Stargazing

Tony winner Patti LuPone snatches cell phone from audience member during performance

This 2015 photo provided by Lincoln Center Theater and Philip Rinaldi Publicity shows, Patti Lupone, left, and Michael Urie, in a scene from Douglas Carter Beane’s new play, "Shows for Days," currently performing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York.
This 2015 photo provided by Lincoln Center Theater and Philip Rinaldi Publicity shows, Patti Lupone, left, and Michael Urie, in a scene from Douglas Carter Beane’s new play, "Shows for Days," currently performing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York. Associated Press

It’s safe to say that Broadway star Patti LuPone is tired of rude people texting on their cell phones during theater performances.

Without breaking character during a performance of “Shows for Days” on Wednesday, she grabbed a phone away from one of those folks in the audience.

Now the incident has left her wondering if she even wants to continue working in live theater.

According to Playbill, LuPone’s co-star, Michael Urie, said a woman in the second row was texting during the entire show in which LuPone plays the diva of a local community theater.

“She happened to be in a spot where Patti could get it (the phone) – on her way out – she just took it,” said Urie. “You know it was good, and it didn't disrupt the momentum of the play. It's a tricky thing, if a phone goes off, that's disruptive enough, if an actor stops and acknowledges it, that's even more disruptive. And so this woman, texting, light in her face, everyone could see it!”

He called the woman’s behavior with the cell phone on Wednesday “the worst I've ever experienced.”

LuPone issued a statement to Playbill about what happened.

"We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones," said the Tony winner.

"They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark it ruins the experience for everyone else – the majority of the audience at that performance and the actors on stage. I am so defeated by this issue that I seriously question whether I want to work on stage anymore. Now I'm putting battle gear on over my costume to marshal the audience as well as perform.”

She told the New York Times that the woman whose phone she snatched “didn’t know what was going on. I should be a sleight of hand artist.”

The woman “was so uninterested,” in the play, LuPone told the Times. “She showed her husband what she was texting. We talked about it at intermission. When we went out for the second act I was very close to her, and she was still texting. I watched her and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’

“At the very end of that scene, we all exit. What I normally do is shake the hand of the people in the front row. I just walked over to her, shook her hand and took her phone. I walked offstage and handed it to the stage manager, who gave it to the house manager.”

She said she doesn’t understand why people like that even bother buying tickets to shows “if they can’t let go of the phone. It’s controlling them. They can’t turn it off and can’t stop looking at it. They are truly inconsiderate, self-absorbed people who have no public manners whatsoever. I don’t know what to do anymore. I was hired as an actor, not a policeman of the audience.”

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