Sense of Entitlement


I confess to being somewhat bemused by a couple of incidents that took place over the past few weeks.

My family has a fairly new blog (and it’s strictly for family business, which is why I don’t link to it from this blog). When the Washington Post review of Into the Woods was published, I provided a link to the article on the family blog so that my loved ones could access it easily. I was startled to discover later on that the Post practices what’s called “blog farming,” meaning that if you link to them, they’ll link back to you (“read what bloggers are saying about this article!”). Lesson learned. I won’t do that again.

What wasn’t okay was that some individual used the link to come onto my family’s blog to post a diatribe against Signature Theatre. Anonymously, of course (aren’t they always? Big tough talk but not enough courage to sign their names). I contacted my sister, who’s in charge of the blog – consequently, now you can’t post at the blog anonymously, and its contents are only available to its members.

But what bugged me the most was that the Anonymous Moron didn’t stop to think for a second that someone’s family blog was NOT the place to post their rantings about an unrelated subject. God knows there are other blogs which have discussed the show and where Anonymous Moron could have posted his/her venom. Did Anonymous Moron stop to think for a second that my family didn’t CARE what he/she thought about Signature Theatre? That perhaps their intruding on the blog was like crashing a family dinner? That maybe, just maybe, their actions were rude and inappropriate?

The issue arose again for me last night, when Signature hosted its Post-Show Discussion after Into the Woods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with a post-show discussion, it’s when the cast and other company members volunteer their time to discuss aspects of the show with those who’ve just seen it. Usually it’s a pleasant session with questions about interpretation, stage craft and the like.

Last night, however, a lot of people seemed to stay just to kvetch about the new building. Now granted, Signature is still working the bugs out of the space and there are problems, but how appropriate was it to use the post-show discussion to complain about dim lighting in the lobby? And I wonder if any of those that kept bitching about the acoustics and sight lines thought for a moment how their remarks affected the cast? We still have a month’s worth of performances to go. To get hammered over and over by complaints about aspects of the theatre that are out of our control doesn’t help us do our jobs. Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to complain to a member of the house staff, or write a letter to the theatre’s management?

The upshot of the evening was that most of the cast sat there for an uncomfortable half hour while Eric Schaeffer (Signature’s Artistic Director) tried to field the complaints. I’m grateful to those audience members who tried to steer the conversation onto its intended course, but again I’m puzzled at why other individuals felt that they were entitled to use the post-show discussion as a forum for their issues with the building.

I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to their opinions, but for God’s sake, choose an appropriate time and place to voice them.

And be gutsy enough to sign your name.

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26 comments

  1. Joan L.

    Obnoxious. As you know, Perg deleted the diatribe before I could read it. What a maroon.People like that make me want to slap the sh*t out of them, and then slap them for sh*tting. And I totally say that in the spirit of peace and brotherhood…heh

  2. Anonymous

    I agree that a talk back is not the place to for the audience to complain about the dim lights in the lobby but I don’t agree that its not an appropriate place to voice complaints about problems with the acoustics and sight lines. Eric was there – these are questions he should be responsible for answering- these are areas that are under his control. Remember people are paying a fair price for tickets to this show. Its very frustrating to buy a ticket particularly a pricey one and not to be able to see or hear the performance. I haven’t yet seen the show- I will be seeing it in a couple of weeks. However, a number of my friends have seen it and all are complaining about the acoustics and sight lines. Honestly there is really no excuse for these problems these are things that are totally under the control of the theater. Its better that people voice their opinions than stop buying tickets.

  3. Tony Westbrook

    Some people just have no tact, manners, or semblance of normalcy. Selfish. Some people just don’t think either. And people who don’t sign their names are cowards. And some people are just miserable and want others to be miserable too.And..some people can get a thrill….

  4. Joan L.

    Anonymity is for wussiesIf someone has a problem, even about the acoustics or sight lines, they should write or call the theatre, not use the talk back about “Into The Woods” to vent their displeasure. Eric being present makes no difference. The discussion was about the PLAY, not the venue.On, and did I mention that anonymity is for wussies? I did? Good.

  5. Anonymous

    My comments were not intended to hurt anyone’s feelings. I very much would like to see Signature thrive in the new venue which is very lovely. Keep in mind you can’t discuss a play that you are unable to hear and/or see. If audiences have these concerns its in the best interest of the theater to hear them. Better now than when they stop buying tickets. No one wants that to happen.On the other side of this issue I have heard a number of very nice comments about many of the performances in this show and about the set. I can understand why performers might take comments personally about things that are not under their control. I hope that folks at the talk back did not direct their comments about the acoustics and sight lines to individual performers. Remember the audience is just as an important component to the show as are the performers. By the way did I mention that folks who refuse to take well intented critisim are just acting like brats! I can’t imagine what difference it makes if I sign my name to this comment or not- you don’t know me anyway.

