I hope you all read my recent column about the upcoming night of free theater in Los Angeles, and are planning to take advantage of it. But before you attend, I figure this would be a good time for me to remind some of you what proper theater behavior consists of.

Here's yet another audience no-no: Don't have a beverage, especially one so precariously perched as the one above, in the theatre!

Here are only a few of my common sense suggestions, which shouldn’t need stating to begin with, but trust me, as a frequent theatre-goer, I know that oh so many patrons really need this refresher course, including, sadly, some of my own pals.

First and foremost, flatten your hair! And don’t wear baseball caps, hats of any kind, or up-dos! Please keep in mind that you’re in a theatre and not on your couch. It’s just so rude to annoy the people behind you. And can that kid from Glee, the one with the “jewfro,” please wear a skull cap?! I once sat behind a woman who had made her hair into a tree!!! No lie. And when I complimented her on it, but asked, very nicely, for her to somehow pull it down a tad because it was blocking my view of the entire stage, she accused me of racism! How selfish are people who wear their hair sticking-up to the theatre??? There’s no way they could possibly be thinking of the world-at-large.

I can’t believe this one even needs to be said, but please stop checking cell phones for emails, etc. Do you really think the light from it won’t bother others around you, and take them out of the play action??? Or are you just so self-centered that you don’t think of anyone other than yourself to begin with? Nothing is that important that it can’t wait till intermission. And if it is, then don’t come to the theatre that night. Stay home and take care of your business. And guys–if your girlfriend is dragging you to the show, and you really need a sports update, just tell her you don’t want to go and send her with a friend. It’s really no biggie. Couples need to stop making each other waste their time at events they’re just not interested in, anyway. (Note to males: if she doesn’t have any friends of her own, you should be a tad wary to begin with.)

As I’m writing, I realize that I’m beginning each paragraph with “I can’t believe this one even needs to be said.” So, I left only one in, but it really applies to them all, maybe especially this one: DON’T COME OUT IN PUBLIC IF YOU’RE EVEN THE LEAST BIT SICK!!! HOW SELFISH CAN U BE??? Your desire to be at an event should not outweigh the danger you’re posing to others. How do you think you got sick to begin with? It’s possibly because someone was rude to you in the health category themselves, but definitely don’t pay this one forward.

This one falls under the category of “DUH.” Don’t talk during the performance! An occasional clarification of lines, or sharing a brief and quiet bon mot is acceptable, at the proper moments, but constant yakking is just a plain and simple no-no. When I saw Billy Elliott on Broadway, in very expensive house seats, the woman behind me was translating the entire show to her friend who didn’t speak English!!! There must be another way to do that, or at least, request to sit in the back row. I missed the whole show myself because I was so distracted and fuming.

Please stop wearing fragrances to the theatre, even movie ones. I’m extra-sensitive on the topic because I have really bad asthma triggered by perfume, (tobacco and cats do it to me, too,) but, with global warming and all, more and more people seem to be allergic to something, so it’s just insensitive to foist your personal aromas on the unsuspecting public. Modern Playbills even have a note in the back, albeit a small, hard-to-find one, that asks you to please not wear perfumes. By the time you read it, it’s too late for that performance, but please try to think of others when you get dressed for the theatre. It’s an experience that just about guarantees you’ll be sharing your breathing space with strangers.

Don’t read the program, or anything else, during the show. The time for perusing the materials is before, after, or during intermission. This is actually one time you can think of yourself in the theatre because, as I’m sure your mothers told you, reading in the dark is bad for your eyes.

Unwrap your candy before hand, please. Sometimes theaters make announcements to that effect, but despite that, the person next to me always manages to miss it. It is so distracting to hear that slow crackle, especially during the quiet scenes.

It is kind-of strange that I need to tell anyone this, but please don’t fondle each other at the theatre. Don’t laugh–more than once, I’ve sat next to a couple who think that “theatre” means “porn parlor,” and just go to town while I’m trying to watch the show. Holding hands is fine, and even cute, and the occasional head-on-the-shoulder is understandable. But some of the action I’ve witnessed, way too up-close and personal, is straight out of Boogie Nights!

If it’s a musical you’re seeing, please don’t sing along! I know it’s tempting to some of you, and really, there are some musically-inclined peeps who just can’t help themselves. But try really hard to hold the impulse in because the rest of us are there to hear the actors sing, not you. Of course, if Adam Lambert is sitting next to me, (from my moth to God‘s ears,) it would be fine for him to go for it. More than fine–heavenly.

And lastly, (for now, but I have a couple of opening nights coming up, so I’m sure I’ll see something even I had never thought of,) please stop with the meaningless, insincere, and undeserved standing ovations!!! It diminishes the reason for the institution to begin with. Standing Os have become as commonplace as the usage of “amazing,” so they usually mean nothing nowadays. Let’s please all leap to our feet only when a show, number, or individual performance, is truly spectacular.

Please go enjoy your theatre experience, while helping others enjoy theirs. But maybe you should bring along multiple copies of this column to hand out to all your seat-mates. And I’m really not kidding about that!


1 Comment

  1. J. Thornhill on


    May i firstly start by saying, that your views on audience behaviour are your own, and not necessarily everyone elses.

    You go on to say how people are self centred, and don’t think about anyone else. I feel that your rantings are clearly centred around yourself, and not everyone elses enjoyment of theatre which is availible to everyone. As your comment on the the lady who didn’t understand English very well or at all. Why should she have to suffer at the back, when she clearly paid the same price ticket as yourself. I feel that is very discriminating…

    Also your narrow mindness of people with illnesses or inflictions. If a person was coughing during a performance, ( which clearly annoys you) how do you not know that what they have could either be lung or throat cancer which makes them cough! Do you really feel that they shouldn’t be able to watch a performance?

    I understand that you may have asthma, which must be very disruptiva at times in your daily life. But global warming does not cause this. The fact that we live in a nanny state, where we are not able to build up our natural deffences and immune systems properly are probbablt the real causes. Tabacco smoke may be used in performances. So because of this do you go to the theatre management and ask them to tell the cast they can not use it? Also as i work in Theatre, i know that Actors use alot of perfumes, deoderants, aftershaves ect. One to help the Audience feel like they are in a real enviroment, and secondly, the heat on that stage is intense, and a smelly Actor is never a good thing for your fellow actors perfroming along side you.

    So in conclusion, I feel alot of your points raised are gripes or your own. Instead of working yourself up before you even get to the theatre, just sit back and let the magic of the stage take you away. Don’t just stand up with that lightbulb expecting it to get screwed in. The world does not just revolve around you.

    Yours Sincerely

    J. Thornhill

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