If you've ever wanted to throttle the person in front of you for texting when they should be sitting quietly — during a movie, in the library or, say, at an off-Broadway show — legendary actress Patti LuPone has you covered.
On Wednesday, during a performance of the production Shows for Days, LuPone — who plays a "small-town theater diva" — took a texting audience member to task.
The New York Times reports:
When the woman seated at the end of the second row texted — and texted and texted — during the show, Ms. LuPone took action. Without breaking character, Ms. LuPone walked into the audience and took the woman's phone. "She didn't know what was going on," Ms. LuPone said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I should be a sleight of hand artist." (The phone was returned after the show.)
The snatching occurred following the day's first performance, during which LuPone and the rest of the cast were interrupted by cell phones four times, two of which came from the same person. It led to "a cacophony of noise," LuPone told the New York Times.
"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," she said in a statement, according to Gothamist. "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 marshall the audience as well as perform."
Her reaction, which was met with both gasps and applause from the rest of the audience, came on the heels of another high profile phone-and-theatre incident. During a recent performance of the Broadway show Hand of God, an audience member attempted to charge his phone onstage — in what turned out to be a fake outlet — before he was stopped by ushers. After taking back his phone, he reportedly asked an usher, "Well, where can I charge it?"
This isn't the first time LuPone has stopped a show to call someone out. In 2009, midway through a performance of Gypsy, she delivered an epic rant at someone taking photos with a phone. She stuck by the now-infamous incident in 2013, telling Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen, "First of all, audiences don't know how many times we don't stop the show because this is just an epidemic."
But it's not just LuPone. In 2014, Neil Patrick Harris yelled, "I'm doing something up here, motherfucker!" during a performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch after an audience member called out, "I love you, Neil!" And this past April, Madonna was barred from going backstage at Hamilton after she reportedly spent the performance texting.
Unlike movies, the success of a live show is dependent on how well the actors are able to perform in the moment. There's no going back if mistakes — or interruptions — are made, which means the stakes are higher.
LuPone explained it best in her interview with the New York Times: "I'm hired to tell a story, and it takes a lot of effort and work to do that convincingly. It's a handful of people who destroy that experience for everyone. It's heartbreaking. Theater is not a social event."