Theatre Etiquette: How to Be a Great Audience Member, Part 2

Theatre Etiquette: How to Be a Great Audience Member, Part 2

I wrote a post about audience etiquette back in 2013 and thought it would be sufficient to remind people to be good audience members, but after recently attending a musical and having to suffer through some extremely rude audience members sitting behind me (and I use “sitting” loosely — read on for more details), I think it’s best that we all have a refresher.  Yes, I’m going all Miss Manners on you — because it’s important!

So without further ado, I present even more ways to be a great audience member at the theatre!

1.  If you are bringing a child to the theatre, know your child’s ability to sit still and not talk or fidget, and assume the worst will happen.

There are lots of things to look at, and your child will most likely be distracted.  The aforementioned patrons behind me allowed their child to run back and forth between empty seats (thus kicking my chair repeatedly), “whispered” throughout every. single. song. in the performance, and unwrapped what seemed to be about twelve granola bars.  Don’t get me wrong — I love kids and work with them on a daily basis, and I am a huge advocate for theatre education for youth.  But if your child cannot sit through a 90 minute movie at home without fussing, eating or otherwise “disturbing the peace,” they are probably not yet ready to go to the theatre.

Bonus Point:  Make sure you know if there will be an intermission, and if not — use the rest room before or after the show.  More and more shows are being performed without an intermission, and 90+ minutes can be a long time for a child (or adult, for that matter) to wait.

Theatre Etiquette: How to Be a Great Audience Member, Part 2

2.  Scene changes are not a time to talk.

I was appalled at how many audience members seemed to think that transitions and musical interludes were a good time to start chatting to their friends.  It’s extremely disrespectful to the musicians performing to chat through their work — you may not be able to see them, but trust me, they’re there and they are working extremely hard.

Bonus Point:  Stick around until after the bows and listen to the final notes of the song being performed, and applaud the musicians afterwards.  Most people just get up and leave once the actors leave the stage.

3.  Shushing others makes just as much noise as the actual noise being made.

Lead by example — be a quiet audience member, and hopefully others will follow suit.  Otherwise, you’re just contributing to the noise.

Theatre Etiquette: How to Be a Great Audience Member, Part 2

4.  You know during pre-show when the house manager makes the announcement to turn off your cell phones?  Be a gem, and actually check and make sure your cell phone is turned off.

My friend Kristina was performing in a show recently, and right at the crux of her solo, a patron’s cell phone went off, and poor Kristina was briefly accompanied by a Bruno Mars ringtone.  Even worse, the offender laughed out loud about it.  Famous actors such as Kevin Spacey and Patti LuPone have actually stopped performances to call out offending audience members — don’t be that person.

Do you have any tips about how to be a great audience member?
Share them in the comments!

And be sure to check out my other articles about theatre etiquette!

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3 thoughts on “Theatre Etiquette: How to Be a Great Audience Member, Part 2

  1. Len Cuthbert

    Kerry. This is great. With regards to children, I think some parents find it easier and cheaper to buy a ticket for their child than to hire a babysitter. Start kids by taking them to theatre of youth where it’s a story for them. When I lived in Hamilton, I would take the kids to YPT in Toronto.

    As an addition to artists stopping the show, Patti Lupone (Evita, Les Miz award winner) did the same:

    1. Thanks very much, Len!

      I didn’t even think about the cost associated with taking a child to the theatre, but you raise a good point — perhaps it is easier/cheaper, but not necessarily the right choice for everyone around them!

      I definitely encourage people to expose their children to theatre at a young age, but like you said, I really think the show needs to be appropriate to the child’s age and attention span.

  2. Cassandra

    Even if you’re a big theatre buff and know all the words, do not sing along or whisper all the words along with the performers. I’m there to see them, not you.
    I recently went to a production of South Pacific and had to leave halfway through because I just couldn’t bear the woman next to me anymore, singing every single song loudly and off-key.

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