It’s a lesson that audiences have yet to learn. Tony (and Broadway.com Audience Choice Award) winner Patti LuPone will not tolerate your foolery in a Broadway theatre. Or off-Broadway. Or in a Las Vegas concert hall. The latest act of LuPone executing theatrical justice herself took place last night during a performance of Shows for Days at off-Broadway’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.
According to multiple reports on Twitter, the Broadway icon (use “diva” at your own risk) confiscated a cell phone from an audience member who was texting, then proceeded to exit the stage with the phone in hand.
"We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorded and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones," LuPone said in a statement following the incident. "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 actor 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."
This is just the latest in the rich tapestry that is LuPone breaking the fourth wall to take matters into her own hands. In the final weeks of her Tony-winning run in the 2008 revival of Gypsy, the star stopped the show to reprimand a theatergoer who was taking pictures. Ironically, the incident was preserved in a bootleg audio recording.
Months later, LuPone stopped mid-“Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in a concert at Las Vegas’ Orleans Hotel to confront an audience member using an electronic device, and threatened their removal if it happened again. “I promise not to be mad at you,” she said, according to the Las Vegas Sun, “Just tell me what were you doing.”
In a statement to the New York Times following the Vegas concert, LuPone said, “Do you think I’m alone in this? Ask any performer on Broadway right now about their level of frustration with this issue.” She continued, “This has been going on in my career for 30 years since I starred in Evita, and you’re surprised I stop shows now?”
It doesn’t stop with phones and cameras. “There were two people in the front row sharing a bag of popcorn,” LuPone told the New York Times in 2007 about a performance of Sweeney Todd. “They were wrestling for the last few kernels…everyone around them was distracted.”
If audiences didn’t text, take pictures or eat popcorn, LuPone wouldn’t have to take on the role of a Broadway vigilante and could instead focus on the jaw-dropping performances she never ceases to give. In her own words: “Who do you think you are?!”