but it's the same lesson, over and over, and after awhile I got it . . . and so when I'm at a really bad show and I know it, I believe that bad show is now someone else's lesson to be learned.

parabasis said...

I walked out of ashow recently, for the first time. It wasn't even that bad. It was just thoroughly mediocre on all levels. And was getting steadily worse (and seemed like it was going to keep going in that direction). In other words, nothing to hold me there.

I would've stayed out of a sense of duty, but a friend was with me, and it was our last night to hang out before he moved pretty far away and he said "i'd much rather we spend time talking in a bar than seeing this. let's leave".

Here are my two regrets:
(1) being in the front row
(2) being in a bar close enough to the theatre that the entire cast and crew of the play could walk into afterwards. Which they did. Thankfully, they didn't recognize us when they ended up taking our table as we left...

I would also say that reviewers (or at least, reviewers who are being compensated for their reviews) shoudl stay through the whole show. After all, they will then be using the company's labor to advance either their own reputation or earn money, so it's only fitting that they be respectful and nondismissive both in the night of and in their review, regardless of whether they liked the show or not.

Certainly, I think if one is going to leave at intermission and write about it, the fact that one left at intermission probably belongs in the first sentence of the review, not buried in the middle. The reader shouldn't have to go back and reevaluate everything oue has said.

Anonymous said...

I remember leaving at intermission ('tipping up' as my English friends put it... I love that expression, for some reason, like it presumes that you're polite enough to put your chair on the table or something before you go) for one show in New York. We were exhausted, it wasn't good, the tickets were free and it was a large venue where we wouldn't be missed. So we left. And I still felt a little bad about it, but it was one of those, 'We can get home earlier, we're too tired to enjoy it and no one else cares' kind of choices.

I will say, though, that I would never do that for a show I was reviewing. I mean- okay- I suppose I shouldn't say never. If the production was attempting to force-feed me shrimp and peanut butter or the ceiling were falling in, okay. But short of that then I would never leave a show I was reviewing and I would especially never presume to publish a review of a show that I've not actually stayed to the end of. Believe me, there have been some shows where I have wanted to, but I just think there is a certain expectation that goes along with receiving the comp tickets as a reviewer, and I think that staying to the end is not too much to ask.

Kyle said...

If I'm not enjoying a show, I usually still stay all the way through, in part because I tend to see them in such small places out here in L.A. that it will be noticed if I leave, and I kinda feel bad in those instances. Plus, I don't really think you've earned as much right to talk trash about a bad show if you leave halfway through. And who knows what lovely moment in the 2nd act you might miss that would make it all worthwhile?

I only recall walking out once on a show once recently, and it was a production that was so amateurish on every level I couldn't bear to stay past intermission. Seriously, the abitrary light changes in the middle of scenes were more interesting than either the story or the performances. Dreadful.

And I saw 100 Saints in Chicago last summer. Of course I can't speak for PH's production, but I certainly don't think the play blows, and there's some lovely stuff in that 2nd act.

Art said...

There is a distinction for me...

I would define a "walkout" as getting up and leaving during the actual performance.

I have never walked out on a live performance while it is actually going on. Though I have been tempted a few times.

George just didn't return after the intermission.

Now, that is something I have done. And when I have, it hasn't really been a hard decision.

My decision to leave at intermission is only because there is absolutely nothing in the first act that has given me any shred of hope that the second act is going to improve.

However, like Freeman, I usually will see at least something to hang onto and give it a shot.

But I guess I don't begrudge anybody leaving a performance. Time is precious.

Terry Teachout once posted his Critics Prayer, which he says as the the houselights go down:

"Dear God, if it can't be good, please let it be short."

Art said...

Leonard Jacobs points out something far more important...

I didn't realize that the show George was reviewing was still in previews till I read Jacob's post.

Anonymous said...

I've never walked out of a show at intermission. Once or twice I've left during the intermission of a night of short pieces, having seen th specific piece I came to see (and I even have misgivings about that), but that's only a couple times out of the hundreds and hundreds of shows I've seen in the last twenty years. For me as well, there's usually one performance or some aspect of the story that keeps me.

