Is There A Way Past Fighting And Bad Behavior At Shows?

So either the disruptions at performances in the UK are growing increasingly problematic or the topic has become a favorite bete noire of news outlets because I continue to see stories on the topic. In the most recent one, The Guardian reports fist fights, loud singing, people talking on the phone, inquiring what type of sandwich friends would like to eat as they pass them around, and directly heckling the performers.

Those interviewed for the article attribute the problem to everything from the Covid shutdown, lack of education in etiquette, simple spite, and excess consumption of alcohol. While some suggest maybe actors have been coddled by behavioral expectations in recent decades which differ from the historical bawdiness of audiences, it is hard not to sympathize with performers who are being heckled while giving their all.

 Brunton has been heckled. “There was one venue where audience disruption occurred at practically every show and I just felt like I wanted the week to be over,” he says. “It’s so sad, to be in this position to play the lead in a brand new Disney production, I’ve had to jump through hoops to get here, and it’s just heartbreaking when you’ve got someone shouting at you inappropriately.”

This said, theaters have been scheduling dedicated performances specifically for sing-along and carving out moments for photo-ops like the Megasix section of Six I wrote about last week. Performing within that context has been rewarding for the actors.

Some productions known for attracting younger audiences, such as the musicals & Juliet (a jukebox show using producer Max Martin’s pop hits) and Heathers (based on the cult 1980s film), have held dedicated singalong performances during which fans were not just given permission but encouraged to join in. Erin Caldwell, who played Veronica Sawyer in Heathers, says the singalong left the cast “really overwhelmed”. “There’s a picture of me after the bows, head in hands, just crying because it was so emotional – I would do another one in a heartbeat … I wouldn’t be surprised if more shows do it in future.”

It would be interesting to see if venues increasingly schedule programs dedicated to providing custom experiences for different audience segments. There are already sensory friendly, audio-described and signed performances. Performances for sing-alongs, shared experiences for affinity groups (i.e. Black Out performances), could serve to engender a sense of belonging and access for those who haven’t felt the experience was for people like themselves.

Non-Profits Didn’t Volunteer For Mandatory Volunteerism

It is likely you haven’t been able to avoid the seemingly incessant discussion about the negotiations to raise the debt limit. If you haven’t been able to muster the zen-like state of letting the details of those negotiations pass through one ear and out the other, you may recall that work requirements for those receiving financial aid some some sort has been one of the sticking points.

In a post on the For Purpose Law Group blog, Linda J. Rosenthal writes about how mandatory volunteerism is a bad idea. In her piece, which contains dozens of links to studies and opinion pieces on the topic, she applies this sentiment not only to government mandates, but graduation requirements for students as well.

Of all the pieces to which she links, a statement by the National Council of Non-profits provides the most succinct summation about why this is such a bad policy. (my emphasis)

Mandatory volunteerism is harmful because the policy imposes increased costs, burdens, and liabilities on nonprofits by an influx of coerced individuals. Few if any of the mandatory volunteerism bill sponsors ever ask whether nonprofits in their communities can handle an onslaught of hundreds or thousands of individuals showing up on nonprofit doorsteps for the purpose of doing time rather than doing good.

They go on to say that they oppose any efforts that tie receipt of benefits to a requirement to volunteer because they “impose increased costs, burdens, and liabilities on nonprofits by an influx of coerced individuals.”

A number of the articles linked by Rosenthal also address the oxymoronic nature of “mandatory volunteerism,” especially in the name of trying to engender a sense of civic mindness and charity in students by refusing to let them graduate if they don’t complete their hours.

Pop Up Concert Closing Musicial Theater Number

Earlier this week the LA Times had a rather lengthy piece on the closing number of the musical Six, a show about the six wives of Henry VIII.  In the final number which has come to be known as the “Megasix”

Audiences film while dancing by their seats, singing along and cheering with excitement. Spotlights swoop from side to side. Confetti falls from above. And each of the six actors — dressed in jewel-toned Tudor fits, fishnet stockings and bedazzled boots — reprise the catchiest sections of their characters’ signature songs for the crowd and their phones.


Each subsequent staging yielded more Megasix uploads — except in the United States, where filming the performance is against union rules. Moss and Marlow could easily have considered its burgeoning social media popularity a risk: “Most of the time, creators are a little bit hesitant getting that [intellectual property] out there without the greater context of the show,” said Jonathan Breitbart, a 20-year-old Colorado theatergoer…

Recording and sharing video of that part of the show has become something of a mini-industry. One fan reported that she watches for casting changes and buys last minute tickets so she can catch how the understudy or new performer puts their spin on the character. Another has seen the show 97 times ” in the name of “swingo,” or seeing an alternate play every queen.”

Just as the production of Hamilton hit on the practice of Ham4Ham to entertain people waiting on line for the lottery tickets to the heavily in demand show, this is another example of a production finding an element of their show that they can leverage into something of a grassroots marketing effort.

Though it should be noted, the effort hasn’t entirely had constructive results. Some of the actors reported feeling increased pressure to go to 150% to look great for social media. A lot of nasty comments are made on social media about performances audiences have judged to not be up to standard or compare unfavorably to another performer’s interpretation.

The underlying tone of the article seems to point to a likely trend of Broadway/West End shows designing themselves to be “camera ready” as it were for similar grassroots efforts. Though this brings to mind the semi-joke about bosses telling their marketing departments to create a viral ad. Not everyone who tries to create an experience that fans take ownership of is likely to succeed.

Actors Should Have Been Paid To Audition For The Last Nine Decades

Howard Sherman posted a link to a New Yorker article about some intrepid film actors who stumbled upon an overlooked section of the The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) contract that guarantees payment for auditioning even if you didn’t get cast.

Bodin’s most startling discovery was that SAG’s very first contract, from 1937, guaranteed pay for players who were called to do “tests” for films they weren’t used in. Ten years later, the word “Auditions” was added in a subheading, along with the line, “If the player is not given employment in the picture, the player shall receive one-half (1/2) day’s pay.” Except for “player,” which now reads “performer,” the line has gone unchanged, if largely unheeded, in Schedule A 15(B) of SAG-AFTRA’s standard contract.

The discovery and distribution of this information made a lot of people, including union leadership, a little nervous. The union pointed out there were specific conditions that needed to be met like a statement that you had to memorize your lines before the audition. Actors started seeing audition notices that explicitly said you didn’t have to memorize your lines in preparation for an audition.

While paying auditionees would raise the costs to produce films a great deal, especially for independent films, and might lead to studios auditioning smaller numbers of actors, the article notes that technology has shifted more costs on actors over the years. For example, the shift from in-person to recorded auditions means actors have to buy more equipment and make more arrangements themselves.

On top of that, actors now have to provide resources that have traditionally fallen on casting offices, including equipment, space, and people to read with. Variety recently estimated that outsourcing scene partners to auditioners has saved producers some two hundred and fifty million dollars annually. “It creates a whole culture where all of us have to have a clutch of collaborators who are willing to be our readers,” Ochoa said; think of all the boyfriends, roommates, and UPS guys dragged into audition scenes.


Now an actor has to pay for subscriptions to multiple online casting platforms, and even more for each reel, clip, or color photo uploaded to every site. Digital made everything faster, but it made it so fast that people expect an Oscar-winning performance in twenty-four hours.”

Learning about audition pay has buoyed an “Auditions Are Work” movement among union members.  The article notes that the Writer’s Guild is currently on strike and the SAG-AFTRA contract is coming up for renewal with indications of tough negotiations ahead.  I had recently heard that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) contract expires in mid-June so we may see a significant revamping of the way recorded programming is created by the end of the summer.