Friday, August 29, 2014

To leave or not to leave, that is the audience's right

These days most of us will sit through the end of a show even if it bores us to tears. It wasn't always thus, writes William Grimes in The NYTimes:
In the United States, the balance of power began to shift in the mid-19th century. “The performers and the managers began to seek a more upscale audience, which demanded a more respectable place, where their wives and, more important, their daughters could attend,” Mr. Butsch said. “The owners needed to tame the older, wilder audience.”

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Audiences became more docile as the middle classes learned to revere culture and to regard theatergoing as a quasi-religious rite. “The music concert, the theater performance, these became sacred,” Mr. Butsch said. “You went to pay homage.”

That legacy lingers. Many respondents reported feelings of shame, embarrassment or personal failure at leaving a performance before the end. Angelica Alcantara, an editor of health care booklets for an insurance company, sat through the first half-hour of Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” at a Seattle movie theater before scanning the faces around her to see if anyone else was registering the same befuddlement she was experiencing. She not only walked out, but she also demanded a refund and got it. Still, she left with an uneasy feeling of having failed.

“It’s like you’re giving up on the director’s vision,” she said.

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