I could imagine leaving at intermission of a Broadway show I hated if I had no connection to anyone in the production. But I can't bring myself to walk out of a small play no matter how awful.

Anonymous said...

I would agree in that I give smaller plays more leeway and forgiveness . . . the majority of the shows I've left at intermission were Broadway and Off-Broadway . . . a few showcases I've left were usually old chesnuts, badly staged Shepard or Mamet or Shakespeare . . . I tend to give originals more of a break, and the smaller the show, the bigger the break.

I don't think I would have given PH that much of a break.

Personally, about the previews thing . . . if they're charging money for tickets and expect people not to tell their friends the show sucks or not, I don't know that they should charge for it . . .

I mean, if it's buyer-beware, then perhaps it should be seller-beware as well . . .

Besides, I have little pity since most reviewers won't see a show if it runs less than four weeks - the fact it got reviewed early just means the game is changing . . .

And this show has been developed and workshopped, has it not? So it's hard to make a case it hasn't been in front of an audience.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'll be adding anything to the discussion but I'll post because it seems only men have replied so far, so, for the sake of quotas...

I walked out on a play once in my life and I regret it to this day. I was with a friend and she made me do it. She's a scary person that way.
I find it impolite to leave in the middle of a play, or at any other moment that's not the end, no matter how bad it is. It's rude to the actors and to the rest of the audience as well. If I make the effort (or, for the more cynical, the mistake) to go see a play in the first place, not to mention pay for my ticket, I'm staying put until they close the curtain. I don't leave during applause either, I applaud during applause, I think it comes with buying the ticket. It's an unspoken agreement, a small and easy way to thank the cast and crew for trying to entertain me, plus my arms could use the exercise. But I digress.
If the worst thing that can happen to an audience is wasting a couple of hours because they don't like the play, so be it. Actually, if their time is so precious, they shouldn't even be able to think about going to the theater, unless of course it's their job and in that case 1) lucky you 2) just do your job. And if, like most of us, it's not your job, there are worse ways to waste your time and the bar will still be open after the show.
A person who leaves during a play, or doesn't come back after intermission (don't for one second think that empty seat will go unnoticed) is a silent "You suck!" that the actors and indirectly all the people involved in the production don't have an opportunity to respond to. I'm not an actor or working in theater, in fact I don't even go to the theater that often, but even if I were blasé about it, I don't think I would find the nerve to up and leave, even at intermission (well, except that one time but it was her fault).
That said, I'm Swiss, we're not vocal about our discomfort anyway, we just keep a neutral mind.

Anonymous said...

Just leaving is a lot more polite than what used to be done in theatre, back in the olden days I believe they used to throw vegetables.

I don't think anyone is obligated at a show they're paid a ticket for and are unhappy with anymore than anyone is obligated to eat an entire meal they paid for when they know, from the first bite, that they don't like it.

It's a waste of food, yes . . . but the chef wasted it, not the person who bought it . . . my belief is that that most important role in theatre is the one that the audience plays, and they're not doing anyone a favor if they applaud and they don't mean it.

Again though, I'm the jerk who has walked out of bad productions of my own plays, so whatta I know?

How can we know, as theatre practioners, that we're doing the right thing if the audience doesn't respond honestly?

Anonymous said...

I walked out after the intermission of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The only reason I forced myself to tolerate the first act, I am embarrassed to admit, was to see the flying car. I was sorry I stayed for the first act just to see the stupid car and this crappy 13 million dollar or thereabouts (but who's counting after 10 million) show...but at least I got home in time for Law and Order.

parabasis said...

"How can we know, as theatre practioners, that we're doing the right thing if the audience doesn't respond honestly?"

Is a good question, Josh. And I would follow it up with:

"What's the border between being honest and being a jerk?"

I ask because there's a lotta people out there who do jerky things (say things that are veyr mean, for example) and the defence is, hey, I'm just being honest with you!. In other words, I guess what I'm trying to say is the way one is honest is as or more important than that someone is honest.

But to answer your question... we ask them, and we encourage them to be honest with us. The audience doesn't have to walk out of a show to make their displeasure known. It's usualy pretty obvious (more people checking the program than watching the play? you've bored them, for example).

