Monday, November 14, 2011

Etiquette Tips for the Theatre Audience

On Sunday Adam and I went to see West Side Story at the Wharton Center.  I wanted to see it live because I hate the movie, but I love Stephen Sondheim and I wanted to reconcile my two halves.  I like it way better live.  Way better.  As in, don't even bother with the movie.

But that is not the point of this post.  The point is that I have been to enough live theatre shows, and been in enough shows that I know what is the biggest pain in the ass about live audiences.

First, when they say turn off your phone,  Do it.  There is absolutely NOTHING that pisses me off more than when a phone goes off, especially at a pivotal moment in the show.

Example 1: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (based on a novel of the same name which was also the basis for the Dangerous Liaisons movie and Cruel Intentions) at Central Michigan University, spring of the 2009-2010 season.  *Spoiler Alert Ahead* The end of the show when the Vicomte dies, a phone starts to ring three seats away from me.

Example 2: Today during West Side Story.  *Spoiler Alert Ahead* Maria and Tony are saying good night at the end of their version of the balcony scene (synonymous with the one in Romeo and Juliet, which the musical is based on) and a phone goes off.

Example 3: Dead Man's Cell Phone for which I ran lights last season at Central.  From the light booth, you can see everything.  I mean everything.  Including the people who have their phones out and are texting during the show.  And from the Grand Tier in Great Cobb Hall, I can see you on the floor.  And you can sure as hell bet that the crew in the booth behind me can see you too.  The light from your phone is distracting and it's rude.

Second, do NOT talk when the actors are talking.  Or singing. Or anything is happening on stage, whether you think it is important or not.

Example 1: Everyman, the show I was in last season at Central.  We were in Theatre on the Side, and there were, I think, only 100 seats for every show and we sold out every one.  Very close quarters and we were all up in the audience's grill.  Which means we can see you very well.  And we wonder why you aren't paying attention. Also, WE CAN HEAR YOU.

Example 2: I went to see Les Mis with my friend Shannon and her sister and brother-in-law last March.  The woman in front of us would NOT sit still.  She kept wriggling around and talking to her neighbor. GAH.

If you have to say something, get your mouth so close to the person's ear your lips are almost touching their ear lobe and then whisper so quietly that no one but them can hear you.  You shouldn't even be able to see you.

Third, get there on time and don't leave the seating area unless there is a real emergency.  Pee before you get to your seat, or run to the bathroom the second the first act is over.  If you think you're going to be late, run to your door. RUN, FORREST, RUN!

Example 1: Les Mis.  They were still seating people 10-15 minutes into the show, non-stop.  Not even waiting for applause after songs to rush a whole bunch of people in.  And the same after intermission!  Ridiculous!

Example 2: Everyman.  100 seat theatre people, that is completely dark.  We can see it when the door opens.  And it is really freaking loud when you close it.

Fourth, and for the moment, last, souvenir line etiquette.  Do not cut in line. It is not hard to figure out where the line is.  There are a ton of people milling around and very few standing still in the big area where the cart is. Follow the line of non-moving people until you get to the end, it is not cool to cut in line when there are people who have been waiting for 10 minutes already. Don't do it.

Well, I hope that this helps any and all theatre goers, and feel free to pass this on to anyone who does not do these things appropriately.

What irks you about inconsiderate theatre goers? Leave it in the comments!

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