Theater Behavior - Do's and Don'ts

Theater Behavior - Do's and Don'ts

Nancy Sasso Janis

As a theater reviewer, I am in theaters more often than most patrons. I realize that this increases my chances of seeing bad theater behavior and most often I ignore it. However, I recently attended a performance where one person seated behind me combined the final   two of my 'don'ts' in one evening. While I refrained from mentioning it in my review of said show, I did post the most annoying one on Facebook and a fellow theater lover suggested that I write this column. While I am acutely aware that I am preaching to the theatrical choir on this site, herewith is a 'to-do' list of things to do as well as a list of behaviors to avoid at all costs at a theatrical performance. Theater can be costly, so let's all work together to make it as enjoyable as possible.
 
Do's
 
Do turn your cell phone to silent mode at least. If the person giving the curtain speech asks you to turn it off because it interferes with the sound system, just do it. Even if you don't believe that it has an effect on their sound system, at least put it in airplane mode. Seriously, you can check it at intermission. Do refrain from checking it by lighting the screen when the lights are out. Unless you are seated in a Tweet seat, do wait to text.
 
Do limit talking during the performance and then use your best whisper. Better yet, wait until intermission.
 
Do choose your seat carefully if there is general admission. If you do not like your choice, you can change to an unoccupied seat during intermission. If you feel the need to change due to the poor behavior of those around you, move as far away from them as possible.
 
Do recycle your program if there is a box to do so.
 
Do be nice to the ushers. Most are volunteers and they can make mistakes, but their smiling faces always make a performance brighter.
 
Don'ts
 
Don't take flash photos during a performance, ever. Same goes for videos. If the curtain speech at a community theater event says that it is ok to take photos, do so discreetly and never stand up to do so.   If no mention is made of photography during the curtain speech, see above and maybe take a photo of the curtain call. It is all about not distracting the actors.
 
Don't eat loudly during the second act, or the first act for that matter. It is bad form to bring your own food into the show. If you buy something at the theater during intermission, try your best to finish it before the second act. Noisy candy unwrapping is annoying. If you may need a throat lozenge, unwrap it in advance.
 
Don't allow children seated in the middle seats to climb over other patrons in order to head out to the aisle more than three times during intermission or before the show begins.
 
Don't duck out before the curtain call is over. It is rude unless there is a personal emergency
 
Don't bring liquids into the theater if they are not allowed. If they are allowed, don't spill it. If despite your best efforts you do spill it, don't forget that a raked floor means that your soda/water will flow down to the front row. This will mean that everyone who has placed anything on the floor beneath their seats will be in the direct path of your spill, so give them a heads up! (And no, I can't hold my purse on my lap because I am trying to take notes in my program in the dark.)
 
Don't come to a production for which you auditioned for but were not offered a part and badmouth those who did. While it is admirable that you came out to support the cast, those around you won't appreciate your negativity. If you cannot be positive or at least quiet, don't come.

 

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