Did someone's phone go off the last time you went to a show on Broadway? Did it especially annoy you because it happened at exactly the moment when Tracy Letts was in the middle of a powerful monologue about America? Am I just describing something that happened to me a few months ago when I saw All My Sons? Well, the time of the phone interruption may be coming to an end, because more and more theaters and venues around the city are starting to adopt new methods of preventing phone usage.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that “Freestyle Love Supreme,” a combo hip-hop/improv comedy show, has become the second Broadway production to embrace the Yondr system. In case you haven't encountered this in real life yet, the company is hired by productions and venues to put people's phones into Yondr pouches before the show, which are then locked and then unlocked after the show ends. Dave Chappelle utilized them for his 10 show Broadway residency this summer as well.
The Journal writes that more cultural institutions are jumping aboard the Yondr train, including Lincoln Center (which will use Yondr for select events during its White Light Festival) and The Shed. Plenty of musicians and comedians, including Madonna, Chris Rock, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Guns N' Roses and Tracy Morgan, have also embraced it.
It seems inevitable that Yondr and similar other companies will only become more and more ubiquitous, both to prevent unwanted interruptions for the performers and to get audiences to keep their attention on the stage and not their social media feeds. "These digital devices can bifurcate your attention,” said Anthony Veneziale, one of the stars and creators of “Freestyle Love Supreme."
But then again, think of what we'll be losing—like the classic shots of a playbill in front of a curtain taken at intermission and quickly posted to Instagram. (Was it Descartes or Caroline Calloway who once said, "I Instagram, therefore I am?") And some productions I'm sure greatly benefit from the word of mouth that arises from people being able to take a pic and organically promote the work to their social circles. I don't know if I really want to live in a world in which photos like the one up above, which I took at Larry David's Broadway production of Fish In The Dark back in 2015 and am posting exclusively here in 2019, are not broadcast to the world.