2015 was peppered with stories of misbehaving theater-goers. There was the man who clambered on stage at a production of “Hand To God” on Broadway, looking for a place to charge his cell phone. Star Patti LuPone took it upon herself to snatch a texting audience member’s phone away during a performance of “Shows for Days.”
The cast of “As You Like It” also endured some outlandish behavior this weekend. Producer Myke Johns paid a visit to the New American Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta to speak with cast members Dani Herd, Jonathan Horne and Jeffrey Stephenson.
During Act 4, a woman apparently walked up to the foot of the stage and challenged Herd, playing Rosalind, to an arm wrestling match for the affections of Horne’s Orlando.
Herd responded “Do you mind if I marry him first?” and the actors continued with the scene and the audience member eventually returned to her seat.
The theater-goer advanced on the stage again later in the show, only to be snubbed loudly by Stephenson, playing The Fool.
“They can’t shut her down because their characters are too nice,” Stephenson explained. “But mine on the other hand … ready to go!”
Stephenson said in his five years of working with the Shakespeare Tavern, those kinds of audience disruptions are rare. But when they do happen, he describes it as infuriating.
“But it almost feels like a compliment,” Stephenson said, “because it means that you’re probably engaging everyone that well.”
And in the face of the unwelcome audience participation at Saturday’s show, Stephenson said his castmates handled it exactly the way it should have been:
“Which is ‘Hi. This is very weird. Please stop.’”
As You Like It is onstage at the New American Shakespeare Tavern through January 31.