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Stage interruptus: what to do when someone disrupts a live show?

Categories: Celebrities, Featured, Live Performance, Social Media

Who could forget Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig breaking down the 4th wall (while remaining in character) to address a ringing cellphone during the Broadway run of A Steady Rain?

It used to just be a noisy snack wrapper or perhaps a fit of coughing, but faced with cellphones ringing mid-performance, tweeting theatregoers and even drunken hecklers, performers are taking a stand against stage interruptions.

During Wednesday's opening night performance of the one-man play Clarence Darrow at London's Old Vic Theatre, actor and outgoing artistic Kevin Spacey paused his performance and reprimanded an audience member whose cellphone sounded off during an important scene.

According to audience reports, the guilty party tried to ignore the increasingly loud ringing until, finally, Spacey snapped (remaining, nonetheless, in character): If you don't answer that, I will!"

 Kevin Spacey as Clarence DarrowKevin Spacey, seen as Clarence Darrow, has previously criticized mobile phones and other audience interruptions. (Old Vic)

Wednesday's performance (the play continues its sold-out run through June 15) earned the House of Cards star both a standing ovation and glowing reviews — potentially aided by his adept handling of the rude mid-show interruption.

Meanwhile, a southern California production of the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof saw some major theatrical fireworks over the weekend following an allegedly drunk audience member's offensive heckling of the cast.

The Saturday performance at Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clarita, Calif., was interrupted when a man and his companion began cat-calling the show's Maggie and reportedly blurted a homophobic slur towards the actor portraying Brick.

At that point, cast member John Lacy (the show's Big Daddy) ventured out to confront the hecklers. The pair was ultimately subdued and ejected by other theatregoers, receiving applause from the wider audience.

The incident, however, quickly set off a bizarre domino reaction. Lacy was reportedly dismissed for confronting the disruptive hecklers. Key members of the cast subsequently quit in protest. Ultimately, the production — intended to expand into a tour — was cancelled on Monday.

Musicians, stage performers (see video of Hugh and Daniel above), opera stars and theatre, concert and opera-goers themselves have long lamented what seems to be growing instances of performance interruptions coming from the audience.

With people unlikely to stow their smartphones these days, what's the solution? How should these kinds of interruptions be handled?

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