  6. Joan L.

    I think it is fairly obvious who you are. And even if I am mistaken in that respect, airing your complaints about the acoustics, etc., at Signature on this blog is even less appropriate than airing them at the talk back. Wouldn’t it be a lot more effective to email Signature, or pick up the phone, rather than anonymously trolling someone’s blog?I stand by my position that anonymous posting is cowardly, and so is trolling.

  7. Donna Migliaccio

    Okay, take a deep breath, both of you.Anonymous, I see your point about people who are unhappy with their theatre-going experience having the right to vent their complaints. I stand by my original point that the talk-back was not the place to do it. A talk-back is intended to be a discussion with the cast about aspects of the performance. It is not intended to be a forum for audience members to criticize the cast, nor the theatre building, nor the management. It is hurtful for a company to have to sit and listen to complaints about issues over which they have no control, even if they are well aware that those issues may be affecting their performances.Joan, I don’t believe for a moment that Anonymous is the person you believe him/her to be.To the both of you: I don’t have any problem with discussions on this site, however vehement, as long as they stop short of rudeness and name calling. So knock it off with the “wussy” and “brat” stuff.

  8. Michael Drayne

    Donna, my daughter and I were at the talk back, and we were both thoroughly embarrassed by the turn the questioning took, especially on behalf of the cast, who had taken to the time to come sit out there. It was an open forum, and while people were entitled to take up those topics, a thoughtful and considerate person wouldn’t have then and there. But I think you got some bad luck that night, group dynamic-wise, in that that first woman got things off on a very wrong foot and thus opened the door to “Utilities Night at Signature”. If there’d been a couple of suitable questions at the outset things would probably have been very different. [Show was great. Baker and Cinderella especially superb. Daughter liked Jack best.]

  9. Donna Migliaccio

    Thank you, Mr. Drayne. Embarrassing is the right word for the situation. The anger that was being directed at the stage was out of place and out of proportion.I’m glad you and your daughter enjoyed the show.

  10. Anonymous

    You know I wasn’t at the talk back so I don’t know how the conversation went. I’ve been to many talk backs and all but one have been good experiences. The one that wasn’t good was pretty awful. I found the audience’s behavior embarrassing and in my opinion totally uncalled for. If a similar situation occurred at the Signature talk back I can easily understand why you folks are so upset.Joan – I don’t have a clue who you are and I can assure you I’m not who ever you think I am.

  11. Mairi

    Donna, it all sounds really uncomfortable, especially when you are there as a member of the ensemble, and not a member of the theatre management. In my experience, the people who try to cause bad feeling at after-show discussions and the like are only interested in having the attention of an audience. If their comments are inappopriate or misplaced, the best thing is to ignore them. Crashing in to a private family blog is unacceptable.

  12. Anonymous

    I was not at the talk-back, but think it is ENTIRELY appropriate for audience members to ask the director about why his direction was so neglectful that many audience members were unable to see action vital to the plot in many different scenes. It’s not like this is a community theatre any more. This is a professional theatre charging professional prices, and the expectations are for a professional production.Many of the performances (including yours, Donna) were first-rate. It is a shame that poor direction and poor planning (and poor acoustical design?) prevented those performances from being seen and heard at their optimal level.

  13. Anonymous

    I just wanted to say that I am the “anonymous” who wrote the first several comments. I am not the “anonymous” who wrote the comment with the word “ENTIRELY” in it. This will be my last response to Donna’s “Sense of Entitlement.”

  14. Donna Migliaccio

    Dear First Anonymous: thanks for your comments. I knew that the second Anonymous poster was not you because your writing styles are very different.Dear Second Anonymous: I’m not sure how “poor planning” is to blame for the acoustics in the theatre. There is no way to judge a theatre’s acoustics with a musical until you have (a) the set in place, (b) the orchestra in place and (c) the audience in place. Unfortunately, the first time that occurs is in previews, and at that time, it’s too late for anything to be done about it. Lessons have been learned, and I am certain that the acoustics will be improved for the next show.As far as the sightlines go, I agree that the configuration of the set is a tricky one, and again, we’ve all learned from the experience.The cast is well aware of these problems but solving them is out of our control. We can’t change the acoustics and we can’t change the sightlines. The show is now “frozen” and it cannot be restaged. Everyone is doing their damnedest to make the show work under the circumstances. I reiterate that a cast talkback is NOT the place to air these complaints. Many actors won’t read their reviews because they don’t want the reviews to influence their performances. The situation is the same with a talkback. The cast doesn’t attend talkbacks to solicit audience members’ criticisms of the show. I reiterate that it was thoughtless of some audience members to use the cast talkback to vent their criticisms simply because the director/Artistic Director was present. Having now said all this, I hope that if you (or any other “anonymous” individual) choose to continue this conversation, you’ll do so under your own name. You have the advantage of me in that you know who I am and you know where to find me. I won’t discuss this further unless we’re on a level playing field.

