Why Can't Theatre Audiences Turn Off Their Phones?!?!

Jennifer Butler

  • Massachusetts Columnist

When I go to see a show, I know that not everybody is a theater nerd like I am and that the other patrons don’t know that theater is basically my whole life!  They don’t know that I have had tickets for An American in Paris this evening for 6 months and that it’s a big deal that I am sitting in the second row. Both my mom and I were surprised because she didn’t realize how close our seats in the orchestra section were to the stage when she bought the tickets.  The patrons around me didn’t know that seeing this show meant the world to me. From what I saw and believe, is that most of the people sitting around me were there just for a night out, for something to do or they were there with someone who wanted to see the show even if they didn’t. There isn’t a whole lot to know for sure about the people who sat around me, unless I talked to them, but what I do know for sure Is that there is a difference between misunderstanding theater etiquette and being plain rude. 

Even if the people sitting around me were not huge theater goers like I am, it still doesn’t condone some of the behaviors that I witnessed the last night. Some of the things I saw of the patrons around me at the performance were bad-mannered.  First off, instead of saying excuse me to pass through the row to get to their seat, I watched as one particular patron stepped on two of the seats in the front row and climbed over them. Two seats where their shoes touched the fabric and now an unknown ticket holder would come and unknowingly sit in these seats.

Next, the overture began and the lights went down into complete darkness. The patron who had just stepped on the seats was still on their phone. I could see out of the corner of my eye the bright light of the phone screen in like a beacon in the complete darkness. I looked over and in a loud whisper told this patron to “shut their phone off”.  I heard at least two other people tell this person the same thing. The patron then immediately put their phone away.

Now here is what I am going to call the “funny part”; at intermission this patron apologized for keeping their phone on and asked me if it was all okay now because he apologized. I looked at him and did not respond (we will not even go into what was running through my mind at this point) and this patron came up with the excuse that the phone incident happened because they hadn't noticed the lights go down. I kid you not, that is what was said to me. Even my mom heard it and thought that is was not a good excuse. I looked at this person and said “No, it’s not okay” and then they walked away. 

No, it’s not okay for you to interrupt a show that so many people worked on and worked hard to be there. No, it’s not okay for others to see the light from your phone when the lights go down, nor is it okay for you to continually talk during the performance. There are some things I let go, like dressing appropriately, because not everyone goes to the theater all the time.

However, there are some things that are just plain rude and inconsiderate for those around you, and this is one of my biggest pet peeves, not just at the theater, but in general.  

Now the performance was fantastic and I will not let these actions of the patrons around me affect how I viewed the show.  An American in Paris was incredible. The singing, the dancing (oh my gosh, the dancing) the lights and sets out-shined any action, whether good or bad, by any person in the theater that night and that is exactly what I am going to take away from the show.