Thursday, January 23, 2014

Curtain Call Opinion

As New Victory Theater members for at least a couple of years, as well as getting many tickets with friends other years...we try to see at least three shows every year. The theater is known for having some of the best family live theater in NYC. Unfortunately, we went to the main theater (Lina is now old enough) and it is not the friendliest place. Do you want to know what happened?


I was offered a blog post for a publication I haven't written for yet...that has almost a quarter of a million readers and I decided to turn down the post since the staff at this theater aggressively intimidated me into deleting the two photos I took of the curtain call. I didn't take any photos of the show itself...the sign at the theater states the rule...and no photos or videos should be taken during the performance, not that we're forbidden from using cameras inside the theater (they said later that's because they want families to take pictures of their kids there, before the show, which nearly every theater allows). I rarely bring my camera when we go to live theater shows...and even when I do I have never taken it out for a curtain call before this week...but I have seen dozens of people take photos with cameras and cell phones at many well-known theaters, and ushers let it go as acceptable.

At The New Victory Theater that day, I saw half a dozen people near me take a photo during the performance, which was a distraction, but many more took photos during the bow and no one stopped them (they can't possibly get to everyone), so those people walked out of the theater with the pictures. Plus, free data recovery programs even recover deleted photos and videos on camera memory cards and smart phones. The genie is out of the bottle...I think in this day and age it's rather silly (not to mention extremely difficult) to try to stop every person from doing so (in fact, except for a handful of people, the rest of the audience waited until curtain call and they were respectful enough to not attempt it during the show). Who can control everything posted on social media?  It's actually good free promotion for the theater anyway and performers told me after-the-fact they have no issue with photos during curtain call, they want their fans to spread the word.

I think the performers who come to The New Victory Theater (from around the world) would be horrified to learn how the staff strong-arm moms in front of their little kids. My daughter thought he was going to steal our camera and hurt me, due to his movements (way too close in proximity to my body) and his threatening tone of voice. When recounting the coercive incident to the manager, I cried like a baby for a bit. My daughter rarely sees me cry and since she heard me asking about the rules before the show, she kept saying "you didn't do anything wrong mommy." I asked a female staff member, who seemed very authoritative, prior to the show beginning...about the confusing sign...I asked if a curtain call is considered part of the "performance," obviously I learned the hard way it is indeed. The manager was more concerned about who misinformed me (I didn't point her out, since she was one of the nice folks) than how that usher treated me. Because it seemed he was following orders from above. There are ways to ask nicely...I do understand it might be a copyright issue or a union issue or a distraction issue...but they need to assume people may not know what's appropriate. I thought I was following the rules. Perhaps if it's so important to them, they should make an announcement clarifying that even curtain call bows are off limit.

Many readers of blogs don't want a posed photograph I have learned (many theaters allow them after a show when it's time for autographs, those types of pictures seem more appropriate for a family album) or a photograph given by a PR team to post (it doesn't prove the reviewer was at the event...too many sites recommend shows and events these days that they haven't even attended). Readers want to feel the excitement that the writer felt at the show (as a regular person there, not like press spoon feeding a well-packaged piece simply to make profit).

It made me feel better to read two old posts on a Broadway Producer's web site. Ken Davenport is very eloquent and experienced about the topic, so please click below to read his wonderful posts:

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/my_weblog/2009/11/to-take-pictures-or-not-to-take-pictures-that-is-the-question.html

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/my_weblog/2008/08/kenny-got-in--1.html

I considered returning the tickets for the shows I purchased already for the spring...but decided that would be punishing my daughter and she doesn't deserve that, she is looking forward to those shows. I don't plan to bring my camera, of course, or a smart phone...but it will be fun watching dozens of people taking snapshots. I will be thinking twice about purchasing tickets in the future for this theater, there are so many wonderful theaters (in NYC and outside of NY)...I remember the time my daughter was allowed on stage to dance, for example, and they welcomed video recording and photos that will forever remind us (and the public) of the fun we had. Thankfully, we didn't let this experience spoil the rest of our day and we had an awesome time with many people treating us rather well.