I have been involved in theatre for about 10 years now and I have acquired countless pet peeves, one of them being the lack of etiquette that many audience members have. Even the most basic of things such as turning off your cell phone or at least putting it on silent seems to be a far fetched idea. As both a theatre patron and an actor, I have legitimate reasons on both sides for why I say what I say. The audience members want to enjoy the show, but if you are opening a candy wrapper during a somber quiet scene, then it kills the mood for both the actors and the audience members, plus it’s very distracting. Now let’s get this list going! This is going to be a bit extensive, so you might want to bookmark this for later reference.
Wearing the correct attire is important. For black box theatre or a school show, you can wear something more casual but most theatre’s require at least semi-formal attire. Opening night performances or almost any Broadway production requires something more formal. It depends on the venue, show and if it’s opening night or not. Do your research and dress accordingly.
Now this might seem pretty self explanatory, but I have been onstage during a matinee then BAM! One of the doors in the back of the house opens 10 minutes into the show because someone got to the theatre at 2pm sharp but he couldn’t find a parking. Then, the theatre had double sold his seat and had to exchange it for a different seat. Now I am blinded onstage because my eyes are used to seeing a thick blanket of black in the house and I’m thrown and forget what I’m doing….ok maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but it’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early so you can have plenty of time to find a parking spot, pick up your tickets, use the rest room and maybe get something at the concession stand. For me personally I like to get there an hour early so I can settle and get comfortable.
Use the restroom BEFORE the show and DURING intermission!
This is one thing I have always found frustrating, in the middle of the act, someone will need to use the restroom because they had 3 drinks before the show started and didn’t use it prior to the performance starting. It’s distracting to both the audience and the actors. It’s one thing to leave a movie theatre half way through, but live theatre, it’s just rude to step over people and leave.
Turn your Cell phone off
Even if you have it on vibrate, people can still hear the buzzing and it’s very distracting. Also, don’t talk or text on the phone DURING the performance. It’s incredibly rude. Also, in many cases, cell phones can interfere with the theatre’s sound system, so it’s better to just turn them off. If it’s essential that you keep it on for business reasons or emergencies, silence it. If you need to take a call, wait until a scene change or transition before you leave.
Coming and Going
Please don’t get up and leave during the performance unless it’s an emergency. If you do need to leave or come back in, please wait until there is a scene change. Also, I don’t advocate using it but for safety reasons, since it would be dark, have a small flashlight with you so you can see the floor but only during scene changes if you are trying to get to your seat.
Sit still. Ramming your elbows into your fellow audience members or kicking the seat in front of you is incredibly annoying. If you have kids, please control them. If you can’t control them, I beg of you to leave.
Try to avoid large hairdo’s and hats. Also avoid leaning over and trying to snuggle up to your date because it might impede someone’s view behind you. If you feel the need to wear a hat, get a seat in one of the last few rows or have it in such a way that you can take it off during the performance.
Most of the time videotaping and taking pictures during the performance is illegal. It will either say in the program or in the curtain speech not to record or use photography. If you aren’t sure either way, you are better off just not doing it. Using flash is especially distracting to the actors. If you are taking pictures and videos for your child’s recital or school play, try to avoid using flash as much as possible.
- Don’t speak during the performance…whispering is still talking, it’s only if it is an emergency.
- The Overture (intro music at the start of a musical theatre show) is a part of the performance, so be quiet when it begins.
- Do not eat or drink in the theater. Most of the time it is forbidden unless otherwise noted. If you must have a cough drop, or something of that nature, do not make noise with the wrapper.
- Don’t put and throw anything on the stage.
- Pay attention to the announcements that are being made prior too most shows about the rules and regulations of the theater you are attending and the location of the fire exits.
Now for some Dos:
• Do laugh in appropriate places.
• Do applaud with enthusiasm in the appropriate places.
• Do tell all your friends, after the show, what a great time you had.
• Do applaud when the performance is over…doing so shows the cast and the crew how much you appreciated their hard work and effort.
• Stand and applaud if you really thought the show was great.
• Do not whistle or scream out to the performers except for a Bravo or Brava in the finale
This only touches the tip of the iceberg but it’s a start. I will put some links in the “recourses” for more information. Enjoy the show!