‘Hamilton’ actor calls out Salt Lake City theatergoers for using cellphones at Sunday matinee, during Jazz game

Utah Jazz fan sends personal apology to actor after “snarky” comment receives backlash.

(Courtesy photo by Joan Marcus) Joseph Morales (standing on box) and Nik Walker play Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in the Philip tour of the Tony Award-winning hip-hop musical, "Hamilton."

It wasn’t pistols at dawn at Weehawken, but the actor portraying Alexander Hamilton in the touring production of “Hamilton” at Salt Lake City’s Eccles Theater threw down the gauntlet at Utah theatergoers via Twitter.

What got Joseph Morales riled up? Patrons looking at their cellphones during Sunday’s matinee performance.

“SLC, you’re killing me,” Morales posted on Twitter during intermission. “Put your phones away. We can see you. This isn’t a movie. What is up with you guys?”

Most people responding to Morales’ tweet expressed outrage that anyone would be looking at their phones rather than watching Morales and company deliver Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning hip-hop history lesson.

One tweeter wasn’t impressed with Morales’ ire.

“Jazz in the NBA playoffs … deal with it. You’re not the biggest show in town,” tweeted Tim Ormond, a Utah Jazz fan who was watching Sunday’s NBA playoff game between the Jazz and the Houston Rockets.

“It was 100 percent in jest, just a snarky little comment,” Ormond told The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday.

Ormond, owner of the translation business InSync Interpreters in Sandy, said he felt blowback from his tweet. People have attacked him on Twitter, he said, and posted fake negative reviews on his business’s Facebook page.

Even Morales answered back. He tweeted a response: “… by all means, go to the game or stay home. This is what we’re dealing with in SLC, folks. So rude it’s shocking.”

Ormond said Monday he sent a direct message via Twitter to Morales, a personal apology for his comment. “I wasn’t intending to belittle his craft,” Ormond said, adding that his apology was a personal one. “I don’t need to take down any of my tweets and do it in a public sense.”

The run of “Hamilton” is in its final week at the Eccles, with evening shows Tuesday through Saturday, and matinees Saturday and Sunday. Wednesday’s show will coincide with game 2 of the Jazz-Rockets series in Houston, while Friday night’s show will run the same time the Jazz host the Rockets in game 3 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Morales added a conciliatory tweet Monday: “The world is wide enough for @utahjazz and @HamiltonMusical. #TakeNote.”

The “Hamilton” cast has shown support for the Jazz, with several actors taking advantage of the show’s night off to attend last Monday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Salt Lake City isn’t unique in having lapses in phone etiquette in the theater, said Karen Azenberg, artistic director of Pioneer Theatre Company.

“It happens in New York, I don’t want to say regularly, but with some frequency,” Azenberg said. In New York, she said, phones are often a sign of theatergoers trying to record the show, which is illegal.

Actors, Azenberg said, “are actually alive. This is not a movie. This is not the television. These are live people performing directly for the audience. … And while [actors are] not watching the audience, they can see those lights come on. It implies [the audience is] not paying attention.”

“It takes you out of what you’re doing,” agreed Cynthia Fleming, executive artistic director of Salt Lake Acting Company. “Instead of being in that moment, being that character, being in that reality, you go ‘Oh, somebody’s on their cellphones’ in your head.”

Fleming said theater directors are having to adjust to an increasingly tech-centered world. “We’re connected to the world, but we’re not connected to the person sitting next to us,” Fleming said. “It’s a really bizarre thing.”

Azenberg said cellphone etiquette should be observed, whether in the theater or at the dinner table.

“My hope is that it’s actually encouraging the world to pay attention to the thing you’re doing at the moment,” she said.