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Broadway Shockers 2019: Broadway Texting Debacles Feature Kanye West and Rihanna

The answer to the question, "Who can use a phone at the theater?" depends on who you ask.

Kanye West and Rihanna were both involved in Broadway texting scandals this year.
(© David Gordon/Joseph Marzullo)

As 2019 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most jaw-dropping stories of the year.

Debates over phone use are nothing new on Broadway. From Patti LuPone's phone-thievery to Hand to God guy's public apology, 2015 saw a whole range of debacles. And just this year, our critics Hayley Levitt and Zachary Stewart addressed phone use at the theater in a series of Point-Counterpoint conversations.

But it turns out there was still one stone left unturned: famous people.

Celebrities have a reputation for thinking the rules don't apply to them. Do Broadway artists agree? In 2019 it was a mixed bag. First Cher Show star Jarrod Spector made it clear that, in his opinion, stars need to put down their phones during a show just like anyone else. In fact, a mild brouhaha ensued when after noticing Kanye West using his phone during Act 1, Spector took to Twitter to call out the behavior – and West responded that he'd just loved the show so much that he was taking notes.

On the other end of the spectrum, when Rihanna visited Broadway's Slave Play and decided to text playwright Jeremy O. Harris from the audience – during the performance – Harris couldn't have been less perturbed. In fact, he was all too happy to share the texts with the media during a Q&A. He explained:

"She texted me at 8:51 p.m., 'wtffffffffffffff?' And then at 8:57, she said, 'Oh my God, you're epic.' And then I responded, literally crying, 'How dare you?' And then at 10:24, she said, 'Am I looking at an actual d—- right now?'"

So in the end, Broadway left us with more questions than answers about how theater professionals feel about celebs using cellphones at the theater. I guess we'll just have to wait for the next incident to get a hard and fast answer. Here's hoping BTS stops by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf for a selfie.