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Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 07/24/2011

Shakespeare actor chides front-row patron over electronic music

Hey, Shakespeare didn’t write that: The pivotal scene in “The Merchant of Venice” that was disrupted Thursday night at Harman Hall. Drew Cortese is on the far right. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
Is traditional theater just too one-way for you? Looking to break through that old fourth wall and get an actor’s attention? Your portable electronic device might do the trick.

Actors typically try to ignore distractions from the audience — but they have their limits. Drew Cortese discovered his at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Hall during Thursday night’s “The Merchant of Venice,” which finished its run last weekend. The actor was midway through a key scene in which his character, Bassanio, was trying to select one of three caskets, a test devised by Portia’s father to determine who should win her hand in marriage.

But his performance suddenly faced competition: strange music emanating from the audience.

Come on, really? An iPod at the theater? (Julie Jacobson/AP file image)
When it didn’t stop, Cortese stopped mid-speech and confronted the sound: “Would someone turn that off, please?”

He waited, and then a woman in the front row confessed: “It’s my iPod.”

Theater reps say the woman apparently couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, so she exited the theater. (Still leaves the question: Why was her iPod on?) Cortese did not return our calls, but another ticket-holder in the room that night told us “the audience clearly supported the actor’s demand for attention and respect for the performance.”

By  |  08:00 PM ET, 07/24/2011

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