AUDIENCE BEHAVIOR 101
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 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!