  15. Jay Schulman

    I think, minus the name calling and anonymity, this is a worthwhile discussion. I saw the preview show on Open House weekend which I loved other than my disappointment that the sound didn’t seem any better than the garage. Donna you can be heard easily but a fair bit of Stephen and April’s lyrics were inaudible. I spoke to Tony Angelini (sound designer) afterwards and he said Eric felt that mics weren’t needed. So if Eric was there, it seems like a valid question to ask. Curiously, as a performer, how do you feel about the use of them?

  16. Donna Migliaccio

    Hi, Jay. My feeling about mics in general is that I hate ’em. They’re usually uncomfortable or irritating to wear, they get in the way when you have to make a costume change, and their use puts the sound technician in control of the volume of your performance. Control freak that I am, I don’t like to surrender any aspect of my performance to anyone else, no matter how good they are.I believe mics should be used when there’s a lot of electronic music – keyboards, electric guitars and the like – because you simply can’t match an unamplified voice against amplified music. Mics should also be used with prerecorded music (again, to match the sound) and in very large houses. I don’t think they’re necessary in a house the size of Signature’s.Jon Kalbfleisch has made the point in the past that audiences have become accustomed to and expect to hear amplified voices – in other words, that we’re used to having the sound pushed at us and in consequence, have become “lazy listeners.” I think he’s right.

  17. Mairi

    I agree. I hate microphones. Audiences are used to having the sound forced into their ears without much effort, and are uncomfortable when they have to actually make an effort to engage with theatrical performances. I think we should force audiences (in the nicest possible way) to be more active in their participation. They shouldn’t be able to sit back and let the performance wash over them. I find that the problem is often that sound technicians are brought in at the last minute and start with amplifying the band and then try to mic the singers in some sort of competition with the band. That is always a lose/lose situation, and audiences are never going to engage with that.

  18. Jay Schulman

    So If I understand your position, the non use of mics is a punitive step to force us to strain to hear. Why not make everything very dark so we have to strain to see. Perhaps hide the theatre so it’s difficult to find, that should whip our lazy souls into shape! Yes if the sound design is done poorly it will be a lose/lose but the same is true if the other design elements are done badly. I think Tony A. is up to the task of doing it right. I now appreciate the physical difficulties of costume change while miked, BUT having the audience be able to hear all of the lyrics and giving the actors freedom to face in any direction from anywhere on the set (especially where there are 3 sides to play to) I think would trump that. You can all sing the lyrics in your sleep, but for a theatregoer not familiar with the show (and Sondheim, no less) it is very frustrating to have paid a lot of money for a ticket and not be able to hear the words no matter how hard you try. I think that deserves consideration.

  19. Donna Migliaccio

    I’m not sure I understand your somewhat combative tone, Jay. Again (and I’m getting tired of saying it), Signature is still learning the ins and outs of the new space. You’ve got to give them room and time to sort things out rather than demanding instant answers. I am certain that the acoustic problems will be worked out by the next production. I don’t think the answer is wire everyone up.This first show has been like learning how to drive a car with a stick shift: you can understand the theory of changing gears and how to use the clutch, but until you actually get behind the wheel and try to drive, you’re not going to know how it really feels. And you’re going to kill the motor a time or two before you learn how to drive smoothly.All I can say is, give Signature some time to get used to the place.

  20. Jay Schulman

    I don’t mean to be combative. Frustrated, a little, for sure. I just wanted to discuss the issue. I have heard the “lazy listener” rationale before from Eric and Jon while in the same breath blaming it somewhat on the garage. I know this is not your decision and this is probably not the right place to even hold the discussion. Hopefully you are right that they will find a better way in the new space. I’ll be there again this Friday and this old child will listen!

  21. Bill A.

    I agree that a talk back is not the place to bring these things up. Its not that it so much rude to the performers, which it is, but it is rude to the other people who paid money to see the show and to talk to the cast afterwards.Also to the people who say that the acoustics and light problems should have been foreseen. Nonsense. I have worked in construction, along with theater, for almost 20 years and I can tell you that there is always something you don’t see coming. And just one more word about the acoustics. Yes, people are saying they are a problem but consider this. It is a new space and it takes time for a Company to work the kinks out of a space. If you like Signature give them time to work this out.

  22. Barbara B.

    I had the privilege of seeing Into the Woods on Sunday (matinee). I’m a subscriber of many years and had a great seat! But, there were times that I wished that I had a hearing aid (and I don’t have a hearing problem). I’m hopeful that the sound problems can be worked out in the future. Last Thursday I went to a brown bag chat with Eric and he indicated that they were working on the sound problems.

  23. John G

    The basic question comes down to: is the talkback more about the director or the actors? If it’s primarily about the director, then questions about sightlines and sound problems are appropriate. If it’s really about the cast and the director is just along for the ride, then it probably is the wrong place and time.

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