Broadway star explains why she snatched audience member’s phone

Broadway star explains why she snatched audience member’s phone


norman lebrecht

July 10, 2015

Patti LuPone saw someone texting in her show. So she stepped right down and grabbed the device.

Then, she issued this statement:



patti lupone

We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones. They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark it ruins the experience for everyone else – the majority of the audience at that performance and the actors on stage. I am so defeated by this issue that I seriously question whether I want to work on stage anymore. Now I’m putting battle gear on over my costume to marshal the audience as well as perform.

Go, Patti!


  • Petros LInardos says:

    Well done.

  • Dismissed Employee 12 says:

    Bravo Patti! About time we started adopting such tactics in this country! Lets hope those working in the concert hall and theatres will be inspired by this……

  • Robert King says:

    Her point that it is so deeply disrespectful to the vast majority of the audience (who go out of their way to be considerate to the other audience members) and to the performers (who are trying to produce the very best show that they can) is spot on. Some people do need to be educated in the basics of how to behave at a public performance. Turning off a phone is not a complicated first stage – but then concentrating on only one thing, and for more than two minutes, may be a longer-term learning process…

    • SVM says:

      I broadly agree with Mr King, although I think it is important that we distinguish between two categories of failure to ‘concentrate on one thing’:

      1. Distraction of the mind which does not in any way detract from the musical experience of others (e.g.: having a mundane thought about say, tomorrow’s breakfast, in the climax of a symphony);

      2. Distraction that involves physical movement or the utilisation of devices in such a way as to detract from the musical experience of others (e.g.: picking up and noisily turning the pages of a programme for a reason other than to follow a libretto/text; checking a wrist-watch; texting; coughing).

      Whilst I would not encourage §1, an individual audience-member has every right to think about tomorrow’s breakfast in the midst of listening to a symphony, provided that his/her doing so does not distract others.

  • CA says:

    Spot on. This modern-day obsession with phones and gadgets is totally ridiculous when it spills over like this or creates the perceived need to charge one’s phone on a theatrical set. Give me a break.

    • Joanna Debenham says:

      Your words express my sentiments exactly.

      There may be times when it is essential to read a text (babysitter lets you know that your precious child is on the way to A&E after hitting their head). Good manners suggests that you move to the back of the auditorium and read the text out of eye-shot of the remaining audience. Should you then need to return the call, go outside and get help from a steward.

      Emergencies happen, and mobiles can be invaluable. However spend all the performance texting about trivia, then cap it all by taking a selfie, and the rest of the audience (let alone the performer/s) have good reason to be upset.

  • The Angry New Yorker says:

    I think everyone is in agreement with Ms. Lupone on this issue. There have been several stories on this blog about conductors and other artists who have stopped performances because of this behavior. I’ve given up counting performances I’ve attended where — after the warnings were posted and/or announced– a device has gone off anyway. Sadly, this just illustrates what a device-addicted society we’ve become.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Bravo, Patti!

  • RW2013 says:

    Down with the iPhone-zombies!

  • PDQ.BACH says:

    I attended one of Atahualpa Yupanqui’s last concerts in Europe, more than 35 years ago.
    Mobile phones at the time were mercifully still a dystopian figment. But compact cameras with automatic flash existed aplenty. One malevolently assiduous fan, a lady in elegant attire, kept clicking during the concert.
    Atahualpa Yupanqui stopped in mid-song, and said a few short phrases. In Spanish.

    ” My poetry is not my mine. I am only its author.
    Once uttered, my poems are free to go and seek the hearts and minds of hospitable people.
    ” My music is not mine. I only have written it. Once played, it belongs to those whom it has touched.
    ” You have disturbed the peace of this moment. You have disturbed the peace of this house. Out of respect for my poems, out of respect for my music, I ask you to go.”

    That was all. He fell silent, motionless, marmorean. The house was glacial; scarcely a breath was heard. After what seemed a geological earth-age, the camera-clicking lady left. Atahualpa Yupanqui resumed his song, at the very bar where he had stopped.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Apparently Mrs. LuPone is a strong proponent of respecting performers and proper audience etiquette, as this audio-recording of her kicking out a person taking pictures demonstrates:

    First off, I cannot stand it when individuals in the audience unnecessarily disturb or even ruin a performance. If you can’t do without your bloody electronics for 60-120 minutes, stay at home or better yet, seek out professional help. I also believe that performers should not be required to continue on as though there isn’t a bother in the world, if their performance or concentration is being disturbed.
    Having said that, I find it rather bemusing that classical musicians, when actively intervening in disruptions are labeled overly sensitive divas, being of weak concentration or having overinflated egos, but when it comes to musical theater/musicals/Broadway, a singer who reaches off of the stage, plucking a mobile phone out of a text-messaging woman’s hand and then walks off stage to deposit the phone backstage earns a “Well done!” ???
    I find that we should either grant all performers the right to, as professionally and politely as possible, actively end intolerable disruptions of their performance or we should expect all of them to ignore it and continue on in spite of whatever distractions may exist.

    • SVM says:

      Seconded, although it beggars belief that one should even require it to be ‘as professionally and politely as possible’ — I feel that any audience-member who acts so inconsiderately has completely forfeit his/her right to be treated with such courtesy.

      I would like to add that the right of confiscation/destruction should be accorded not only to all performers, but also to neighbouring audience-members (subject to the proviso that an audience-member should not cause more disturbance in the act of confiscation). Something to that effect should be added to the terms and conditions of concert-venues, so that when I next seize/knock a telephone/camera out of someone’s hands, I can feel completely confident that nobody would have a chance of taking me to court (so far, nobody has tried, but I know that some audience-members are inhibited from taking action against inconsiderate neighbours on account of this possibility).

  • Christy says:

    An important point: Patti LuPone never broke character and never deviated from the script.

    The phone snatch came at the point in the show when her character moves into the audience and interacts with audience members. From reports of those there, and herself, she said nothing to the texter, simply snatched the phone as she walked by in character delivering her lines.

  • V.Lind says:

    These phone addictoids are pathetic, which is their lookout. But when their revolting, ill-mannered, indisciplined, obsessive behaviour impinges on the ability of other people to do their jobs, and still others to enjoy something they have paid for, looked forward to, prepared for, it becomes other people’s business to put a stop to them. Full marks to Ms. LuPone, and anyone else who shuts them down.

  • Gianmaria says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s unfortunately all part of the same general lack of education to art and to art appreciation. The consequences of not considering art education as fundamental to human beings as, for instance, math are exactly these: people texting, phones ringing, kids moving around like at the park (see here: A total lack of respect for art, artists and the people who still truly enjoy it.

  • Janet Horvath says:

    Agreed! The concentration required for every performer is sadly underestimated. For a classical musician the light and movement is quite disturbing and concentration easily lost. Audiences deserve the full effort and spiritual lifting that art can give.

    • SVM says:

      Seconded, and not only for ‘every performer’, but also for every connoisseur in the audience who wants to cultivate an attempt at a deep understanding of the work being performed, and indeed for every audience-member who just wants to be able to be fully absorbed in the musical experience, free of any visual or aural distractions.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    Brava! It’s about time that people rebel against such lack of good sense and consideration!