Sharing grace in China.

DSC_4009C.jpg

Blog

Laser beams battle cell phones

Laser beams battle cell phones

BEIJING — Audience members using cellphones bedevil performers and presenters around the world. But in China, theaters and other venues have adopted what they say is an effective — others might say disturbing — solution.

Zap them with a laser beam.

Usher sharpshooters

The approach varies, but the idea is the same. During a performance, ushers equipped with laser pointers are stationed above, or on the perimeter of, the audience. When they spot a lighted mobile phone, instead of dashing over to the offender, they pounce with a pointer (usually red or green), aiming it at the glowing screen until the user desists.

Call it laser shaming.

Uninformed theater-goers

“It’s usually only a small fraction of the audience that we have to deal with,” said Wang Chen, an employee in the theater affairs department at the Shanghai Grand Theater. “They can’t help themselves. So we try to give them a gentle reminder, so they know what they’re doing.”

This may be a response to a particularly acute problem here. Audience numbers have surged in recent years, along with the number of new performance spaces. And theatergoers are often noticeably younger than in the United States and Europe, with a corresponding lack of experience with Western-style concert etiquette. The lasers, theater managers say, are part of a larger effort to teach audiences how to behave during live performances.

Not a new strategy

Laser pointers have been used for years as disciplinary devices at many of China’s leading performance halls, including the National Center, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center and the Shanghai Grand Theater.

Source: Amy Qin, New York Times