Some thoughts on audience members who walk out…

A little ways down the board Dori/Sophia mentioned that the Red Bank Tribe had been concerned that audience members had walked out on their performances. I have been meaning to get a chance to respond to that here but life being what it has been this week I haven’t managed it. So I thought I would cut and paste something I wrote earlier today to a member of that Tribe, in a private email, about this subject, and would love to hear other’s thoughts about this.


I hope no one was upset that people were walking out. The fact that you managed to move people to the point where they were uncomfortable enough to leave is NOT a reflection of a weakness on the performances’ part. It is proof positive that you got it right. That you touched them, made them think. It matters less what they thought, than the fact that they couldn’t ignore you. People walked out on the Broadway production constantly – there are articles on line about it. Yes, the goal is to touch people’s hearts and perhaps make them see another point of view; but some people can’t get there yet. When they walk out it shows that you GOT it, that the performance felt real enough that they were made uncomfortable – so uncomfortable, in fact, that they had to leave. It wasn’t a “nice” presentation of some hippies “Oh look dear, isn’t he a cute one?” as Berger says. Your production was raw and edgy and REAL. So, as some of us used to say in ’68-’72Â – “If someone walked out at least we made them think.” And who knows what can come from that? Who knows what the seeds you planted will grow into? And for every person that walks out, there are ten, or twenty, or a hundred who got what you were saying, and whose life can be touched and changed in a positive way by what you did there on stage.

Anyone else here care to add to that?

Peace and Love,




This entry was posted on Sunday, September 17th, 2006 at 7:37 AM and filed under Uncategorized. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

19 Responses to “Some thoughts on audience members who walk out…”

  1. hamlet said:

    A elderly woman sitting next to us last night in Red Bank was in tears at the start of the intermission. She and her younger male companion did not return for the second act. And I don’t think she was moved by Claude’s anguish.

    How far under a rock do you have to have lived, in the NYC area btw, to be unaware that this is an unconventional and controversial bit of theater? Even in this day and age, it’s not for everyone, and definitely not for the narrow of mind.

  2. JulieWinnMcKay said:

    So well put, Nina. All these years later, many people I meet who saw HAIR some 35 years ago say they remember that the show altered their perspective or changed them somehow — in very subtle ways, sometimes months or even years later.

    In Las Vegas, our theatre was often full of angry drunk gamblers who were given free tickets to the show by the hotel management because they were too loaded to gamble. So many of these audience members were right-wing bigots and flag-waving war mongers, some of whom physically and verbally assaulted cast members before walking out. But no matter how obnoxious they were, I believe the experience usually caused them to do some thinking once they sobered up.

    As you so beautifully state, even disgruntled low- lifers who not only walk but sometimes create havoc in the house, experience something that makes them think, and possibly — we always hope — causes them to look at the world a bit differently.

    Also, some folks abandon their seats simply because they are ill, need to use the rest room or have some other appointment or calling.

    Keep up the good work Red Bank Tribe!

  3. Lyle said:

    Nina – “When they walk out it shows that you GOT it, that the performance felt real enough that they were made uncomfortable – so uncomfortable, in fact, that they had to leave.”
    Julie – “But no matter how obnoxious they were, I believe the experience usually caused them to do some thinking once they sobered up.”

    These are our truths; not made up hyperbole. For the Red Bank and Others; it’s grand, super, dynamic – well done, when you can bring these audiences too tears; equally powerful is your truth that sears the soul and everything that is ordinary.
    Remember; why you are anti-establishment and freaks in the first place. “Hey, let’s go down to the park and scare some tourists”!

  4. Tioga Joe said:

    Dear Lyle, Julie, hamlet, and certainly our dear Little Birdie, Nina — Thank you so much for pitching in to boost the confidence of these wonderful … kids, these beautiful … children (with yet such seemingly OLD souls) who fleshed out the Tribe, … THE Tribe (IMHO) of The Jersey Shore, the Tribe who staged HAIR at the historic Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Monmouth County, New Jersey, USA, September 8-17, 2006.

    My first thought about those walk-outs was, well, they just don’t GET it (we pray that someday they will), and, frankly, it’s best to weed out those who don’t, who can’t, or who simply won’t. Then the 2nd Act is even more the party, the celebration, … and the cathartic … salute … it really ought be. Those still in the audience are those who get it, or those who WANT to get it, or, at least, those who are willing to give their getting a chance.

