How do you handle an emergency?
What do you if you’re in the middle of a stage performance, medical staff are treating an audience member who has fallen ill, and the audience may be getting a little restless?
If you’re Tom Hanks, performing as the redoubtable rogue Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV, you grab your rapier wit and assault the stage with considerable brio and a little something else.
While last Saturday’s performance of Shakespeare’s Henry IV in Los Angeles was interrupted for several minutes by such an emergency, Mr. Hanks literally rushed into action to keep the audience engaged while medics attended to an audience member who had become dehydrated.
“GET BACK HERE!” Hanks shouted in-character running onto the stage with weapon drawn, challenging some audience members who were apparently leaving. “Return to your place with the groundlings. NO ONE’S TO LEAVE!
“GOD,” he bellowed, “has decided this play needed a second intermission!
“BUT…” he said addressing house right, “the scurvy rogues that stood up from their seats and tore apart their tickets are an INSULT to all actors and Shakespeare himself,” then broadly declared, “Get BACK HERE, or find this sword and many a dagger placed neatly in the tires of your carriage!”
Pointing his considerable girth to one side of the house, he added, “No intermission brew for you!”
As reported by the Orange County Register (June 15), “The play’s publicity firm said the patron was reported to be unconscious and sweating, so 911 was called and the show’s crew, which is made up of military veterans who have medical training, assisted until paramedics arrived. But because of the location of the patron, who regained consciousness, the show couldn’t restart. …
“ ‘After about 7 minutes of the stop, Tom Hanks, in full character and with sword drawn, came charging down the hill to tell the audience not to leave, and entertained them for about 5 minutes, including singling out one audience member in an orange frock who he said ‘stole his costume,’ according to the publicist.”
The patient was revived and escorted home by friends.
Taking such action, while others are busy with the emergency at hand, not only requires quick thinking and a quicker wit, but demonstrates the concern of a true gentleman.
What is a true gentleman?
A gentleman is courteous, and well-mannered, of course, but he also treats others with respect, even when some act disrespectful to him. He doesn’t wait on the sidelines when unforeseen events occur, and is willing to take the initiative to help others.
Deborah King and Melissa Case-Merritt specialize in civility, social behavior and etiquette training. Their instructive website, Final Touch, offers several articles that can inspire us all to be a little better when it comes to manners.
In a post entitled, 10 Qualities of a Modern Gentleman, they write, “Today, being a gentleman is a matter of choice. It is a title you earn through an unwavering commitment to invest in your character. It is not about perfection, but a constantly renewed pursuit of excellence. Gentlemen are not stiff, pretentious, or focused on elevating themselves. Instead, they strive to succeed while helping those around them succeed as well.”
And, I like this part in particular: “Being a gentleman means that you care about how your choices impact others.”
Among their 10 qualities:
“A gentleman is generous with his time, wisdom, and resources. He looks for ways to help others.
“A gentleman chooses to be positive. His positivity is contagious, and his consistent encouragement draws others to him.
“A gentleman embraces civility by valuing all people and treating everyone with respect. From the janitor to the CEO, he carefully considers how his behavior and words impact others. He treats female and male colleagues with the same respect.
“A gentleman is well-spoken and a focused listener. He demonstrates conversational competence and leaves others feeling inspired, engaged, and understood. He manages his tone and body language to maximize connection.
“A gentleman does the right thing even when no one is watching. He is a man of his word and is not swayed by peer pressure or popular opinion. The man he is at work is the same person you will encounter in the community and at his home.”
As for the gentlemanly Mr. Hanks — who clearly demonstrated all of the above — we see an honorable man who recognizes that sometimes, humor is the best medicine of all.