Five Steps to Theatre Etiquette

Some theatre newcomers are not sure what proper theatre etiquette is so I’m here to lay out five steps for you. Just think of a theatre like a movie theater. You don’t want to make much noise and you want to allow others around you to enjoy the show.

1. Turn off your cell phone – Yes, the performers can see the light glowing off your phone. It shines on your face and it is distracting. You can live without your phone for a few hours.

2. Respect the space – Don’t be a jerk. You have a seat, use that space for yourself but don’t hog the armrest, jut your legs out, drape your jacket onto the seat next to you, etc.

3. Don’t be disruptive – Some theatre’s allow food and drinks. If you have those, be aware of the sound you are making. Crinkling wrappers is annoying. I once sat in front of someone who unwrapped an entire package of cough drops. It was completely distracting and rude. Don’t be that person.

4. Don’t overdo the standing ovation – If you love a show, fantastic, stand up! However, if you thought it was alright, you can stay in your seat and clap. I may be picky but I only stand when I feel so compelled to get out of my seat.

5. If you “stage door”, say something nice: Many people like to go to the stage door after a show to meet actors. Remember, these people are putting their heart and soul into the piece they performed. If you want a picture or autograph, great. Remember to say something kind to them though. Telling someone how impressed you were with them, your favorite part of the show, etc. can really make their day. Don’t be intimidated and don’t be over the top gushy, just be genuine and real.

If you all have other ideas on theatre etiquette, please feel free to comment in the notes. I’d love to hear your take!

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4 Responses to Five Steps to Theatre Etiquette

  1. About #3. Don’t be disruptive: I once went to a solo guitar concert in a big concert hall. Someone was coughing periodically. Everyone in the room could hear it, including the performer. He was shaking his head in frustration each time the cough sounded out. Lesson: The audience might be big, but, this does not give you acoustical cover in a modern theater or concert hall, like it might at a circus. On another occasion I attended an Andrea Bocelli concert with my wife and daughter. A pretty girl sat to my right, with her date on the other side. We all became cordial before the show began. During the performance, the girl starting uttering things to her date. It was distracting to me, but I decided to just “grin and bear it”. Her date, however, winced at her every utterance, but clearly knew not to talk. The look on his face said, “Will you just shut up!”. The reason I mentioned the girl was pretty, is because, being pretty and having the knockout dress is not enough. You need to know how to behave, too! Who knows, that may have been their last date. Lesson: Save conversation for after the show.

    About #4. Standing Ovation: I agree. If standing ovation is done too much, it will cease to convey special meaning. A really moving performance will practically trigger an innate response to stand and clap. If you find yourself having to think it through, or follow the crowd, just stay seated. If I stood and you didn’t, that can make for interesting conversation after the show. You can always say you liked the show, and ask what about it prompted me to stand. Now we’re getting to know each other better, and learn from each other.

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