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Go to Death of a Salesman, and stay for the whole thing | Flickr
Go to Death of a Salesman, and stay for the whole thing | Flickr

Maybe the actors shouldn’t have been eaves­dropping.

During the inter­mission of a per­for­mance of Moliere’s “The Mis­an­thrope” at Hillsdale in the fall of 2014, actors were waiting back­stage in what is known as the green room. A speaker system on the wall was con­nected to the headsets that members of the crew wear so they could talk to each other from all over the theater. While the assistant stage man­agers and tech crew were chatting, someone men­tioned the amount of people who had gotten up to leave during inter­mission, which was appar­ently enough to be noticeable.

They did not realize the actors had heard them. Without saying much, the cast exchanged dis­mayed glances, hoping their audience wasn’t too dis­ap­pointed by the show as they headed upstairs for Act II.

Unfor­tu­nately, this trend of leaving shows at inter­mission is far too common at Hillsdale, and it should stop. If you haven’t noticed it, then you probably don’t attend much theatre.

“Watching the audience file out is a very quick real­ization that the show’s energy is going to go down quickly,” junior theatre major Nikolai Dignoti said. “If the actors notice, they think, ‘why is my art not worth sitting through?’”

The most common reason people choose to leave plays are their full schedules.

“I under­stand that people are busy,” senior theatre major Dani Morey said. “Theatre is not every­one’s top pri­ority. But we have papers and midterms, too. If you’re going to make the effort to come, don’t leave halfway through.”

While cast and crew appre­ciate busy stu­dents’ desire to support theatre, these stu­dents may not realize that their leaving gives the opposite impression. The cast often can’t help but assume that attendees who abandon ship just didn’t like what they saw. Put simply, if you don’t have time to watch the whole show, you don’t have time to watch the show. Period.

“Leaving a play early is really rude,” Morey said. “It also breaks your con­cen­tration badly, because it’s a small audi­torium so you can see everyone. When someone leaves, you start rewinding the per­for­mance in your mind and trying to figure out what offended them so much that they decided to leave.”

Morey’s first play here at Hillsdale was “Mirror of the Invisible World” by Mary Zim­merman, which is told in an episodic format. She would notice audience members leaving after each scene.

“It got sad because as we came on stage for each group of stories, we’d think, ‘oh, look, five less people,’” Morey said. “The energy really drains when you can feel peo­ple’s attention start to wander and they leave.”

During that same season, a student walked up to an actress after the show and asked her to tell him how the play ended, explaining that he needed to see it for a class but left at inter­mission. Morey described this as the “insult to end all insults.”

Junior theatre major Elena Creed said that she is frus­trated with theatre goers who leave because they are offended by an element of the show, espe­cially if they plan to walk out and demon­strate their dis­ap­proval.

“I’m a firm believer that you cannot ade­quately judge a play unless you see it in its entirety,” Creed said. “One of the greatest aspects of theatre is that is opens up a dia­logue, and espe­cially here at Hillsdale, we should be able to sit through a whole show and discuss its pros and cons and worldview.”

Creed added that the plays at Hillsdale are never intended to offend, and audience members can research shows ahead of time to see if there might be some­thing that they would prefer to avoid.

Dignoti plays the lead role of Willy Loman in the Tower Players’ current pro­duction of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, which opened here on campus on Nov. 16. He urged audience members to watch the show in its entirety.

“Act I ends on a very high note,” Dignoti said. “An argument is resolved, and every­thing’s going to be okay. Those are some of the last words [Loman] says. But every­thing falls apart in the second act.”

If you want to under­stand and appre­ciate this play, you’re going to have to watch to the end. If you miss the tragic element of this story, you miss the story entirely.

However, Dignoti added one important caveat: if you must leave a show early, it is pre­ferred that you leave during inter­mission rather than during the per­for­mance when pos­sible, he said. It’s cer­tainly more dis­ruptive to leave while the actors are onstage.

If you can, you should go watch “Death of a Salesman.” All of it.

Ms. Lasch is a junior studying history and jour­nalism.