Theater Etiquette for Dummies & One of the Grossest Offenses of All

theater etiquette

Yesterday I mentioned I was excited it was Friday and one of the reasons was because I attended opening night of our community theater’s production of Hello, Dolly!. It is my husband’s fourth play with this particular theater and I love to support him (and all the actors) on stage. I especially love it when I can attend a show with my two sons. Paul and all the performers rehearse several hours a day for many weeks in order to bring an amazing show to every audience that enters the opera house. I don’t think a lot of people realize and recognize just how challenging live theater is for the actors. There aren’t any retakes of scenes during a performance, there’s no turning back if there’s a wardrobe malfunction, and if one actor misses a line or a cue it can impact an entire scene. My husband is really good at what he does and I think it’s because he loves it so much and is passionate about performing. Every time he steps on stage I can’t take my eyes off him and I’m in awe of his ability to remember lines and choreography all while acting in front of a live audience.

Good Theater Etiquette is Still a Thing, Right?

While I don’t ever see myself performing on a stage I can still appreciate and respect all of the hard work that goes into putting a play together beyond the final product we see on opening night. Besides the fact it costs around twice the amount of a trip to the movie theater you’re pretty much sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with other patrons so consideration for the actors and for fellow theater-goers should always be a top priority. That’s why I get really annoyed, okay borderline angry, when people are disrespectful during a show.  It happened last night and there was more than one occasion I almost schooled a few people in decent human behavior, but of course I was focused on my husband while being considerate of the performers and those sitting near me.

Seriously, if you’re attending a Broadway show or a community theater performance you should know and follow some basic etiquette. If you can’t or aren’t willing then please do the rest of us a favor and just stay home. Here are some things I witnessed last night that I’m honestly a little surprised I have to bring up as bad theater behavior.

  1. The woman in front of me was sending a text message with her phone held up in front of her face. No, no, no. Even if it’s an emergency and you need to send a message then step out of the theater. Again, we should all know better, right?
  2. Of all the offenses I saw last night this next one is most definitely the grossest. The young lady behind me (not a small child, but probably around 20) was sitting with her legs crossed and her BARE feet on the seat. I’m not sure how she was raised, but I’m pretty confident you don’t have to be Emily Post to know this is wrong on so many levels.
  3. Sitting next to the sweet young lady with her dirty feet on the theater seat was her friend who was seated directly behind me. I spent much of the show waiting for the next time she would KICK the back of my chair. Again, not a small child, which isn’t any more acceptable, but a grown woman. There was a comfortable amount of space in the rows, so it’s really easy to avoid hitting the seat of the person in front of you. It’s also common courtesy. Or at least I thought it was.
  4. Oh, those girls. Those, sweet, inconsiderate, rude girls were actually a group of three and we were so very lucky to have them sitting behind us because guess what else they kept doing throughout the entire play? Whispering, that’s what. I turned and gave them a stern look a couple of times, but I guess I’m just an old annoyed lady whose opinion means nothing.

A part of me wanted to have a nice little chat with them at the end of the show regarding their behavior, but I have a feeling they would have looked at me wide-eyed and gasped at my dramatically absurd lesson in manners. I’m sure I’m totally wrong about all this and that most people believe it’s okay to behave like hooligans at the theater.

Maybe next time I’ll have a glass of wine (or three) before the show and during intermission. It will relax me or make me a little more honest, but either way nobody is going to interfere with my ability to enjoy the play.






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  8. Theatre etiquette is how you behave in the drama classroom or in a rehearsal in order to get along and be a good person in the theatrical world.

  9. Always find a sense of humor in your character. Respect the work of your fellow actors. Don’t talk, text, email, or eat noisy or smelly food while they’re working. Be respectful and quiet outside the room. Be patient you want the director to take as much time with you as she is taking with your castmates.

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