Friday, January 30, 2009

I recently saw a fifty seven minute long play at one of Chicago's great theaters, and the twenty-second minute, a woman got up from her seat, walked in between the forty person audience and the ten people on stage, and left the theater. Five minutes later, without waiting for a break in the one-act play, she returned, once again walking in front of the stage, and back to her seat.

At the point when she returned, a row of college kids who were watching the play started whispering to one another. The couple next to me glared at them, I glared at them, the person behind them glared at them, but they continued their conversation.

I blocked them out and focused on the play, but my attention returned when I heard a scuffling sound, followed by a queeny shriek from one of the college kids, who yelped "You SCRATCHED me, BITCH!" in a high-toned voice.

The kids were quiet for the rest of the performance, and bolted for the door when the lights came up. As we were all gathering ourselves and getting up, I approached the woman who had successfully silenced the kids, and congratulated her that on doing God's work. "I just wish God had spoken to me sooner", was her quotable reply.

Two decades of Chicago theater-going have exposed me to some pretty marvelous examples of audience rudeness -- for example, kids listening to rap on their Ipods while attending the CSO -- but now that the Obama era has officially started, people are using physical violence to enforce social norms. In the Laissez-Faire Bush years, we would have silently endured the kids' misbehavior -- but just in the last week there is enough optimism about the future of our country that people are literally willing to fight for what they believe in.

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