Thanks for everyone's support! I was so freakin' pissed that I got scolded, and not a single person I told thought that that was appropriate. Everyone—including actors, directors, and the administrator of a large cultural center—all agreed that someone had to do something if the theatre wasn't going to have strong enough policies in place.
Magically, the next night we had an actual curtain speech where my director asked everyone to turn off their cell phones. And amazingly, it worked! I still think they need to train their ushers to politely walk over and quietly remind people to SHUT THE FLUFF UP when their phones go off, but I was told that they're volunteers and it's too small of a house so everyone will be distracted when they do that. Um, ok now. Let's let them ring until voice mail then, good plan.
I did get one more lecture after the next show. My director said he'd been told what happened, and as an actor, he applauded me. But as a director, he had been really surprised that I, who had been so professional during rehearsals, had done that. And he was also embarrassed for the theatre—that their policies were so crap that it had come to this; embarrassed for us actors—that we had to deal with such appalling behaviour every night; and embarrassed for me—that I had done something so out of character and had, essentially, ruined the artistry of the storytelling for everyone involved. Again, I never broke character, I never stopped the show, and I never pointed out the culprits. But even still, he thinks that instead of leaving the audience with the story at the end of the night, I left them with a scolding.
Anyway, I did it, I'm proud of myself, I will not apologize... and I will not do it again.*
*probably not... can't predict the future, can I
The reviewer who was there concluded his write-up suchly:
On the evening that this reviewer was in attendance the valiant cast forged on through a couple of unfortunate cell phone interruptions. Nevertheless … not even this jangling interference could be able to shake the memory of such an indelible evening of humanistic theatre.
I OFFER DISCOUNTED, POSSIBLY FREE!, TICKETS TO ANY GT-ers WHO CAN COME. Denver-metro area. I can email with actual details, like play title and theatre and dates. I PROMISE I WON'T STOP THE SHOW AND SHAME YOU, even if you throw your cell phone at my head while it's vibrating and playing the aria from "Carmen."
I did something tonight which every actor dreams of doing. And I got in trouble for it. I feel completely justified, and I won't apologize. Now, I understand it may have been inappropriate, and I certainly won't do it again.
But after cell phones going off during almost every performance, and 3 going off tonight—the last one went all the way through to voicemail! and another audience member actually hissed at the culprit and that still didn't help—I just couldn't take it anymore.
I said something. To the audience. Not during the show, I never broke character. But afterwards. After bows and the standing ovation. I asked for quiet and for the music to be lowered. I calmly explained why allowing your cell phone to stay on during a performance disrespects your fellow audience members. I reminded them that we can hear them. And I also thanked them for being such an amazing audience. Because besides the circus ring tone going off for 3 minutes straight, this audience was really engaged, quiet, right there with us. I would not have stopped the applause to talk to them if they hadn't hung on to the story so much. Because at the end of the day, we're trained professionals; we can keep going through almost any distraction. But your fellow audience member who had to shush you and then speak up a second time and still wasn't able to get the you to turn it off? That guy paid a bunch of money to experience this story, and you just told him you don't care.
Half the audience clapped when I finished. My cast members thanked me.
Then the Stage Manager and another staff member scolded me, one giving me a lecture in front of the rest of the cast and 2 dwindling audience members (who agreed with me!), and I felt like poop.
I didn't get mad, I didn't raise my voice, I didn't single anyone out. I simply explained that we are all here together, and we all deserve the respect of being able to experience the theatre without cell phones going off.
There was a reviewer there tonight.
I won't do it again.
But I'm glad I did it tonight.