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Jewish World Review
March 2, 2007
/ 12 Adar 5767
It's all dinner theater now
Food can be fun when eaten in places other than a kitchen, dining room, or restaurant. The beach is a great place for a picnic lunch. A serene grassy knoll beside a babbling brook in the woods calls for wine and cheese. A baseball game screams out for hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack. What could be better than cotton candy at the circus, or popcorn at the movies? And cold New York City streets are the perfect place for hot chestnuts at Christmastime. But not all places on earth are necessarily open to eating, nor should they be.
Eating while attending a funeral is unacceptable. Eating during a job interview wouldn't impress a prospective employer very much. Eating on the telephone is not only rude, but makes you difficult to be heard. Eating while driving a car is dangerous. Eating in the bathroom is repulsive.
And eating during a live theater performance is impolite, offensive, oafish and extremely selfish. But it is being done all over the place, including Broadway.
As we see in so many other facets of contemporary society, people will not stop doing offensive things no matter how many people object or are hurt or bothered by it. A large minority (soon to become the majority, I am sorry to say) feel it is their "right" to do whatever the hell they want to do anytime they want to do it, no matter what. Including eating anywhere they see fit - even in expensive orchestra seats at a Broadway performance of a big show.
In an Associated Press report, Patti LuPone recalled the following incident which occurred during her Broadway run in "Sweeney Todd. "There was this woman in the first row eating out of a paper bag so loudly that even people around her were trying to get her to stop." Another actor on stage used her prop a flute to nudge the woman to stop eating, reaching into the audience with the instrument and pushing down on the woman's bag of snacks, LuPone said. "But the woman kept eating whatever it was things that came out in little balls. People are slobs. Everybody leaves their junk for somebody else to pick up," she said.
It's not only the boorish patrons which are to blame for all the eating, the theaters are allowing it. Did I say "allowing?" They sell the stuff in the lobbies. Sure, they've been selling it for years, but at least they used to discourage people from taking it back to their seats, not anymore. Yes, once again, it's all about the bottom line. Concession sales at the Hilton Theatre have more than doubled since refreshments were allowed into the shows about three years ago. However, not all theaters are doing it Ö not yet anyway.
According to the article, The Shubert Organization, which operates 17 theaters, does not permit food or drinks into performances. The Nederlander Organization allows snacks into most of its shows, especially performance spaces that are staging family shows such as "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast." Nederlander also allows people to bring in wine poured into spill-proof cups. Last year, the Nederlander added popcorn to its snack menu at the Neil Simon Theatre for the musical "Hairspray." POPCORN.
So let's see, selling popcorn and other snack crap in the theater is okay because they are presenting so-called "family shows." Excuse me, what happened to parents teaching their kids proper theater etiquette? "No, you can't eat during a live theater performance, sweetheart - it would disturb other people who are trying to hear the show and it would be distracting to the actors. But afterwards we can go out for lunch." What's wrong with saying that? And if the kid can't deal with that, then take him or her to Chuck E. Cheese and let the rest of us enjoy the show in peace.
Jim Boese, vice president of the Nederlander organization, defends the practice of selling and allowing snacks into the performance. "It's just recognition of reality," he says. "We're trying to be responsive to consumers." So I guess if slobs wanted to purchase raw eggs and rotten tomatoes to throw at the actors on stage, Boese would just be "responsive to consumers" in selling those things at inflated prices so that the slobs could do it. Yes, let's just be "responsive." Responsive to the slobs. How about this? How about being responsible to those of us in the audience who want to listen to the show and who have paid top dollar to do so? How about being respectful to the performers on stage?
It works like this. More slobs have disposable money to spend. More slobs go to the theater. More slobs are used to eating in front of their television sets and want to eat during the performances of shows. Theater owners want to make more money, so they cater to the slobs and sell the crap that the slobs want to stuff in their faces. Everybody is happy. Everybody, that is, except the few of us who go to the theater and actually want to hear the actors on stage - not the slobs in the audience.
Here's a little message for all you slobs who may be reading this (and you know who you are): If you can't stop eating for the two hours or so that it takes to watch a show, then stay home or go to a restaurant. Or go to the beach, or a baseball game. Or better yet, go to the circus with all the rest of the clowns and pig out to your heart's content. But please stay out of the theater.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby