(Backlogging my mitzvah for yesterday, never had a chance to add it. In my neighbourhood, there are bins for recycling plastic bottles, bins for paper, bins for other garbage, of course, and a place to leave old clothing that perhaps someone else can use. Clothes that are still good and just don’t fit any more I donate elsewhere, but yesterday I did some sorting through my closet and dropped off some clothes and shoes – an hour later I saw that they all were gone, so I hope someone will get some good use of them!)
There’s a story in the news that has some people irritated, some people laughing, and some people throwing their hands up in surrender over the whole thing. The municipal theatre in Haifa puts on several plays a year, a few classics, many contemporary, some edgy. In a play currently running, several of the characters smoke cigarettes throughout the play, it’s part of the setting, it’s part of the period, it’s part of who these particular characters are. One woman who went to the play is now suing the theatre and the city for breaking the law banning smoking in public places. She claims that the performance exposes the audience to smoke and shouldn’t be allowed, and just because it’s a play the company shouldn’t be exempt from the law.
I should mention that cigarette smoke affects me strongly, and not in a good way. It’s much more than simply being sensitive. Before an anti-smoking law was passed here (no smoking in public or closed areas), there were times when even though we were sitting in a “non-smoking” area of a restaurant, I simply had to get up and leave, or choke. I didn’t go to the play before this story broke, and now that I know, I will have to refrain from seeing this show.
It’s an interesting question – this is a play, a performance, make-believe, set in a period when people smoked a lot and didn’t know a lot about the consequences. So should the characters be allowed to smoke on stage? When we know now that it poses a real health danger to the audience? Not to mention the actors…but then, they chose to accept the roles. The audience didn’t know about this particular detail in advance.
My feelings are somewhat jumbled up with an experience I had just last month that I hadn’t had in several years. And it was a baddie. A colleague’s son was getting married, and I was honoured to be invited. After work, properly gussied up for the evening, I got a ride with a couple of others, and off we went to this very fancy hall. Lots of hot appetizers, and we munched and shmoozed and had a cocktail or two. I was a bit taken aback that there were people standing by the bar with lit cigarettes, but I kept my distance and decided to just avoid that area.
So a group of us grab a table. Actually, people from work took up quite a few tables. As we sat down with our plates of appetizers and our drinks, a woman at the next table lit up a cigarette. Within a few minutes another four of her companions had done the same. Not wanting to cause a scene, I quietly complained to a waiter, who went and “asked” them to put out the cigarettes. They ignored him. The woman sat and lit one after the other, I don’t think she was one minute without. I got up and told the people that it was really bothering us. They held their arms out away from me, as if that was going to be enough. I next asked the waiter to call the manager. By this time people were smoking all around us – I guess they saw some people start, so they all figured it was ok. The manager just shrugged.
At this point I went to watch the wedding ceremony, so I got away from the smoke a little. But then I simply couldn’t go back to our table. People at many of the tables were now smoking. There was a cloud in the room….a closed room, no open windows, and a haze of smoke hanging in the air. Everyone at my table got up and moved to a table at the very end of the room. It didn’t help. There was dancing, so I got up to dance….and couldn’t breathe. At one point I thought I would faint. I tried sitting on the floor, but that wasn’t any better, there was too much smoke around.
I went outside for air, but all the people who still respected the law were standing outside smoking! I walked farther and farther away until I found a bench and sat to try to breathe and stop the nausea. After a while I went back inside, and sat with different friends at the other end of the hall, closer to the door. Time for the meal. The first course came, but by this time my throat and sinuses were burning and I couldn’t taste a thing. I tried. Then I found the fellow who drove me and told him I was leaving, that I would take a cab so he could stay. He said no way, went and found the others who had come with us, and we all left.
I got home and went to bed, and stayed there another full day until the nausea was over.
So….back to the play…in most cases, I would be waving a flag for freedom of expression and against censorship in theatre, but my own personal experience with smoking makes me pause on this issue.
Share your opinions?