The other thing to consider when walking out of a show (if you don't do it during intermission) is the level of disruption to other audience members.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought of that while writing my comment, if the play's bad and as a customer you're not happy with what you've been served shouldn't there be a way to express your dissatisfaction? Throwing tomatoes is a waste of tomatoes but the sentiment is righteous I suppose. So, maybe, I don't know, write it down and put your note in the suggestion/complaint box, or send an email to the theater company, something constructive rather than obstructive like writing "this play sucks" (Ok, not in those words) on a blog.
I also thought about the food analogy and, what can I say, I'm one of those people who don't complain, even when the food is bad. Maybe I won't eat it all but I'll smile and tell the waiter I wasn't that hungry.

But what I think is different with the theater is that a door for interaction opens when the play begins and to leave before it's over would be like a team member leaving the field before the end of the game. You just don't do that, unless the coach pulls you out or you're injured. Maybe I'm not making sense, maybe I'm too loyal and naïve for my own good but I feel like it's the right thing to do. When you go see a play, you go see a play, you don't go see if that play's worth all your time.

P.S. I'm not saying you as in you Joshua James, it's just a generic you...

Anonymous said...

""What's the border between being honest and being a jerk?"

That's a line we all walk with our peers, isn't it? One person's butter is another person's bitter, or so it goes . . .

Which means it's really a question of context, isn't it?

And that's another discussion . . . I'm all for acting properly within context of the situation . . . for a workshop my friends do, a definite work in progress, I have my own constructive path I take . . .

I mean, I'll enjoy a sketch show put on by friends with no set, no lights and a lot of energy for a few bucks, as long as I laugh . . . and even if I don't laugh as much as I'd like, I enjoy my friends, which is why I go . . .

But are we speaking of that, or are we talking about a show you or I paid forty or fifty bucks to see and we are entirely disappointed in?

I mean, that was the context I held this discussion in, visa vi George's post . . .

And my definition of walking out is the one set by George, leaving at intermission . . .

Certainly we have peer standards that we set . . . I wouldn't walk out of a show by a peer whom I like and know, even if it's done badly . . . and I expect the same courtesy (I've also warned my peers about bad productions of my plays, and to stay away, as a courtesy) . . .

My friends offer me the same courtesy, when they're in a show they feel may be lacking.

That's me, everyone is different, but since you ask, that's my context.

I certainly agree that context plays a part, especially with peers and collaborators, which I mention in my first comment.

I'm more thinking about this along the lines of George's post, which was centered on PH.

Should one applaud a show they hated on that level?

Anonymous said...

Well, paying a lot of money (the regular price for the one in question is $65) to see a play you're not sure you're going to like is a risk to take. And by the way once you've paid that much money, the least you can do, even for yourself, is to stay until the end.
I'm usually drawn to plays for a specific reason (an actor, the director, the author, etc) so I know that whatever happens I'll still be content on some level.
And one should applaud even when they disliked the play, yes, I truly think so. Applaud the effort, the time and energy that was put into it. I mean, it's not like they tried to make a bad play to piss you off.

Freeman said...

Personally, I just don't think that the context of sitting in the crowd, surrounded by other theatergoers, is the proper place to register displeasure. I'm a pretty honest guy, but I actually find myself satisfied with my own opinion without feeling it necessary to share my opinion at all times. Which is, of course, perhaps an odd thing for a blogger to say.

It's a particular impulse to feel as if feeling displeasure means that someone must hear about it or respond to it. In the end, all that amounts to is venting. An untalented playwright will not suddenly grow new talents simply because I took him or her to task for failing to write what I considered acceptable.

There is a fine line between performing a public service (reviewing a commerical production for the audience; providing feedback to the performers) and simply feeling righteous indignation when we didn't have a very good time.