    Dear Little Nina Bird, lovingly stepping in, lovingly stepping UP to protect our dear children, these sweet, yet clever embodiments of our trust in … the “Hippie Life” and the positively transforming nature of (preferably) the >>studied

  5. Tioga Joe said:

    What the F? They chopped off my last paragraph (above). Guess I wrote past my limit. Well, lemme see here if I can recreate at least the end of the sentence (above):

    … the positively transforming nature of (preferably) the >>studied

  6. Tioga Joe said:

    One more time:

    … nature of the [studied] HAIR hippie.

    Then there was yadda, yadda, yadda, … something, something, something. Then:

    A full day has not yet passed since I last touched the Tribe, and already I’m Jonesing them. I miss them all already.


  7. Mike Blaxill said:

    ha ha!! Tioga Joe for President!!!

  8. Dori Erickson said:

    I’d vote for him!

  9. barbara siomos said:

    Red Bank Tribe… It all comes down to “IF it touched them enough to walk out…YOU did good”


  10. Tioga Joe said:

    Make that the “Anti-President”!

  11. JulieWinnMcKay said:

    One strangely related fact.. . .
    When the road company of HAIR (I think it was the then “bus and truck”Mercury Tribe) was in Florida, the audiences I remember were a different breed than most of the other people who came to the show. In one town (which I can’t recall now) folks actually drove to the theatre on tractors. Needless to say, many of those good-‘ol men and women could not relate to the message — and walked out in disgust. They had been insulated and sheltered by the small towns, farm life small and their churches. Most were die-hard patriots! But the old folks, mainly senior citizens — especially in St. Petersburg, Florida — loved HAIR!!! They applauded, laughed and cheered all through the show, and at the end I recall that quite a few hobbled onto the stage to dance. These over-60 people not only GOT it — most already HAD it. So, what was different? Seniors in the early 1970s had not been sheltered. They lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, Prohibition, artistic, bohemian and beat movements and promiscuity. Some even remembered the wild Gay ’90s.” And, because it was Florida, a few Contration Camp survivors came to the show. All of these people seemed to understood HAIR’s message because they had already lived it — in another era. They had a different kind of hippie-type mentality and morality than ours but strangely similar experiences and conclusions. They knew about love, peace, war, hate, greed, prejudice, sexual revolution, mind-altering substances and all the rest —- and most of them had figured out that they needed to “follow the river”…and why “we live and die…”

  12. writerdirector said:

    there are always some people who walk out
    its no reflection on the play or the production; some people still find hair very contraversial

  13. Dori Erickson said:

    That’s very powerful, Julie. I may be wrong but it’s seems to me the tides of conservatism & liberalism flops back and forth from generation to generation. It may be the rebellion of every generation to go against their conditioning, whether it be liberal or conservative. Anyhoo, great post! That warms my heart!

  14. Mike Blaxill said:

    wow! thanks Julie .. with all the labelling, naming (hippie beat bohemian etc) that goes on you lose sight of the simplicity of the message – the 60s revolution is only the latest chapter in the fight against tyranny .. Hair is such a pwerful tool in that fight

  15. Lyle said:

    So right on – Ms. Julie.
    The crowd’s in St. Peterburg were mostly from the rich upper and middle class Jewish persuasion.

    These kinds of people have a rich history as one can imagine. They were not hypocrites and said what they believed and felt – That is why they LOVED HAIR – bar none -they loved it with all their hearts…You should of heard ’em, I bet a couple of them after the show got it on – even though they were in their 70’s right MB? :-))

    I think Barbara siomos, writerdirector, Dori and Mike Blaxill said it the best; when tides change HAIR is a valuable tool right now and into the year 2525 (I wonder who will be alive…), also, you did your best because when we moved to other demographics, we saw the same thing – some walk out – yes, they are deep under a rock; you are lucky they didn’t throw fire-bombs in the balcony while you’re singing _Walking In Space_BUT the _Show Must Go On! Now that’s Actor;s Equity speaking and yes, you as an actor-crowd control; you know!

  16. LilacAmy11 said:

    Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile (been super busy) but I agree with everyone… yes, it is disappointing that people wouldn’t want to stay and see the whole show – but they were moved (literally, ha ha:), maybe not in the way you wished ideally, but it speaks volumes to the power of your performance. Much better than if they stayed and didn’t “get it” or were bored the whole time. HAIR is not a musical that’s happy and mindless and leaves everyone pleased. It’s not meant to do that (thank god!)


  17. JulieWinnMcKay said:

    Hi Mike —
    just reread your Sept. 22nd post. You could not be more corrrect. Now what?

  18. Mike Blaxill said:

    Hey Julie .. two words .. more HAiR!

  19. Lyle said:

    Please move this particular blog back to the front before it dissapears in obsurity!!!

    We have lift-off here…

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