A Writer's 21st Century Memoir.

Death on the Stage: Why the Audience Needs to Respect Performers

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Cobb Great Hall stage at Wharton Center

Men and women flew up into the air turning, twisting, and contorting their bodies into various bends and tucks that wowed their audience. Dazzling lights, pyrotechnics and water effects flooded the show—and all I could do was let my jaw drop in awe. That was just the first act of Cirque Du Soleil’s Luzia performance that I watched at the OC Fair and Events Center in Costa Mesa.

My sister and I had taken my mom and my grandma to the show for their birthday. They enjoyed it, and I believed that everything went well until we walked out into the parking lot.

“The first half wasn’t that good, but it picked up towards the end of the second half.” A tall man was walking out into the parking lot behind us and was commenting on the show to his family.

My sister and I immediately whipped our heads around in disbelief. Did he not watch the same show? Dozens of gymnasts, dancers, and acrobats were risking their lives to entertain an audience with a beautiful performance, and there people shoveling popcorn into their mouths seemingly unimpressed by it all.

“Could he do any of that?” My sister had turned to me in her state of disgust. “That comment he made really bothered me.”

“That’s how performs get killed,” I replied. My mind quickly wandered back to all of the other news stories about horrible theater accidents. “They try to one-up their last stunt to impress future audiences, and they end up getting hurt in the process.”

I suppose at that moment I didn’t have an issue with the fact that he didn’t care for the show, but more of a problem with his lack of respect for the performers who were doing advanced-level moves and displaying top-level talent.

“These performers are athletes,” my sister said recalling the event about the commenter. “You wouldn’t tell Olympians they weren’t good enough if they didn’t land every trick? They have so much pressure to land every single one of these tricks. They practice for months and to hear him say that sounded rude to me.”

My sister forwarded me a story online about a Cirque Du Soleil performer who had attempted an aerial trick and died during a live performance for a different show in Tampa. “It was a different show, but it still could have occurred during the performance we watched.”

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