What happens when an audience member shouts “Kill the playwright” during a show….

By Cynthia Wands

This story brought back memories of doing live theatre.

Kathleen Warnock’s article from Howlround: Shouting “Kill the Playwright” in a Crowded Theatre

A relative from Baltimore_edited-1












I’ve had to improvise when drunk people walked onstage in an outdoor Shakespeare performance I was in, and I watched a fellow actor collapse onstage (I thought he really died in front of us but he survived), and I witnessed a choreographed duel get out of hand and two actors get slashed up (they got stitches), and then there was a special effects coffin that nearly killed the actor who was playing the unfortunate role of Dracula that night. And I’ve sensed annoyance and disappointment in some of the (hostile? feeble?) applause at the end of some of the shows I’ve seen/performed in. I’ve also heard audiences scream obscenities to opera singers at their curtain calls. (really – opera!  boos and yells and slurs like you wouldn’t believe!)

But I realized, I also remember a time when I performed in theatre (and this will date me) before cell phones. Before iPads. Before Apple watches. This was back in a time when the idea that audiences might bring an electronic device to a performance was, well, far-fetched and bizarre, and not real. I remember this as a time that will never happen again: Pandora’s box has been opened and we will never again not know what roaming charges are.

I haven’t read this script,(“The Flick”) nor seen the play, but I did hear from friends who saw the production (which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and won the 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting and was awarded the 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize ). The only comment I remember about this play is that the running time was over three hours long. (I remember thinking “Three hours? That’s like a Shakespeare? Or a Chekhov? It’s really over three hours long?”)

But I do still wonder about an audience member shouting from the back of the house, (just before intermission):  “Kill the playwright!”

“Kill the playwright” ?

It sounds so theatrical, and far-fetched, and bizarre, of course, it had to happen in real life.


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