A 1933 audience to a Gilbert and Sullivan perf...

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I recently received a flyer in the mail for the upcoming summer season at an outdoor amphitheater. After looking over descriptions of the acts, I noticed on the last page subscription information and, at the bottom of the page, a section on Theatre Etiquette.

How sad, that in today’s world we need to inform the audience on how to act. The last sentence says, “In an effort to be considerate of our performers and other audience members, we request that you refrain from any unnecessary talking during the show.” This should be such a part of our accepted standards of behavior that it shouldn’t be necessary to include in an etiquette guide. Every child, from a very early age, should be taught by his parents and teachers that we don’t talk while others are talking. In addition, every school child should know how to show respect to the performers on stage. We are quite and attentive during the performance and show appreciation by applauding at the end of the performance.

I might also add that the audience remains seated until the entire performance is completed. I have attended too many live performances, whether a concert or play, where the audience jumps up and runs for the exits before those on stage have taken their bows. This is the height of rudeness to the performers who have just spent the last couple of hours putting all their energies into a production to entertain us. Whatever it is that is pulling the audience members out of the theatre at that moment, can wait for a few more minutes while we give the performers our thanks and appreciations. And, if the adulation is enthusiastic enough the performers might honor us with one more song or chorus in the form of an encore. If we truly loved the performance, then the audience may rise to give the performers a standing ovation. Please note, again, this is not the cue to run for the cars.

The etiquette guide also reminds us to turn off cell phones and pagers. This should also be a given fact of life, but I have noticed that all too many people are playing with their PDAs during a performance or show, which distracts the performers and audience members.

A live performance is not the time to run up and down the aisles or change seats. I once attended a concert by a contemporary artist where there were many young adults in attendance. These people were old enough to know better but from their actions I can only assume they were not accustomed to attending a concert in a theatre as opposed to a stadium or outdoor venue. Before the show began they were ushered to their reserved seats but then decided they didn’t like where they were sitting. We watched in amazement while a large majority of the audience members ran about the theatre testing various seats. Once they settled into a new seat, then the person holding that seat ticket arrived and the process started again. Even after the show began many continued to run up and down the aisles.

Perhaps it is a good idea that the producers of this summer stock theatre decided to publish a guide to theatre etiquette but it is a sad state of affairs that it is needed.


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