Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DOs and DON'Ts for Theater Audiences

I see a ton of theater (obviously), and in doing so I witness a lot of rude audience behavior. I wouldn't think that I'd need to explicitly call out what is and isn't appropriate in a theater audience, but judging from the atrocious behavior I witnessed last week, I do. In speaking with some theater friends we decided that audience behavior is only getting worse. "Whatever happened to class?"

Here are a few friendly tips for my fellow audience members (all inspired by true events). Feel free to add your own in the comments below. (Updated with comments from readers.)

What not to do when in an audience at the theater:
  • eat a cheeseburger
  • eat anything, except for cough drops to suppress a cough or hard candies for blood sugar issues (but please unwrap said candies before the show)
  • the only exception to the no eating rule is if you're at a dinner theater or bar/restaurant type place (but please try to chew quietly); general rule of thumb is that if there's not a table in front of you, you should not be eating
  • shuffle a deck of cards
  • hog the arm rests
  • tap the floor, kick the seat in front of you, or perform any other repeated motion that is annoying to your neighbors
  • explain the show to your companion while the show is going on (that's what the ride home is for)
  • bring a toddler to show that's not designed for children and sit in the front row, allowing the child to run back and forth across the aisle, distracting the audience and possibly the cast with her cuteness (note to theaters: please have and enforce age limits when called for)
  • leave your cell phone on (even if it's on vibrate, we can still hear it)
  • talk on the phone, scroll through Facebook or Twitter on your phone, check your email on your phone, check the score of the game on your phone, do anything on your phone (superseded by the above)
  • the only exception to the no phone rule is if you're in designated "Tweet Seats," and if so, please be mindful of the location and rules of the promotion
  • complain loudly about the temperature or the play or anything else
  • speak in a voice above a whisper
  • speak in a whisper
  • touch the actors or sets or props
  • talk to the actors, unless it's an interactive sort of thing and they talk to you first
  • get up in the middle of a scene and exclaim "this is dumb" while clumsily and loudly exiting the theater (no one is asking you to sit through a play if you're in any way uncomfortable, but please wait for a scene transition if possible and make your way to the nearest exit as quietly as possible)
  • sing along to musicals, unless it's a designated singalong a la Pippin
  • file your nails, clip your toenails, or perform any other type of personal grooming
  • arrive late
  • take photos or video
  • fall asleep and snore (get a good night's sleep and drink coffee if need be)
  • get drunk before or during the show (save it for the after party)
What to do when in an audience at the theater:
  • be attentive
  • be engaged
  • be open
  • be on time
  • laugh if so moved
  • cry if so moved
  • applaud if so moved
  • exclaim appropriately if so moved
  • be considerate of your fellow audience members who, like you, gave up their time and money to be there, and deserve to have their own experience undisturbed by your opinions or behavior
  • be respectful of the many artists on stage and off who put in much time, effort, talent, and heart to create this piece of art you're viewing; you don't have to like it, but you do have to respect it (this one is not optional, and if you follow this simple rule, all of the above follows)

Thanks for your cooperation, and in the immortal words of Ellen, be kind to one another.