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Hugh Jackman Stops Show Because of Cellphone



This post touches two ares of my life: mobile tech and live theatre. There’s a video (below the jump) of a performance by Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig that was interrupted by a cellphone going off. Jackman precedes to stop the show and ask the audience member if they are going to answer the phone. You can imagine the scenario I’m sure. Just recently in a performance of Wayside Theatre’s production of Robert E. Lee and John Brown: Lighting the Fuse, we had a similar incident with a cell phone going off, although none of our actors stopped the show they just soldiered on through the distraction. What made this incident particularly crazy was that the lady in question, after ignoring the ringing, finally answered the phone (in full voice mind you) and then exited the theatre. She then preceded to tell the other party to call her back.

Cellphones in public places, and especially at live performances, demonstrate, in my opinion, the different kinds of people that populate the planet. In my business we see a range of this all the time. Folks who automatically turn off their cellphones before a performance begins, folks who do so after a reminder in an announcement, and those who view themselves at the center of the world and pay no mind to those around them.

At one of the regional auditions I attend for Wayside Theatre the audition room policy (over 80 theatres are watching the actors try to get a job) is that if your phone goes off while an actor is auditioning you have to pay the actors audition fee. I think that is more than appropriate but it shouldn’t be necessary, but the reminder of it after breaks and such, certainly helps.

We also do a reminder in our welcome curtain speech about turning off devices. Usually the reminder  comes with a joke attached. We do this live and not with a taped announcement because I think folks have become immune to those pre-show taped announcements. After delivering the reminder and joke, you see quite a few phones being turned off and you hear the inevitable shut down sounds ringing through the audience. Put obviously there are some who think this communal acknowledgment isn’t meant for them.

Here’s the thing as I see it. Cellphones are equipped with methods of turning off ringers. It doesn’t take much beyond common courtesy to do so. But yet, some folks are so clueless to their surroundings that they can’t even extend that courtesy. My favorite situation that I witness all the time (and it happens in this video as well) is when folks try to pretend that it isn’t their phone that is ringing and just let it go on and on. Mobile technology allows us to be connected just about anywhere these days. And it also gives some folks the opportunity to show just how self centered and clueless they are in more situations as well.



  1. Xavier

    09/30/2009 at 8:52 am

    Way to make a play feel like more a movie theater ;-)


    09/30/2009 at 9:24 am

    sadly, a lot of people barely knows how to answer or make a call, anything beyond that they have not taken the time to look into, much less memorize.

  3. Gavin Miller

    09/30/2009 at 9:28 am

    Most of the time though you can’t hear the cellphones over the rustling of sweet papers. ;-)

  4. C

    09/30/2009 at 11:37 am

    I think you mean “proceed.” Anyway, I would definitely be upset about a cell phone going off during a performance.

  5. Sumocat

    09/30/2009 at 11:42 am

    “Hey, hon. No, I’m still at that play with Wolverine and James Bond. Yeah, I thought it was going to be more exciting. Oh wait, Wolverine looks like he’s getting pissed off now. Got that look in his eyes. Yeah, he’s staring right out at us. Looks ready to kick someone’s ass. About friggin’ time, right? Okay, gotta go. Been waiting all night for this. Love you too. Bye.”

  6. SAM

    09/30/2009 at 2:05 pm

    My brother is a horrible cell phone user.

    He is hard of hearing also, and has the ringer turned up
    to “air raid” siren level.

    He thinks because they are far away, he needs to talk louder.
    He literally yells into the phone when he is outside, I think the other party can hear him without the phone.

    Thankfully, he usually leaves it in his truck when we
    meet for coffee.

    I’m glad they dont allow cell phones on planes….yet

  7. sbtablet

    09/30/2009 at 3:13 pm

    Warner, I live in constant dread that the person whose cell phone goes off in the middle of the performance will be me. 90% of the time I either leave the cell in the car or check it several times to make sure it’s off. The other 10% of the time, my head is not in the game, and I appreciate the reminder.

    I ask students to turn off cell phones in class, and guess whose phone has already rung three times this semester. Right, mine. My husband can’t ever seem to remember my schedule, but that’s no excuse. It’s just there, like my wedding ring, and sometimes I’m not conscious of it. It’s not so much that I’m being rude as being absent minded. That’s another reason I’m so paranoid about forgetting in a theatre.It would be MUCH worse.

    I’ve learned the hard way that you have to ask people to turn off cell phones at a wedding, and I can’t tell you the number of regular church services that I was leading have been interrupted by cell phones. It’s just a wonderful addition to the music, or sermon, but the worst was when one went off during silent prayer. I would wait for the disruption to end, but it really threw me off.

    I hear that French theatres jam cell phone reception. The BBC news said that would be illegal in the UK. I wonder if we could get away with it in the US?

  8. Rodfather

    09/30/2009 at 4:22 pm

    They should have shown the short animation that tells the audience to shut off the ringer. Like in movie theaters. :p

  9. Dodot

    09/30/2009 at 7:08 pm

    Pet peeve! Another venue that people like this like to troll: conferences and lectures. It’s so distracting for people listening/watching the performance/lecture when a cellphone rings – what more for those who are actually on stage? If they have something so important on their minds that they cannot bear to even turn off their phones (or at the very least on silent mode) then they should just go and concentrate on whatever it is that they need to do.

  10. Xavier Lanier

    09/30/2009 at 7:19 pm

    @Dodot- speaking of which. I heard at least two phones going off during the keynote at the GPU Conference I’m attending.Happens all the time at tech conferences here.

  11. JimAtLaw

    10/01/2009 at 2:43 am

    You think Jackman gets pissed? I’ve seen ’em go off in court and some judges will have you ejected for this on the wrong day. (How about having your traffic ticket pushed to the last case to be heard as a reminder to you and everyone else to shut that thing off…) And if you’re a party to a case, even if he doesn’t throw you out, pissing off the judge is the last thing in the world you need, but people still do it on a regular basis.

  12. DRTigerlilly

    10/01/2009 at 11:13 am

    has noone ever heard of vibrate?


    10/02/2009 at 3:58 am

    ah, vibrate, sadly i have the experience that i am more likely to hear a phone vibrate then feel it, unless i somehow have the phone almost surgically implanted in my skin…

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