Downstate (and more generally): where is the front of house staff?
Posted by: DanielVincent 05:48 pm EST 11/06/22

Friday evening, I saw Downstate at Playwrights Horizons—a theater where masks are still required.

A minute or two after the second act began, the man sitting at the end of my aisle, about six seats away from me, returned from intermission…with either a burrito or gyro that was wrapped in foil. He spent the next few minutes slowly unwrapping the foil, creating a consistent low grade disturbance for everyone around him. Then, he proceeded to unmask and eat the burrito/gyro for the duration of the second act, not only violating the venue’s COVID protections, but again crinkling the foil with every bite he took.

It may have been a new low in my experiences of audience behavior. Coming relatively soon after someone taking a call and talking on their phone during Tina, and a man unmasking and reading the news on his phone during Parade, I can’t help but ask: WHERE IS THE FRONT OF HOUSE STAFF?

I am not a reticent person and have asked people to be more respectful of their neighbors in the past, but after getting pushed at Tina and being told that people like me “are the problem with this country,” I am more reluctant to speak out. Plus, it’s not my job. Although I was not a fan of Ain’t Too Proud, I was very impressed by the vigilance of their staff, and have seen firsthand that proactive ushers and house managers make a gigantic difference.

What can be done? Are we just to surrender the lack of civility in contemporary audiences and expect disruptions like these to be part of the theatergoing experience?

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