Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Smoking on Stage

By • Oct 12th, 2006 • Category: Backstage, The Time of Your Life

The Denver Post is reporting on a new indoor statewide smoking ban taking effect shortly that will bad indoor smoking, including on stage in live theatre. Thespians tackling smoking ban. Fascinating. The Time of Your Life takes place in a bar in 1939, so of course there is smoking going on. The script calls for a celebratory cigar smoking scene near the end of the show, and one of the streetwalkers smokes cigarettes on stage. While I’m not a fan of cigarette smoke (and was a bit concerned because I was one of those scripted to be smoking one of those cigars), the smoking we’re doing makes perfect sense for the characters and the action. One character actually defines herself and her limits through the cigar smoking. It seems obvious to me that an exception for smoking by performers in live theatre should be made. The theatre should also let their audience know that there will be smoking done on stage.

Does anyone know if there are restrictions on on-stage smoking in Virginia, Maryland or DC?

Update: October 30, 2006: Tobacco can’t play into works on stage, Denver Post.

This article can be linked to as:

started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

6 Responses »

  1. Sorry but I totally disagree with you … it does not seem obvious to me that an exception for smoking by performers in live theatre should be made. In fact I don’t think that an exception for actors should even be considered!

    You know actors can only act if they have an audience. If such legislative leeway were to be provided I think a clause should be added requiring a disclosure to be made for all productions when smoking will be occurring on stage. Furthermore I would suggest that this disclosure be required not only boldly at the theater at the time of each show but also each and every time the production is advertised and/or tickets are sold. I personally am sick and tired of sitting in small black box theaters while actors on stage are puffing away on cigarettes- I can smell the cigarette . Consumers have the right to this information and to make a concise decision as whether or not they want to support productions of this nature. Its amazing but I find this happening at a significant percentage of shows that I attend…and I attend 1 -2 shows a week.

    Next point- An exception such as you have described is unfair to actors and other theater staff! The health dangers of smoking and/or being exposed to smoking are well documented. Its unfair to require that an actor be willing to smoke or be exposed to a smoke filled stage in order to get a part.

    There are alternatives. There are phony cigarettes available plus I’ve seen times when actor will effectively use a cigarette as a prop without ever actually lighting it up and puffing on it.

  2. That’s an interesting point about using it as a prop and not lighting up. That’s a really obvious idea I didn’t think of. I had the image of a smoke filled bar so in those scenes in TOYL with some smoke curling up, I thought it looked right. But maybe the smoke isn’t really that important. Mike

  3. So last night I went to see “Enemy of the People” over at the Shakespearean Theater. Very nice show- great sets and great costuming. Wouldn’t you know it there was a scene when someone lit up again- this time a pipe. Now you know this is pretty large venue so most folks probably didn’t even smell the pipe. But no we sitting in the center of the row of the orchestra so we got the full effects of pipe. In context to play was it viable for the character to have lit up a pipe…sure. Did the pipe really add anything …no. Its just seems like directors feel a need to add these smoking activities to shows even if they don’t contribute anything to the audience’s understanding of the characters. In this case the pipe easily been merely used as a prop and been just as effective.

  4. I believe that if it isn’t specifically mentioned in the script smoking should not be done on stage. I have been doing in theater since I was 8 years old in 1969. I have smoked plenty of times on stage and I can honestly say that almost everytime I have done so it has enabled me to take a short cut to defining the character. It is a trick that a lot of actors pull out of their bags of tricks to make the character look cool or tough.

    In “The time of Your Life” that scene at the end the characters have to smoke cigars. But that doesn’t mean the actors have to do so. There are props that will pass as cigars and the audience will never know. If the audience is so involved in whether there are real cigars on stage then you have lost them anyway.

    As for banning smoking stage I am all against it. As long as it is made clear to the audience that their is smoking on stage and every effort is made to not have the audience be affected by it then it should not be banned.

    And if anyone is wondering yes I do smoke.

  5. p.s

    You can not smoke on Elden Streets stage anymore. I bewleive that is being enforced by the Fire Marshall.

  6. Denver Post: “Smoke ruling has the reek of censorship”…

    On October 12, we shared with you a link to an article at the Denver Post about Denver’s new state wide ban on smoking, including in theaters onstage. The case has started its legal trek apparently on the way to the Supreme Court. Smoke ruling ha…