Turn off your Cell Phone at Patti LuPone’s Gypsy

A marquee featuring Patti LuPone.  Photo by Chris Freeland via Flickr

A marquee featuring Patti LuPone. Photo by Chris Freeland via Flickr

On Tuesday, Patti LuPone voiced her own response to David Itzkoff’s NY Times blog post about an incident in which LuPone stopped her performance to confront an audience member who was using an electronic device.  LuPone defended her actions, and those of artists seeking to preserve the integrity of live performance as audiences grow more and more attached to cell phones and iPods.

It is interesting that many of the comments on LuPone’s letter deal with cell phone use (which is disruptive to both performer and audience member alike), while it seems LuPone is mostly incensed about people trying to capture images, audio or video of her performance (which is primarily disruptive to the performer).

Patti LuPone is an established artist who needs to protect the content of her performance from leaking out onto the internet for free.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – an actress like Patti LuPone has to be an artist and an athlete in one, training her voice and her body to sustain night after night of live performance, every night producing a pitch-perfect electrifying show that is *worth* the $100 (or $60, or $200) price of admission.  Distracting her and her audience is like casually tossing pool toys in after Michael Phelps.  Just not fair.

Because LuPone is a well-known, well-loved performer, she can get away with screaming at an audience member, and people will STILL buy tickets to see her show.  If a chorus member did such a thing (or the star of a very minor play), their actions might not even be acknowledged by the audience – or the audience might just walk out.  LuPone may well be sticking up for the little guy.  But is her stance against mid-performance texting really beneficial to everyone?  At SILVERDOCS, during a presentation on the future of public media, one speaker asked that everyone turn their cell phones ON, so that folks in the room with web-enabled devices might use Twitter to spread the word about the talk.  I could see a scenario in which a new play would benefit from postitive in-performance tweets (and certainly from tweets, cell phone calls and texts at intermission).

When fans text or tweet at a show, is that offensive, or is it free publicity?

Women on the Web: Who’s Leading Who?

Image by Mike Licht

Image by Mike Licht

Woman to Woman, Online, yesterday’s business section cover story, explores trends on websites targeted at women. The article notes the ways in which content and advertising have begun to run together, especially on blogs that feature fashion, decorating and style advice.

Companies are finally catching on that you can draw in potential shoppers by using interactive patterns that are native to the web: Viral videos, user-generated content, quizzes, memes and polling. But why do women gravitate toward all these blogs about clothes and apartments and boyfriends – and not to, say, women’s political blogs?

Lauren Zalaznick has an absolutely creepy answer:

“Time and time again, women are happy to see their relationship with their food, their clothes and their relationships externally manifested in entertainment and how-to content,” said Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal’s women and lifestyle entertainment networks, including iVillage.

Women are “happy?” A few dozen feminist bloggers would say no. . . The article misses out on something HUGE about women on the web: There is no information about how many women get their political news from blogs that don’t specifically target women. Just because women’s political news sites don’t find a large audience doesn’t mean women aren’t interested in political news (or science news, or business news). But what Yahoo “Shine” defines as “women’s news” might not match up with what women actually find to be relevant to their lives.

I took myself off of a prominent women’s news list because I felt the subjects of the articles were too narrow in scope. I happen to find many types of stories interesting: A story about advances in prostate cancer treatment might not have anything to do with “women’s” news – but I might find it interesting because I happen to like science.

Zalaznick also ignores the way that media influences and changes women’s expectations about their own lives. The media often leads or labels trends in how we consume products, and how we relate to each other, by incorporating them into entertainment (think of the rise of the phrase “he’s just not that into you”). Then, bloggers often parrot these trends right back to the media (say, on a your livejournal the day after a breakup).

On television, advertisers have about 20 seconds to sell a single product. On the web, companies can create immersion experiences that sell a full-blown lifestyle. Web advertising can occur 24 hours a day, and can be integrated with almost any web experience. It’s scary to think how often our expectations about relationships (with lovers, family members, friends) are influenced by a corporate conception of how we are supposed to live.