Opinion article badgeWhen the audience surged into a crushing knot at the stage, rapper Travis Scott kept going. The death toll from the mayhem at the Nov. 5 Astroworld concert in Houston is now 10 as two people who survived that night recently succumbed to their injuries.

One of the many criticisms that has surfaced in the aftermath of that tragedy is why the concert kept going despite all the carnage, even as an ambulance driver was trying to maneuver the rescue vehicle through the crowd.

Last week, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis held its first live, in-person performance since the start of the pandemic shutdowns. It was opening night of the theater’s longstanding holiday show, “A Christmas Carol.”

After the head of the theater gave a welcome speech, but before the show could begin, a woman in the audience stood up, ripped off her mask and started shouting angry, racist rants to theater patrons. Her unhinged tirade went on for nearly 30 minutes, during which she also spat at people and cursed the theater. The scene was bizarre.

Once the police showed up and the woman was escorted out, the curtain rose and the show began. It was supposed to be a triumphant return to live theater, but many people already had left in disgust and many who stayed were too rattled by what happened to enjoy the evening.

Later, the Guthrie Theater issued an apology for their “failure to condemn the racist remarks” that the disruptive audience member had been screaming at the top of her lungs.

The old adage states that the show must go on. The implication is that no matter what happens, hell or high water or woman screaming filthy words, the team gathered to put on a play or a concert or a show must continue as though nothing is wrong.

It is a mark of professionalism taught to children in dance class and church choir. A great skill valued in a performer is the ability to ignore the distractions and to put on a show so enchanting that no one remembers the parts that went wrong. It’s a skill valued in politicians and community leaders as well.

Beachgoers enjoy the sunshine at Queens Beach on August 22, 2021.
Many had hoped that Hawaii officials would find ways to make tourism better for the local economy and culture. But it’s largely back to business as usual for the industry. Cory Lum/Civil /2021

That rule may not be so golden in this era of incivility and the glorification of mayhem.

Maybe sometimes the show should stop, both literally and figuratively; or at least pause for a moment to reassess. That’s hard to consider right now when it seems like maybe we might be nearing the end of the pandemic, but charging forward without taking stock of what just happened and adjusting accordingly could compound current problems.

Tourism in Hawaii crashed in 2020 because of the pandemic. Then it started up again in 2021, and the effects were truly harmful to many places in the islands. Yet that show goes on. Lawmakers and some in the tourism industry acknowledged that things had to change earlier this year when the reopening of tourism swamped the islands with more visitors than could be comfortably, sensibly accommodated.

Then fall came, and the drive to lure more visitors was right back on again.

Another prime example of the relentless push forward despite huge mistakes and distractions is the cursed Honolulu rail project. Of course, the rail project can be used as an example of just about anything wrong with Hawaii government.

No matter what happens – wheels too small, money not there, land deals not yet made – construction keeps keeping on, a never-ending lucrative contract for various construction companies. It didn’t even stop during the strict shutdowns of the pandemic.

At Hawaii schools, students are being measured against where they should have been if the pandemic never happened. But it happened. Remote learning was, in many cases, not as good. The show might have gone on, but it wasn’t the same show. Getting through shutdowns and coming back to in-person learning is a triumph all on its own.

It’s a useful survival skill to “keep on keeping on” most of the time. We can’t get thrown by every distraction, and some things are best left ignored.

But not everything can or should be ignored, and sometimes the most admirable mark of a pro is knowing when to stop the show, acknowledge the situation and make sure everyone is OK before continuing.

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