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Nov 27, 201711:01 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Getting Priorities Straight on Broadway

When the Saints beat the Washington Redskins on the Sunday before last many people were reminded of that thrilling game during the 2009 championship season. The two teams also played a thriller, which the Saints won in overtime. The game brings back a special memory for me because it caused me to be ejected from a Broadway theater. Below is the story. Plus notice the follow-up message from a commenter who told of a similar incident that day in New Orleans.

- EL


Dec. 7, 2009:

This happened yesterday in Manhattan –– on Broadway. It was intermission time at the Walter Kerr Theater, where a revival of "A Little Night Music" was on the marquee. As the houselights went up, most of the people in the audience oohed about how beautiful co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones was and at how grand Angela Lansbury’s performance had been and how lush and wonderful Stephen Sondheim’s music can be. 

I, on the other hand, had something else on my mind –– how were the Saints doing? Earlier that afternoon, until the show started, Todd, our company CEO, had been sending me text messages from home about the game. When the show began, the game was in the second quarter, but I had to silence my cell phone while knowing that the Saints were not doing very well.

As Broadway theaters go, the Walter Kerr is all right, except that the seats must have been designed back when the average person’s height was 5-foot-4, leaving no knee room for 6-footers. Then there were the ushers, a stern group including one whom I came to think of as “the Nazi.” During the intermission, when an audience member tried to take a picture of the ornate theater ceiling, the Nazi came down on her. The audience member explained that she was not taking a picture of the performance, just the ceiling, but the Nazi was insistent: no pictures. As I stood outside the seating area trying to retrieve follow-up text messages, I heard the Nazi admonish an elderly woman whose offense was to sit in a chair next to the restroom. “People are not allowed to sit in that chair,” the Nazi exclaimed while I wondered why there was a chair at all if people were not allowed to sit in it. 

I had hoped that my texting would uncover an easy explanation of what happened in the Saints game, but from the steady string of messages, I could tell that the game had become complicated. As the house lights began to blink, indicating that the second act was starting, I decided to call Todd for a verbal account. When he answered by saying, “Can you believe what is happening?!” and told me that the game was going into overtime, I resolved that I was not going back into the theater until the contest was over. I also sensed that I was about to get into trouble with the Nazi.

I was standing outside the seating area on the other side of a door with a cell phone to my ear as Todd was giving me updates. Another usher told me that I could not be talking on a cell phone. I tried to explain that I was not talking but listening. To avoid trouble, I moved partially up a stairway, but it was too late: The Nazi had already spotted me. She told me that I would either have to get off the cell phone or go outside. 

I had hoped the game would end, but there were timeouts, coaches, challenges, the Saints lining up for a field goal, a Washington timeout. By this time, the Nazi had escorted me out the door, onto the street where the temperature hovered near freezing. Finally, however, I got the word. Field goal! Saints win! 

I still had the matter of getting back into the theater. Because I had not planned on being evicted, I had not brought my ticket nor overcoat with me. I feared the Nazi was already calling Homeland Security.

Fortunately, a levelheaded staff member decided to take a chance on me and allowed me inside after I told him what my seat number was. I sensed the eyes of the entire ushering staff as I worked my way back to my seat, climbing over a British couple to squeeze back into my space.

During the remainder of the second act, I discovered something about Stephen Sondheim’s music that probably few people on Broadway know: It sounds even better after a Saints win.

When the performance was over, I passed by the Nazi who was standing at the door. I thought about suggesting to her that maybe she should loosen up, but then I decided to say nothing. After all, I reasoned, she might have other problems, including being a Jets fan.

 


Dec 7, 2009 04:32 pm

Posted by Anonymous
Hi Errol:

Your story was very amusing, and I felt your pain. I too attended a play yesterday in New Orleans at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre. I was there with a friend to see The Color Purple. When I planned the outing several months ago, I didn’t think about it being a Saints Sunday and definitely didn’t know that the Saints were going to be in a battle to become 12 and 0.

So I honored my obligation and attended the 2:00 performance. It was during intermission that the craziness started. I was walking up the stairs to visit the bar when the place broke out in screams and chaos. I remember it as a slow-motion moment where I was trying to determine if there was a sniper in the house or if Brad Pitt had just been spotted. But I could see on the faces of the crowd that the people were joyous, so I stopped to ask someone what was going on. “We just went into overtime,” I was told. So, of course, I was elated. “We” are the Saints, and the Saints R us! It was an appropriate reaction during intermission, and I cheered along with the rest of the house.

Then the performance started again. The character, Celie, was in front of the curtain singing a soulful solo that was really a prayer to God as to why He had brought so much pain into her life. Well, it was right smack dab in the middle of the song when the final whistle blew and the Saints won the game. I could tell that because the entire theater broke out into “Who Dat” chants and screams. Now, I’m as happy as anyone about the win, and I asked the waiter at the restaurant we visited after the performance to tell me all about it. But I was embarrassed for our City and the manners of its people. What did that poor actress think about us? What did that whole cast that had raised money for Katrina victims and had worked on rebuilding a home in Violet think about that outcry in the middle of a performance? Hopefully they were merciful and hopefully they were football fans too.

Debbie G. Levy

 

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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