Thursday, February 01, 2007

Audience Etiquette

This is a story I compiled for our CenterBill - our in-house program at all the shows. We get a lot of questions about behavior, and we frankly see more bad behavior than we'd like. It's a shame when someone may try to gently speak to someone about something they may be doing that's out of line only to be blasted with an angry "I paid for my ticket, so I can do what I want!"

In a way we wanted to put this together to show that there is an expectation of how you should behave, regardless, and to hopefully demystify some things. Hopefully this may also get through to those who still choose to act like they're on their couch watching TV to explain why certain things are rude, or how they can affect others. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think may need to read it. :)

Live performance is truly magical: art created out of the energy flowing between people on both sides of the curtain. When you attend a show – you’re part of the experience. There is no rewind button at a live event. They are once-in-a-lifetime events - no single performance is like another.

Undesirable behavior as simple as taking a photograph, or having a conversation at the wrong time, can ruin that moment for everyone in the theater. Unlike TV or movies, which are the same on the screen whether you’re watching or not – live performance is directly affected by the audience.

Part of one's pact as an audience member is to care about the enjoyment of others. It’s also helpful to keep in mind where you are. Different situations require different standards of behavior. What is acceptable at a rock concert could be questionable at an opera.

In general:

  • Listen to the pre-show announcements.
  • Read the program notes and entrance signs.
  • When in doubt, ask the ushers. They’re here to help.

Obeying these general rules of the theater will ensure that everyone can enjoy the show.

The 10 commandments of theater etiquette

1. Arrive early, stay until it’s over. Yes, parking lots get busy and traffic is tricky, but arriving late or leaving while the show is in progress is discourteous. Plan to arrive no later than 15 minutes before your curtain time to avoid problems. If you’d like to avoid the rush out, ask if any of the catering operations are open, even just to have a cup of coffee while discussing the performance you just saw. That’s better than performers seeing “walking ovations instead of standing ovations.”

2. If you want to bring a child to a show, make sure it’s something that will hold their attention for the entire performance. When children get bored, they easily can become a distraction for anyone nearby. Check TBPAC’s rules regarding children age 5 and under. If you decide to bring a child, make sure that you discuss proper etiquette. Any patron interrupting a performance will be asked to leave without a refund, which we really don’t want to have to do.

3. Make sure beepers, cell phones, PDAs and watch alarms are OFF. Then check again. Do not take flash photography or – or in any way – record the show. And don't jangle your bangles!

4. Don’t talk during the performance, which includes the overture. When the lights in the auditorium begin dimming, the show is about to start and it’s time to hear from the performers not the audience.

5. Unwrap all candies and cough drops before the show begins. You’re not being sneaky by doing it slowly over the course of 10 minutes.

6. Unless instructed to do so by the performers - do not talk, hum, sing along, or beat time with a body part.

7. Go easy with the atomizer; many people are highly allergic to perfume and cologne.

8. Note to lovebirds: Save it for later. When you lean your heads together, you block the view of the person behind you. Leaning forward also blocks the view. And no one really wants to watch you make out.

9. Wait for a pause or intermission before rifling through a purse, backpack or bag.

10. The old standby: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Good manners and courtesy have not changed. Manners count everywhere.


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