Joshua Henry, the star of a new Off Broadway musical called “The Wrong Man,” had tried repeatedly to signal his disapproval to the man in the onstage seating who was using his smartphone to capture his performance, but he wasn’t getting through.
By the third song, Mr. Henry had had enough. So he reached into the seats, deftly grabbed the phone out of the man’s hand, wagged it disapprovingly, and tossed it under a riser — all mid-song, without skipping a beat. “I knew I had to do something,” he explained later.
Just a few nights earlier, in Ohio, the renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter had stopped playing Beethoven mid-concerto to ask a woman in the front row to quit making a video of her. After the woman rose to reply, she was escorted out of the hall by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s president, and the music resumed.
Both artists were cheered — first in person, later on social media — for taking a stand against the growing ranks of smartphone addicts who cannot resist snapping pictures and making recordings that are often prohibited by rule or by law, that are distracting to performers and patrons, and that can constitute a form of intellectual property theft.
There’s a lot of discussion around this, in part because most of the people who use their phones during concerts or plays are not regular patrons of these forms of entertainment. It’s one thing to spend your time with your camera in your hand during a rock concert, hoping to get some pics or videos, but it’s another to do so when it disturbs both the performers and the audience, as in classical concerts or plays.
I go to the theater often, notably at my local, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I’ve never seen people take their phones out during a play, but I have heard of such incidents that have occurred there. I have heard the occasional phone ring during a performance, even though people are told to ensure that their phones are off before performances begin. I not only put my phone and my Apple Watch in airplane mode, but I also put my Apple Watch in theater mode, so when I move it doesn’t light up and disturb anyone.
It’s really just a question of manners. People think that they can act like louts because they’ve paid to buy tickets, but they need to learn to respect others.