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The Sound of Texting: Cell Phones Causing Major Disruptions on Broadway

Spotlight on stage curtain

The world-famous theater culture of Broadway is being threatened by something typically no larger than a fist: cellphones.

The National reports that texting theatergoers are putting a serious damper on Broadway shows as audiences and performers alike are getting fed up with the electronic distraction. On July 8th, veteran Broadway actress Patti LuPone grabbed headlines when she took away the cellphone of an audience member who was texting. She later claimed she was perturbed after having performed a matinee earlier that day that was frequently interrupted by incoming calls and texts.

LuPone even threatened to leave Broadway altogether if the trend continues.

Many theater patrons share LuPone’s contempt of cellphone use during performances. Robin Satty, a Piscataway, New Jersey native who recently attended the Tony Award-winning playing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is also annoyed with texting audience members.

“I’ve just spent pretty close to a day’s salary on theater tickets — I don’t want to be distracted by people turning on their phone to check the time or text,” Satty said.

However, not all of those immersed in Broadway share Satty and LuPone’s scorn of cellphone use. Broadway producer Ken Davenport is wary of excoriating theater goers over theater etiquette, claiming that it might deter people away from the theater rather than improve it.

“We have to be careful that we let people know what’s appropriate without pushing them away,” Davenport said. For his part, Davenport accommodated cellphone users a few years ago by allowing audience members in a few rows in the back to use their phones. These back rows became known as “tweet seats.”

Still, many performers do not share Davenport’s tolerance of cellphones. Over the years, Broadway performers have grabbed headlines by stopping shows and taking away cellphones of audience members. Actors such as Matthew Broderick, Frances McDormand, and Shia LaBeouf have all halted their performances after hearing a cellphone in the audience.

Cellphone use has only gone up in recent years. A recent survey has found that the number of smartphone users is growing by an annual rate of 42% around the world.