Smoking bans are having an impact on non-(and for) profit theaters from Wales to New Jersey. In Denver non-profit theaters are suing the state claiming that smoking on stage is a “freedom of expression” issue. The bans are forcing theaters to seek alternatives like herbal cigarettes, but the very action of “lighting up” makes the use of even alternatives against the law.
Some theaters are just hoping that smoking on stage will go unnoticed and oftentimes ordinances are enforced only upon complaints by audience members. Actors who smoke and are fined may also be prohibited from seeking reimbursement by the producing theater depending upon the specifics of each law. Legislators appear unwilling to make exceptions for any act of smoking regardless of whether the “offending” substance is nicotine or herbal for fear of setting precedents that weaken the ban.
We’ve come a long way, baby, to see smoking on stage as “culturally unacceptable??!!!” And what will happen to a whole body of work by writers like Edward Albee, Neil Simon, Noel Coward, who incorporate the act of smoking into stage direction and the written word?? Will bans have a chilling effect on producing certain staples of mid-twentieth century American plays?
For more information see http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/theater/28pinc.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Photo is by Henry Grossman for The New York Times.