When it's the latter, I do think it's just good manners to keep your opinion to yourself or save it for your friend. Actively NOT APPLAUDING is just, well, rude. How is that behavior any better than putting on a lousy play?

thedevore said...

i hate to dismiss and not throw in my two cents on any of the smart, lively comments going on, but i'm a showboating diva...

if i go to a restaurant and the chicken is undercooked, i don't glumly sit there and finish eating it.

theater is a product, one consumed live, and in the moment.

one of the beautiful things about theater is it isn't a book, which can be put down. It's not a movie, that can be paused or loudly walked out of... which I've done as a critic and a paying customer.

it's this totally insane live, breathing organism that people pay to gawk at, or swoon over, or nap through, or be transformed by -- and i don't know about any of you, but i've performed and written shows where, once the intermission lights go down and the stage lights go up, large empty pockets of audience sat and mocked.

theater is a live medium. a now medium. our job is, in the moment, provoke or prod or inspire an emotion or a thought that becomes an emotion. and whether or not it's the one an artist wants, "Oh fuck, this play is shit" is still a response, and those paying to be provoked or prodded have a right to bolt for the door.

those of us stage whores have only three choices: sit back, sigh, and grouse together in huddles over beers in dark, dark bars.

Alison Croggon said...

Out of hundreds of shows I've seen over the years, I've left at interval maybe four or five times. No guilt, no regrets. It is a perfectly valid if rare response, and if something outrages you to that extreme, there is no obligation to stay.

Paul Rekk said...

I can't bring myself to walk out, no matter how awful a time I'm having, but it really isn't out of respect so much as this undying fear that I'm going to leave and suddenly everything's gonna go all amazing on me. It's the same reason I've never walked out of a movie.

Of course, for every time a bad experience improves even marginally there are dozens that don't. It's the hope I can't stand, really.

From an artistic standpoint, I actually prefer walkouts to leaving at intermission. At least a walkout will put some fire in the performers' veins. Returning from intermission to half a house is just disheartening.

And actively not applauding is racy behavior? For real? Because that's my compensation for shows I wish I would have walked out on. I actually gauge my level of applause on how much I enjoyed the show (not that anyone will be able to tell but me in most instances).

I guess I'm with Joshua on this one -- as an artist, the last thing I want is a tender pat on the back and an 'A for effort'. It's no different than an audience member coming up after the show and saying, "Well, at least you tried." Gee, thanks.

Mark said...

I've rarely left at intermission either, but I've done it. (I think the last time was about five years ago, though.) But I fully support George's right to leave a show at intermission, even if he was given free press tickets and to write whatever he wants to about the experience.

Aaron Riccio said...

Specifically toward Julie, but this is an interesting point about shows: do we have an obligation to be civil toward shows? To go so far as to applaud, even if we didn't like the show? No. Far from it: in fact, it's negligent support that allows terrible shows to thrive on shallow demographics and supposed support. It's bad for producers who trust that there's actually an audience, and it's bad for audiences who stumble in, drunk on false hype. Nobody is saying the people involved are doing it on purpose, and nobody is saying that one man's opinion is the end-all-be-all, but if you've got a right to clap, he has a right to not clap, boo, walk out, whatever.

Freeman said...

I don't think there's any question that people have the "right" to do as they please. It's everyone's "right" not to clap, and to walk out. Freedom of speech and all that wonderful stuff.

My question is more about decorum, maybe. Or sympathy. Or how you play out your role as an audience member, actively.

Aaron Riccio said...

Yes, and along that line, I join the majority of people who rarely leave shows. The first show I've ever left, in fact, was "Tragedy (A Musical Comedy)" from this year's fringe. I didn't formally review it (though I posted a note about it for the race) but my explanation of why I left serves, more or less, as an accurate (albeit limited) review of what I saw.

Adam Szymkowicz said...

I leave if the show is painful. I once left during a blackout of a particularly bad show and I don't regret it at all. In fact, I felt angry at being subjected to the show.

I think if you're reviewing you're required to stay in case something changes but if I'm out to have a good time and I'm not, I won't stay and suffer.

In the same vein, if you don't like my show and there is an intermission, please leave. I don't want you in my audience silently having a bad time.

Anonymous said...

To those of you articulating the good reasons for walking out, I can't disagree with you. I know on some level it's ridiculous to just sit there and suffer. And maybe bad theater needs to be aggressively weeded out by audience displeasure.

For me it's not rational. If it's a small show, the people involved just... seem so much like me that I can't leave. I can't defend it.

julie said...

Aaron Riccio- In a way I agree with you, but I wasn't thinking as far. Of course if the play is a plague for humanity, then something should be done about it. I'll help make signs.

