“This artist is difficult”

Climbing Daddy and I went to Austin recently to see a performance by Hannah Gadsby.

She is autistic, which she’s spoken about very openly in her shows.

We received an email saying that the doors opened at 6, show started at 7, and late arrivals would be seated when there was an appropriate break in the show.

I don’t know where “an appropriate break” would be in a stand-up comedy performance.

For context for everything that follows, please know that while I’m much better than I used to be, I am chronically late. I’m not late all the time any more, and I’m fewer minutes late, but being on time is still not a strength.

I thought it was fabulous to let people know they need to be on time or not be seated immediately. 

I think it’d be just as good to say you won’t be seated at all if you’re not there on time.

As a person in the audience with many rows of people in front of me, it was delightful not to have my experience interrupted by people coming in late.

Before the show, we chatted with the usher for a minute or two. The seating in the theatre started in the middle and increased towards the edges, differentiated by “left” and “right.” So seats 1L and 1R were across the center aisle from each other and 12L/12R were on the outside aisles.

The ushers were clearly used to folks being on the wrong side, and our guy was animated about people showing him their ticket so he could confirm they’re on the correct side of the theatre. I didn’t point out that by the time we got to him, two ushers had already looked at our tickets, and that we sat and watched one of them sending people to the other side to find their seat.

He was in a sweat, moving back and forth between the middle aisle and the side aisle.

During a lull in his running—because we were seated half an hour early—I asked him why they didn’t just number the seats from one end to the other; he didn’t know. I told him it seems like the current numbering system is a pain, which led him into his rant about seeing people’s tickets, which brought him to complaining, “This artist is difficult.” Once the lights go down, she didn’t allow ushers to use their flashlights, and he didn’t know how he was supposed to do his job.

Maybe his job shouldn’t need to include a flashlight. Maybe people could just be on time.

Despite the email warning, a lot of people arrived between 7 and 7:30. The show started at 7:30. While that’s a nice way of catching the latecomers without it being an issue—latecomers who received the same email warning we did and didn’t heed it—sitting for an hour before anything even happened was not ideal.

(Background music becoming increasingly louder didn’t enhance the wait.)

I recognize I’m in the minority and most people can just sit for hours. But I would have stood for a while and/or walked around if I’d known I had an hour. I should have just stood at my seat until the lights went down.

What I kept coming back to as I thought about the situation was our lack of expectation for people to be on time and that maybe we should shift that.

As an aside: cell phones and smart watches were put in little locked pouches so they were unusable during the performance. This was another beautiful feature of the show—though I would have liked to take a photo of the artistry in the theatre ceiling—because it doesn’t take many thoughtless cell phone users to significantly impact the enjoyment of that kind of show.

(I’m guessing the primary issue for her issue was the light from them—same issue as the usher’s flashlights.)

That said, the only way I know when the show started—because I didn’t have my phone to check the time—is because the woman sitting next to us had a plain old analog watch on.

Another aside: good for Hannah for requiring what she needs to be able to work, even if it means a sweaty usher in the upper balcony is stressed about doing his job and people are complaining about not having their phones handy. Maybe the issue isn’t that the artist is difficult but that people are self-centered and/or disrespectful.

2 thoughts on ““This artist is difficult””

  1. Hi Heat!
    As an aspiring creative, I’ve had to be firm about having time to be in my studio and to get the work done. My daughter (who’s smarter than her 28 years) told me I need boundaries. She was spot on!

    Recently, I listening to Joseph Campbell being interviewed by Bill Moyers is that everyone needs to have a place to be with their Bliss. This could be a certain hour of the day or a designated place in the world (like in the woods). I’ve been using that trick for a few years now. I use the time of day . Since I’m a super early riser (commonly up by 5am), I spend at least 15 minutes being creative and making art. Many days I spend more than 15 minutes.

    To do my work, I’m being “difficult” by letting everyone know what I need. I need to get into my studio to work and I need my bliss time. Funny how my family has respected both of those once I declared them. I should have done this years ago.

    Namaste, Pamela

    • “Difficult” is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? “They’re not doing it in the way that makes it easiest for me,” regardless the reasons or the ramifications of doing it another way…


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