I was in the 8th grade and one of my friends was playing one of the lost boys in “Peter Pan” at playhouse on the square. I was there with another friend who was a year older than I was. It was an evening performance, and if it wasn’t sold out it was close.
There comes a time relatively early in the play when Peter has a monolog where he calls on the audience to crow like a rooster. I took in a big breath and got an audience solo of “Ar-ARa-Aoooph” As I was interrupted by a harsh elbow to the ribs. Luckily a significant enough percentage of the audience participated later that I was allowed to clap to save tinkerbell despite my friends embarrassment.
What would happen if no one in the audience clapped? Would the actors be forced to kill off Tink? Would they improvise the rest of the play? How much does she affect the plot after that? Surely they have some sort of contingency plan. The reason she’s dying is because she drank the poison to protect Peter, but the poison is there because the jealous wench was trying to kill off Wendy… Maybe she deserves to die.
I think I’m going to convince a group of atheists to buy out an entire showing of Peter Pan and Crow their hearts out because they think they’re awesome, and refuse to clap since they don’t believe in fairies.
Last week I was at Chuck E Cheese for a birthday party, and the pre-recorded video tape tried to get the kids to yell. I am 33 years older than the birthday boy, and my enthusiasm put all those kids to shame. I had been yelling and cheering whenever the puppets on the telescreen requested. Which resulted in various levels of smirk’s or embarrassment from my assorted nephews and in-laws. I went to refill my drink and came back desperately asking “which side are we on, ‘happy’ or ‘birthday’?” We’re on ‘birthday’ I was assured. There is no doubt which side was louder, as the only other serious participant was my awesome wife. And after we ‘won’ the volume contest I stood up and point at the other side and said “take that, losers” and gave my enthusiastic wife a high 5 which stung for several minutes.
Then we were asked to chant “BIRTHDAYS! ROCK!” until Chuck came out. I was dutifily shouting my heart out when Mr. Cheese himself walked out. I didn’t really realize I was holding anything back until I was screaming “OH MY GOD! THERE HE IS!” like a 15 year old girl laying a hand on Jon Lennin’s jacket as he walked from the dressing room to his car.
It reminded me of a story from “This American Life” about improv everywhere, in which they pranked a band that was just starting out by showing up semi-flash-mob style at one of their shows (that was scheduled too late in the line-up) to give them the Best Gig Ever. There was a lot of debate over whether this was cruel or if the intent to “give them a taste” of success came from a place of kindness. The pertinent line was from Milo Finch the lead of Pasha’s Ghost to the Charlie Todd (the lead of improv everywhere) and it went something like “we rocked the house that night, and you knew it. There were elements of like, we realize that it was a prank, but just so you know, we did rock it.” Which led to the reflection “Where’s the difference in really, really being into a band and pretending to be really into a band?”