But I think it's also a question of level of tolerance. Some people (your 'shallow demographics' I guess), because they know less about the theater, simply expect less from it than savvy people like Mr Hunka, and most of you it seems. And the opposite is also true. Sometimes a play is too avantgarde for the occasional theatergoer to enjoy it and they leave.
During this discussion I kept in mind that Mr Hunka walked out on "100 Saints" and, probably because I desperately want to see the play but can't, I feel a completely misplaced sense of injustice. Why him and not me? I would have stayed! I would have cheered!
It's when I saw that some other people mentioned Mr Hunka's post that I started to think of it more broadly and I answered Matthew Freeman's simple question: to leave or not to leave?
But now by reading everyone's response I can see that I don't really have much of a knowledge of theater and theater ethics, rules and regulations, practices and whatnot, and that combined with my flabbiness allows me to sit through any play, unbearable or great. That's some superpower.

Anonymous said...

Slight clarification to my comment above - I don't mean to say that walking out is "not rational," but that my reasons for never doing so are not rational. That's all.

Anonymous said...

I think basically what it comes down to is "can you be a good audience member?" If you can sit in your seat and look pleasant and clap at the end of the performance even though you hated everything about the performance, you should do so. If you can't, you should leave.

When I was doing my internship in NYC I saved my meager student money and took myself to the Metropolitan Opera. I love opera, but I don't have a lot of opportunity to see it, and I don't get to New York often at all. It really didn't matter to me what the production was, it was the experience of going. The woman two seats down from me sighed and complained regularly throughout the entire production because she had season tickets and this particular performance was a make-up for a canceled Pavarotti engagement and in her opinion it was nowhere near equivalent. Her unhappiness was really distracting and I wish she would have just left rather than subjecting those around her to her bad mood. She finally walked out in a huff during the bows which I thought was the rudest thing she could have possibly done. It wasn't the fault of those artists that they didn't live up to her expectations.

I believe that the audience has a responsibility to the performance too. To be a good audience member you have to pay attention to the whole performance and clap at the end. That's what you agree to do when you sit in your seat. If you can't do it, you should leave as discreetly as possible so that others can fulfill their audience responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that, as an audience member, I have an obligation not to distract other audience patrons (which includes candy wrappers, cell phones, coming in late and bitching about the bad show) in no way do I agree that it's required to applaud . . .

In my mind, my applause must be earned by the production, and in the same token, my attendence must be earned.

If it's not earned (and granted, that's my own judgement) then I am under no obligation just to hand it over simply because it's what everyone else does.

I've been to shows, particularly bad shakespeare epics, where I believe that the cast and crew should have applauded the audience for their strength in sitting through a bad show . . .

Anonymous said...

I think applause is polite. I'm with Paul and I applaud with golf claps if I didn't care for the show and big loud claps if I did. And I only stand if I think the play *really* deserved it.

Anonymous said...

I also sit through movie credits because I think that if I went to the trouble of watching the movie, I should go to the trouble of watching the names of those who worked on it.
It's the equivalent of applause....

Anonymous said...

I try not to, especially if my absence will be felt, but once or twice I have because I just couldn't stand it any more.

However, when I invite my agents or casting folks to a show I'm in, I always make it clear that it's OK if they "first-act" it. And it is - I'm bringing in people in an attempt to form business relationships, and sometimes they don't want to commit 2 1/2-3 hours to a show, but if they have permission to only stay 45 minutes to an hour, that'll often get industry people in the door who otherwise wouldn't come. Of course, I'd love for them to stay and be blown away by the whole thing, but really the goal is simply to get them in the audience to see my (and my castmates) work, for any length of time. They don't need to see the whole thing for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish, from a business standpoint.

Freeman said...

Well it seems I'm relatively alone in the "I don't walk out" camp. Such is the way of things.

I'd like to say, as an addendum, that I was reminded that 1) I, too, was invited to see "100 Saints" by Playwrights Horizons and just didn't respond and 2) they expressly stated in their e-mail that bloggers could write anything they wanted, positive or negative.

Just wanted to put that out there. I don't think that invalidates the discussion of how we all behave as audience members or even as reviewers. I think it's a very interesting discussion. I just wanted to throw some context out there.

