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Theatre Etiquette 101: That Screen Is Brighter Than It Appears

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Say it with me: Theatre Etiquette. I treat going to Broadway the same way I treat going to the movies, minus the over-buttered popcorn. Like at the movies, Broadway has announcers that state at the beginning of a performance the rules that one should follow while watching a show. The rules are pretty general across the board: no talking, don’t unwrap you candies during the performance, and NO CELL PHONES. In my experience I’ve had to deal with all three, though the candy one sticks out most. Seriously, how hard is it to wait until after a big number when the entire audience is clapping to rip open those packs of M&Ms for your kids?

The most common rule broken however, and the one that is most distracting for audience members and actors alike, is the cell phone rule. Not just cell phones going off loudly when they should be on silent, but audience members texting during the show (for which Patti LuPone has no problem snatching the phone from you), accepting phone calls during the show (seriously?), and even trying to get in a quick charge on the shows set before the performance begins (even if it does look like a real outlet, it’s not. That’s the magic of a great scenic designer/technical director, my friend).

The thing I like most about seeing theatre is the fact that it is live. There are no do-overs; what you see is what you get. The actors on that stage give their all eight times a week, after weeks and months of preparing, to bring a particular piece to life. So imagine as an actor on stage, telling this dynamic story in character in front of an audience of 100 + people, and looking down to see a flash of light, a head down, and fingers typing away. The audience member is completely disconnected from what’s happening on stage, and is probably causing those around him/her to be distracted. Now there’s a domino effect of people not engaging in the material the way the actors, director, designers, and writers fully intended to do. It’s disrespectful. Patti LuPone said it best in an official statement;

“We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed, and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones. 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 actors 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 marshall the audience as well as perform.”

The next time you go to see a show, text/call everyone in advance and let them know you won’t be available for the next two hours and put that phone on silent and leave it alone. I promise you; Instagram will be there when it’s over.

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Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech

Jerrica White

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billy porter

So, I have a question.

In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?

Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.

The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.

He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”

Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.

Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.

The days of shut up and sing are over.

Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:

Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!

Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.

From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.

Amen.

Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.

If that’s not the truth.

Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.

Resist.

RESIST.

RESIST.

RESIST.

For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.

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How Do We Feel

Jazmine Sullivan: The Next Singer-Songwriter To Write A Broadway Musical?

Jerrica White

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jazmine sullivan

We recently caught up with Jazmine Sullivan at The HeLa Project, a multimedia exhibition inspired by the HBO film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Like the rest of us, Jazmine is in awe of the under-told story of Henrietta Lacks and her instrumental role in modern medicine. We further asked about why she got involved with the project and she said: “Anyway I can give light to an extraordinary woman like that, I’m there.”

Some of the integral women in bringing this story to light have their roots in Broadway: Tony Award-winning producer Oprah Winfrey, who not only stars in the film, but also credited as executive producer, and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, who portrays the title character.

We wouldn’t be Broadway Black if we didn’t keep it real.

Let’s be honest, we can’t get enough of 11-year-old Jazmine singing “Home” like she wrote the piece, so we got to asking, and it turns out Jazmine wouldn’t mind putting her pen to paper to create a musical for the Broadway stage.

She said performing on Broadway isn’t in the plans for the near future but, “You never know! I love writing and creating characters!”

God!? Oprah!?!? Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey?!?! Who’s going to snatch this up?

Until then, it sounds like we have some new music to expect. What kind of musical would you like to see from Ms. Sullivan? Sound off below in the comments!

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