When I first walked into the classroom at Centennial College I noticed students on their computers while I was speaking. I spent time dreaming up these lectures but now they’re on Facebook or Snapchat and not paying attention to the planned discussion – aren’t they students enrolled in a course ostensibly to hear what the teacher has to say? Where do I know this problem from before? Oh right, live performance.
Audiences making noise is a real strange experience – aren’t they an audience that paid an admission ostensibly to listen to the work you showed up to perform? Someone is loudly eating a bag of chips or arguing with their buddy the quality of the story from a movie last night. If you stop and address it directly, it might silence people but then there are new problems. You might seem like a prima donna, you might in fact be a prima donna, you might be sidetracked with regret for your emotional outburst and then feel more layers removed from what your work is about in the first place, the reason you are there but you were also layers removed because of their noise making. Also they might resume their noise making soon after you return to your performance making your request for consideration all the more impotent.
I improvise after all that’s what I do. I’ll ask a student a question they won’t know the answer to because they were on their computer. It makes everyone look at them, it makes for some embarrassment, seems fair to me like this is now the lesson. Same with the audience member who’s loud. I’ll musically imitate them or make up lyrics about them and sing it. This means a certain amount of audience or students will think I’m an asshole, maybe I am an asshole but maybe it’s a creative response either way it’s a distraction from why I’m there and it’s not what I want to do. I just want to deliver the goods, dignity intact.