Are audience participation/interactive shows in peril?

Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group - photo courtesy of Stelb. (flickr)

A Chicago man has filed a lawsuit against the producers of the Blue Man Group theatrical act.  His suit claims that he was chosen by the performers to participate in their “esophagus video” gag.  The actors held the man in place, and allegedly “forced  the esophagus cam into his mouth, and while he struggled to free himself, an image of his mouth and throat was projected on a video screen before the other audience members (including the man's grandson).  The man claims that this amounted to “offensive touching” caused injury to his throat, mouth and dental work, and his lawsuit includes claims for Battery, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lesson for producers of live entertainment featuring interactions with the audience is that care must be taken to select audience participants who indicate their willingness to join in the show, and to be alert to signs that the audience participant may be embarrassed, upset or angered by the events as they unfold.
Audience members should be asked whether they consent to participate, and given a meaningful opportunity to decline.  Ultimately, the performers should take “no” for an answer.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user “Stelb”, used by permission under Creative Commons License

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