Heckling at show raises concern
by Christina Russell
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER
Last Friday students flocked to Maxey Auditorium, where Whitman’s Theatre Sports troupe faced Washington State’s Nuthouse in a game of improvisation. The evening started like any other T-Sports performance, save for the midnight show time and Washington’s presence on the stage. “No alcohol allowed” signs laced the entrance, but as Whitties piled into the building, an escalation in noise served to expose the state of the audience.
As the show unfolded, talking did not cease and progressed to heckling while Nuthouse was up.
“I remember turning my head more than once to see who could possibly say most of the stuff that was said,” said first-year Nadim Damluji. “I thought I was in a venue with my peers, but I felt alone.”
When Theatre Sports asked for audience participation in a game involving thinking of something you really wouldn’t want to do, Whitties yelled, “Attend Wazzu! Live in Pullman! Be a Coug!” One Nuthouse performer responded, “At least I go to school and won’t end up working at McDonald’s.”
In a statement released by members of Theatre Sports, the team reflected on the evening’s events and said the following: “Friday’s show left a sort of bad taste in our mouths. We did a similar midnight show a couple years back with WSU. The atmosphere for that show was relatively rowdy for the obvious reason that it was a midnight show on a Friday, but we didn’t see nearly the same sort of unpleasant atmosphere we did for this last show.”
WSU anticipated this behavior. In fact, Nuthouse director John Hanus was part of the original group that performed on campus two years ago and knew what to expect. “I sent the five people I did because they are the more aggressive improv players on my team. If Whitman was rowdy I knew they could handle it and would be able to steamroll through all of them.” WSU had approached Whitman to do this performance, in an attempt to “strengthen relations and connect eastern Washington,” said Hanus.
Nuthouse players were ready for the criticism but felt that their performance was impacted. “I don’t mind being a kind of sacrificial lamb once in a while, I’m a big boy, I can handle it,” said Nuthouse member Jared Chastain. Chastain acknowledged what was at the core of a lot of criticism that WSU received that night: “Players that were the most vulgar were definitely from Pullman. I know those players very well; they aren’t like that at home. I could tell they were nervous.”
While the WSU audience sat “very attentive” according to Chastain, Whitman was “more like a video game, really interactive. That startled the players.” One player, Chris Hayes, said that he “noticed there were a lot of people in the audience ‘shooshing’ the hecklers,” exposing the dichotomous nature of audience members. “We were told Whitman gets competitive,” said Hayes.
Theatre Sports has considered never hosting an event of this nature again because of last Friday night.
“We’re not sure what made this show different, but in the future when we do competitive shows with teams from other schools, they won’t take place on a weekend night and they will definitely be much earlier. This kind of show at a late hour clearly doesn’t foster the best audience-performer relationship. There was a certain level of vulgarity that should remain intolerable.”
Theatre Sports has been apologetic for what happened. “We sincerely apologize to anyone who had an unpleasant experience, and we hope to use the semester’s last show to make it up to you.”
T-Sports will tentatively be holding a long-form show in Kimball on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. The show will be entitled “Theatre Sports gets clean.”