Editorial Draft-MPSJ

No Place for a Cell Phone

With the normalization of constant cell phone use, more and more incidents of audience members having been caught by performers using their phones during performances have been publicized. Ranging from Patti LuPone removing the phone of an audience member in 2015, to Lin-Manuel’s lyric change in January 2019, to Rihanna texting a play-write during his show only a month ago, the use of cell phones in the theater has become an issue noticed by all in the theater community. The introduction of mainstream productions such as “Mean Girls” and the casting of mainstream performers such as Brendon Urie and Colleen Ballinger, Broadway has ushered in a new group of theatergoers who are unfamiliar with theater customs. These newcomers bringing with them an influx of recordings of songs, scenes, or even entire shows appearing on the internet. The recording of live professional theater performances is not only distracting to other audience members and those performing, but illegal as well. There is only so much that ushers can do to prevent these recordings from being taken. Therefore, the question arises, what should be done about this increase in cell phone use?

There has been much debate on allowing cell phone use in theater. There are many who believe the customs of theater etiquette should no longer apply in a digital age. Many view these customs as elitist saying that live theater is something that many do not have access to and as such should be allowed access to shows through bootlegs. However, bootleg performances take out a very important aspect of these performances, the live experience. Bootleg performances are often poor quality and thus diminish the talent and vulnerability displayed in a live performance. It is important that something be done to stop these illegal videos from being taken and this “something” may have been discovered by many mainstream performers years ago. A service made popular by Dave Chappelle Yondr, a service where audience members can store their devices in a locked pouch throughout a performance, will be utilized by the Lincoln center for a set of concerts this fall. A service such as this could see the end of constant uploading of live performances to the internet, thus bringing back the intimacy and vulnerability of live performances.

In essence, live theater is meant to part from the mainstream media of film and television. Theater is intended to be experienced in the moment and bootlegs are an insult to the work of all involved in creating a production. The introduction of Yondr to theaters could bring a much needed end to the documenting of performances and enhance the theater going experience for performers and audience members alike.

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5 Responses to Editorial Draft-MPSJ

  1. davidbdale says:

    You’re actually making two arguments, I think, without letting them support one another.
    1. Recording, texting, phone use in general distracts audiences and performers alike, depriving them of the pure (and expensive) theater experience they deserve.
    2. The resulting videos of live plays, for example, further harm the playwright and performers by showing their work in a poor light.
    One way to help them mutually support would be to follow this logic, which you have started but not pursued: 1) Broadway is changing, 2) pop icons are taking the stage, bringing newbies to the theater, 3) new audiences are ignorant of theater etiquette, 4) they record everything, so taping a show seems natural, 4) we need to fix this, 5) first, they need to be told BEFORE they enter the theater that taping is illegal and they will be arrested, 6) second, we need to tell them their devices will be confiscated if they’re seen during the show, 7) we need to give them a simple way to remove temptation (like Yondr), 8) all the fore-warning will empower ushers to do the right thing, 9) we need to arrest a few “example offenders” so word gets out we mean business.

    You’re on you way to that solution, but you don’t spell it out as you should.


  2. davidbdale says:

    Getting back to those tantalizing anecdotes you teased us with . . .

    You strung three of them together in a sentence that raised our expectations you would use them to prove something dramatic, and then concluded: have been noticed by all.

    If you’re going to use illustrations—and a story like this one will benefit greatly from dramatizing the problem—you shouldn’t waste three of them on one point. I don’t know anything about the actual incidents, but they could each make a point if they’re as I imagine them.

    —Patti LuPone was so distracted she left the stage during a matinee and snatched the phone from a startled audience-member’s hands.
    —Lin-Manuel changed a lyric in a live performance to reprimand a “lady in the fourth row” who was making cell phone video of his rap.
    —Rihanna infuriated audience members by disrespecting the play, the audience, the entire theatre-going experience by texting the playwright during his play!

    If they’re good examples, they deserve the space to make your point, MP. And if you give them the room and a few words each, they can start to actually MAKE your argument: distraction, interference, ruination of mood, disrespect, disregard for decorum.


  3. davidbdale says:

    Structurally, MPSJ, an Editorial has nothing to “prove,” and therefore doesn’t have to pull its punches. Strong categorical statements backed up with logic and reason are enough to make a good editorial with or without evidence, statistics, illustrations, or anecdotes. In other words, don’t spend your first paragraph talking about the topic without making your Thesis Statement.

    Your claims in P1 are interesting, but they don’t add up to an argument.
    —Theatergoers are “using their cell phones” in the theater.
    —Patti LuPone “removed the phone of an audience member”
    —Lin-Manuel changed a lyric.
    —Rihanna texted a playwright during his show.
    —Theater pros have noticed.
    —Broadway is attracting new audiences unfamiliar with etiquette.
    —They record live performances and post them online.
    —That activity distracts audience members and is illegal.
    —Ushers are hard-pressed to prevent the activity.
    —So, what should be done?

    Nothing wrong with those ideas, but unlike a good Editorial, they don’t make bold moral or legal imperatives. In fact, they ask the reader what might be a good idea.

    “What are you saying, Professor Hodges, that I should just come out and say what needs to be done in my first sentence?” Well, yeah; that’s certainly a good choice.

    Lincoln Center is rolling out a program to curb cell-phone recording of live performances that should become the rule on Broadway.


    A “cell-phone lockup” system called Yondr could solve the growing problem of newbie Broadway theatergoers recording live performances to share on the internet.

    Both versions, it seems to me, provide enough detail to engage reader interest AND ALSO make the Editors’ point of view very clear.


  4. mpsj13 says:

    I was wondering if I could have feedback on the structure of my editorial. Thank you.


  5. lazybear8 says:

    I’ll be back to write a peer review on this one.


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