Last weekend I attended Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations at the Ahmanson Theatre. It was everything theatre is supposed to be — energetic, emotional, entertaining, and engaging.
I have some complicated feelings about jukebox musicals. In theory, I don’t like them, but then again, you’d be hard pressed to get me say a bad word to say about Xanadu, Beautiful, Rock of Ages, or Jagged Little Pill. I was pretty sure I’d be safe with The Temptations though. You can’t screw up the songs and the dance moves would have to be sweet. What I was pleasantly surprised by, however, was the book, Drugs, crazy egos, multiple band member change-outs, and broken hearts bring the DRAMA. And the acting was flawless: Ephraim Sykes, Derrick Baskin, Jawan M. Jackson, Nasia Thomas, Jeremy Pope, James Harkness — wowza.
Ain’t Too Proud will be playing in Los Angeles through the end of September, but then it’s off to Broadway where I’m sure it will serve director Des McAnuff in much the same way as Jersey Boys did. But this is all I have to say about this musical.
Instead I’m putting on my best pissed-off mom voice and giving a lecture.
Over the last decade (and a half, probably closer to two decades), I’ve spent more time in performing arts venues than I do at movies, watching TV or going to clubs. Sometimes it’s because I’m being paid, but mostly I’m paying for the privilege. And tickets ain’t cheap. So it will come as no surprise that I have cataloged many a pet peeve when it comes to audience members (and dick old people ushers). What is surprising is that I have a lot of forgiveness in my heart for these people. Live performance is a treat most of us aren’t fortunate enough to grow up with and theatre etiquette apparently is hard if you never got the rule book.
Though honestly, people, there’s no rule book. Just have some friggin’ common sense and think a half-second about someone other than yourself.
The shorts and flip flop clad dudes and ladies in pajama pants scattered throughout the orchestra, mezzanine and balcony at most Southern California shows might hurt my eyes, but they don’t hurt my soul. It’s important that they are there, not that they forgot to put on a bra or proper footwear. Your heart can still feel in sweatpants. The people I have the biggest problem with are actually dressed to the nines anyway.
These are often even season ticket buyers. For many others, this night out is an event. They’re in groups of friends or family and they forked out for the good seats. They probably plunked down three figures for their pre-theatre dinner. They bought pre-paid intermission drinks and merch. Yet, they commit the biggest crime in a night of live theatre, or dance, or music.
No, not secretly recording. (Though you totally suck if you do that and if I have maybe watched your bootleg of Hamilton or Heathers on YouTube, you not only still suck and you also put me through an crisis of conscience).
What these horribles have done is showed a tremendous lack of respect for the cast and crew who have just performed multiple hours for them. These bad, bad people leave before the Curtain Call.
You’ve all seen them rushing out to their cars because they are too important to spend precious extra minutes in the parking structure. Well, that’s what I always suppose they are rushing off to do. Maybe they all have weak bladders or their sitter has a curfew. Maybe they thought their gratitude for the experience was covered in the ticket price. Whatever the reason, it’s not going to be good enough. After being entertained for a couple hours, is it asking too much to stay a couple extra minutes to clap for those responsible? To at least acknowledge them by your presence?
So, I’m going to leave this here: The whole curtain call thing is a social contract.
I’ve come to believe that a lot of people are so wrapped up in their technology (or just themselves) that they don’t even think about social contracts anymore. It’s a completely disheartening trait I’ve come to expect in many of my fellow humans in almost all things. But seriously, people, we need to get our heads out of our asses and agree to cooperate for the greater good of society. We need to honor the obligations we have to each other to not be assholes. And maybe if we can get this whole social contract thing down at the theatre, we can move it on over to other places where you are sharing time, space, and energy with other people.
A girl can dream.