Tuesday, February 27, 2024

What Patti LuPone meant when she said she was quitting Broadway

Three-time Tony winner Patti LuPone has gone to ‘hell’ and she may not be coming back.

Social media is all a flutter with her recent posts about quitting Actor’s Equity and likely never coming back to the stage. 

Oddly, this time around she’s brought into the conversation where Tony Award winner Lillias White had a verbal altercation with an audience member at Broadway’s Hadestown because White thought they were filming the show (turns out it was a device for people who are hard of hearing).
Social media was up in arms about this incident, citing that the audience member was, for a lack of better word,  ‘Luponed,’ referring to how singer/actress LuPone is known for stopping a show to shut-up someone in the audience or reprimand an unmasker. 

Theatre fans have applauded LuPone through the years for taking a stand as it is very disruptive for an actor to hear chatter in the audience or see a little light pull their attention — not to mention disrespectful to the performer.

In one of my two semi-encounters with LuPone, I feared her wrath when I was late for her Broadway show Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

I remember the show was produced by Lincoln Center. So I went to the Center. I couldn’t understand why there was no crowd around it as the show started in 20 minutes. I went to the Box Office and found out they PRODUCED it but it was playing in Times Square with most other shows.
One who hadn’t really mastered the subway (know now) I went down to catch a train, but I went on the side going the opposite direction. So I ran upstairs — jumped in the middle of the street to force a cab to stop and screamed, “This is an emergency!” The cab driver was not happy that making it to theatre before the curtain goes up is a theatre nerd’s emergency.

He drove fast. He darted. He maneuvered. Yet time was running out and you can’t make traffic move. So this bear of a man got out of the car and ran two blocks. I never run! But alas, I was still late. I told the theatre staff, “Patti will kill me.” My seat was close to the stage, so she’d see me come in…late, panting and sweaty. But we waited for the first song to be over, I slid in quickly and LuPone hadn’t even come out yet. So public scolding avoided.

While I detoured this story, I understand when you’re in the audience, you are watching someone at work. Anything you do in the audience may affect their performance so this is one place I truly show my respect. I am a big talker before and after a show but I am silent in the theatre.
Some say LuPone was planning to retire and this may have been the final straw. But perhaps quitting Actor’s Equity doesn’t mean quitting acting.
A lot of LuPone’s reputation stems from her willingness to be honest and truthful. Did she get some clapback for her conservations with audience members? Perhaps. But she tells it like it is. As a true New Yorker, LuPone is from the school not to sugar coat.

All of us in this overly eager-to-cancel people culture need to take a moment and realize that everyone’s true intention here isn’t to disrespect others but to enlightened and educate because etiquette never goes out of fashion.

According to Variety, LuPone is just taking a break rather than permanently retiring. “I just gave up my equity card, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t perform on-stage,” LuPone told Variety. “It’s 50 years that I’ve been a member of Actors’ Equity, and I think I need a break from the stage.”

Additionally, LuPone told Playbill magazine Actor’s Equity doesn’t “support actors at all. … They’re just not good. And I just didn’t want to give them any more money.” She goes on to clarify that while the decision was inspired by a career choice to not return to Broadway for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean we won’t see her back on the boards again at some point. “[T]he best kept secret is that you can perform without being a member of Equity. Nobody knows that, so I don’t use their services.”

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, www.reelkev.com and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for Examiner.com and contributes to progressivepulse.com as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 153 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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