Anonymous said...

I actually do walk out of shows when I find them either dreadful or painfully boring. The irony, of which, is that one of those shows I abandoned last season was George Hunka's In Public.

However I didn't review it. I do find that cheap.

Freeman said...

Anonymous -

I would prefer comments like those be at least written with a pseudonym, so we can see how clever you are at hiding your identity.


Art said...

Hey Matt,

I don't know if you still have a copy of the e-mail from PH, (or if anybody else on here does,) but I think it might be time that people see exactly what the text of the blogger invite said.

Everybody mentioning it thus far has been saying, "it basically said...this and this."

With the way the story has blown up, it might be important to see exactly what was sent out.

Just throwing that out there.

Scott Walters said...

I defend the right of anybody to leave a theatre -- at intermission or any other time. At least George didn't pour water on the actor's head.

But there is one caveat, and Joshua already made it: if I'm reviewing the show. And George was. Here is what he wrote in his comments:

"In any event, about this particular show, PH provided me with free tickets under the conditions that (a) I post information about the discount, and (b) that I write something about the show; "the content of your review is entirely up to you," I was told."

To my mind, if you accept free tickets from management in exchange for writing an opinion, you are reviewing the show, and it is your responsibility to sit through the entire piece before you write the review.

Robert Brustein once quipped that he didn't review August Wilson's Six Guitars because "I left after three guitars." But he didn't write a review, because he walked out. To my mind, that's the line George crossed: he took free tickets in exchange for writing something about the show, only watched half of it, and wrote a review anyway.

Scott Walters said...

So I'm driving home, nd suddenly I go: "You idiot! It's Seven Guitars, not Six Guitars. How totally embarrassing.

Nancy said...

Unless your audience is tiny, who even notices if people walk out at intermission? Unless they leave in droves. In which case, you should pay attention to that.

I've been to plenty of plays that were lavishly praised by critics and found that the critics and I had very different tastes, and was grateful for the chance to escape at intermission.

Tara Dairman said...

I was going to write that I never walk out on shows, for a combination of reasons people have already listed here--fear of missing something great, no matter how improbable, in the second half; politeness; empathy for the artists involved; and also my own twisted sense of frugality (if I've paid for the ticket, I'm going to get my full two hours of show, dammit!).

But then I remembered that I did walk out once--of a free Shakespeare in the Park showing of Macbeth on Boston Common. Things were not going too well in the first half, though I wouldn't say it wasn't appallingly bad. But after the actor playing the title role made his grand exit from the stage leading into intermission, he forgot to turn his off microphone before groaning "Oh, that was awful!" for all the audience to hear.

And I thought, "Well, if Macbeth himself thinks it's awful, no need for me to stick around!"

Anonymous said...

Body mikes are a curse. I saw a "Cabaret" once where the Emcee and folks did "Money Makes the World Go Around", blackout, exit, and then the Emcee told the house "God, that looked like shit".

Statler said...

I've never walked out on a show and I really can't think of circumstances in which I would (other than illness). Firstly there is always hope of a redeeming second act - Anthony Neilson's "Wonderful World of Dissocia" springs to mind. Secondly if I'm writing a review/comment on a production it's really only fair to see it through to the (bitter) end. Even if just to be able to give it more specific critical feedback on the complete performance.

Jamespeak said...

I’ve only walked out once, and that was only because my cousin, who has no qualms about leaving during intermission if he’s not feeling the show, was with me and insisted.

As in, emphatically.

He suggested at intermission we leave, and I said, “Well, no, let’s stick around to—”

He cut me off. “No. Let’s go.”

ME: “I’m not sure if we really should…”

MY COUSIN: (As if explaining something to a mildly retarded five-year-old.) “No. James. We’re Leaving. Now.

Had he not insisted, I would have stuck it out.

On my own, I just don’t have it in me to leave a show. Don’t know if that’s due to guilt, some sense of obligation, my OCD, or a mixture of all of that, but I’ve never been able to get myself to leave a show, even if I feel like I’m being tortured (and yes, that’s happened a few times).

Anonymous said...

Good grief. If you're not enjoying yourself, just leave. Go and have a drink. Whatever. It's straightforward really. Life's too short.