American Theatre Magazine posted a video on Facebook this morning.

Warning: Not safe for work or those easily offended by profanity.

The video struck a cord with me. I think it is brilliant and a great discussion starter.

For the past two years I’ve taught a general ed class for non-majors, which is supposed to introduce students to a variety of different film and theatre genres and develop an appreciate for theatre. Did I mention that the size of the class is about 250 students?

It’s really hard to instill an appreciation of theatre into that many non-majors, especially on a Monday night. In order to keep the class in check, we have a fairly strict theatre etiquette policy: no talking, no texting or cellphones, no food or drinks, no sleeping, etc. Our rules are no different than those of the Alamo Drafthouse or any other theatre, we just enforce them a bit more rigidly. As is probably expected, the rule that most students have an issue with is the cellphone policy. If students are caught violating the etiquette policy We ask students to leave the class for the night.

One week at the beginning of the class we posted a message on a powerpoint slide and instructed the students to turn their phones to the highest possible volume setting and answer their phones as usual. We even conducted our pre-performance lecture with students answering phone calls and texting. Then we asked the class for their thoughts on the experiment.

The class was unanimously annoyed.

We hoped that we proved our point. Texting and cell phones during performances are distracting to their fellow audience members, the performers, and just generally rude.

In general, most students understand the reasons behind the no-texting policy. One student we kicked out even e-mailed us to apologize.

Although, the reason I love this video is because we’ve also had students who have responded the way the customer did in the video. We clearly explain our policy and the reasons for it, yet students are somehow surprised when we enforce it. We are trying our best to make the class as enjoyable as possible for those who want to watch the performance, just as this theatre was doing for their patrons. I try and laugh off the students who react the way the woman did in the video, but sometimes it’s hard not to feel “beaten up” by the comments of the indignant students.

Which is why I love that this theatre took a negative event and turned it into a positive and even comical lesson for other patrons. I also think it’s important for people to realize that when you call and leave a profanity laced tirade on a voicemail or deliver it to a live-person, you’re probably taking your frustration (whether justified or not) out on an innocent by-stander and sound completely ridiculous. Having worked in customer service for many years, sometimes I wish people realized how ludicrous they sound.

I’d love to show this video to the class and then have a discussion about it.

Anyway, so what is my point? Texting in the theatre is rude and you’re distracting the people around you. Why did you pay money to go see a movie or a theatre performance if you’re just going to text throughout the whole show? Finally, don’t take your anger out on undeserving people. Sometimes the customer is NOT always right.

Question(s): What did you think about the video? Was the theatre out of line? Was the customer out of line? Should we be allowed to text in theatres?

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