A suprisingly dramaturgically sensitive Colorado appeals court has nevertheless rejected an appeal by three Denver theatre troupes to strike down a state law banning smoking--even herbals--on stage.
A Colorado appeals court ruled on Thursday that smoking by an actor on stage, while possibly important to character and theatrical message, is still banned by the state's two-year-old indoor smoking law.
"The smoking ban was not intended to prevent actors from expressing emotion, setting a mood, illustrating a character trait, emphasizing a plot twist or making a political statement," a three-member panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals said in its unanimous ruling, upholding a lower court's verdict.
But, the court added, "smoking, by itself, is not sufficiently expressive to qualify for First Amendment protection."
I think the theatres have a fair argument--in a libertarian way (Don't want second hand smoke? Don't see our show!) But I was impressed by this challenge by the judges:
In its ruling, the Court of Appeals said that theaters were already in the business of make-believe, and that barring smoking was essentially no different from barring the use of illegal drugs or real violence.
"Murders are not committed, actors do not fire live bullets at each other or at the audience, the theater is not set afire to illustrate the burning of Rome in 'Julius Caesar,' " the court said. "The audience is aware that the scenes are not real."
Wow, what a great theatre-semiotics question!
Just one thing, your honors--Julius Caesar? Rome burning? Wrong play!!! (In fact, wrong medium. I think you're thinking of Quo Vadis!)