One of my earliest memories is in a theater. I was about four years old when I saw “The Lion King” musical and I thought it was the most magical thing ever. My grandma bought tickets for seventh row orchestra seats stationed next to an aisle, which is prime real estate for a show that utilizes aisles as an extension of the stage.
I was entranced by the costumes, music and spectacle of the entire experience. Fast forward about 20 musicals and plays later, I can still say I am just as amazed as I was at four.
I grew up taking theater classes and performing in school plays until ninth grade when I realized I’m better at appreciating the art than actually participating, but because of this I became fully accustomed to theater etiquette. It never occurred to me until a recent show that decorum is something we learn and practice.
As women, we can practice these few things to maintain the wonder of the theater:
Arrive early to find your seat with ease.
As the saying goes: If you’re on time, you’re late. Arrive to the theater about 30 minutes early to find your seat and use the bathroom before the show begins. Ushers will be stationed at every entrance ready to guide you to your seat. Some theaters maintain policies where they make latecomers wait until an act break or even intermission to be seated by an usher. If they don’t have this policy, it is polite to wait until a scene is over to avoid blocking the view of people seated behind you.
The same rule applies to bathroom breaks too; wait until an act break or intermission to avoid distracting others.
Listen to the ushers’ instructions.
From a seat whoops like mistaking 22I with 22L (yep, that was me) to gum disposal, ushers’ purpose in a theater is to protect the integrity of the house and prevent anything from going awry. It’s best to be kind and follow their directions. Trust me, ushers have a sometimes uncomfortable job. Would you want to escort a talkative person to the lobby mid-show and explain to them why? Nope, me neither.
Limit noise during the performance.
This one seems a bit obvious, but after personal experience attending a New York show where a pair of 20-something girls talked through an entire act, I’ve decided it’s not as apparent as I had once thought. Also, avoid singing along to your favorite musical numbers. I love “Defying Gravity” as much as the next person, but no one wants to hear me miss the high notes as Elphaba hits them.
From the start of an overture to intermission and from intermission to bows, avoid things like audible commentary, rustling papers and cell phone noises.
… what makes us even more cultured is taking photos before the show starts, putting the phone on airplane mode and slipping it into that cute clutch we just bought.
Call me maybe, but not in a theater!
I get it, we want to document every moment of our lives on apps like Snapchat. We want to show off how cultured we are for going to a live theater performance, but what makes us even more cultured is taking photos before the show starts, putting the phone on airplane mode and slipping it into that cute clutch we just bought. It is dark in the audience and no one wants to see light from a phone screen while also trying to follow a storyline.
As the show comes to an end and the actors take their final bows, show the cast how well they did with applause, a few bravos and possibly a standing ovation. Reviews are fine and well, but an actor gains every bit of confidence in their performance from that final applause – it’s only polite.
Now that you’re ready to practice some theater etiquette, tell us what show you will be attending next!
Featured Image by Ben Cope for Darling Issue No. 10