Shut Up!: A Guide to Audience Behavior

Saturday, my mother and I went and saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Throughout the film, the row of people in front of us spent the film texting throughout the entire film. How they managed to do this with Marcus Theatre’s numerous “Turn off your cellphone” reminders pre-film, I don’t know.

But for some reason, bad behavior at a film is much less annoying than bad behavior at the theatre. This has recently been discussed by Leonard Jacobs on the Clyde Fitch Report and John Moore of the Denver Post has addressed this issue.

I have addressed this before on my blog, and thought I would just compile a list. Remember, I mainly see amateur theater, not Broadway or professional companies, and for some reason, the behavior seems just as bad.

(I would like to say that audiences at the Gallagher-Bluedorn seem to be rather well behaved, unless you count automatic standing ovations as bad behavior.)

1). Please, don’t talk throughout the entire show
I’ve waited until intermission to tell someone who’s with me what I’m thinking. Although my body language tends to convey this very well. Please don’t talk throughout the entire show. When I saw “Bell, Book, and Candle” at the Waterloo Community Playhouse, I was surrounded by people who couldn’t keep quiet and missed several of the actors’ lines. Also, if you’re going to talk, please talk about the show.

a). Don’t try to engage someone not in your party in conversation during the show
Chances are, they really want to enjoy the show, not talk about your granddaughter’s piano recital they didn’t go to.

b). Don’t talk to someone with a notepad at a show, especially if they’re writing
This is a good sign that they are a critic. So it’s a good idea to not talk to them during a show. Asking them “Why are you taking notes?” will probably annoy them greatly. Although, I’ve taken to waiting until intermission to answer this question.

2). Turn off your cellphones
Yes, everyone says this, but it really is annoying. I believe a cellphone went off during “Rumpelstiltskin” (I’m actually not sure if it was that or “Joseph”. I think it was “Rumpelstiltskin” because the theater was darker) and I just put my head on my hand and thought “Dear God!” Text messaging is very annoying as well. If the show is really that terrible, get up and leave. Trust me, I’ve been to shows where the audience understood this concept.

3). I really can’t sum this one up in a nice tidy sentence.
Let’s say you’re at a show because you know a cast member. (Funny story I’ll get to later.) First of all, who they are playing onstage is completely unrelated to who they are. Usually. So, if some guy you go to school with is kissing someone in a play, don’t go “Ewww…”, just sit there. I’ve used this example before, I’ll use it again. A friend of mine played John in a production of David Mamet’s “Oleanna.” To those unfamiliar with the play, he beats the other character at the end of the show. We get along very well and I have no fear of him ever doing this to me. He’s a really nice guy, actually. Second of all, don’t hoot after their scene is over. You can wait until the curtain call. It’s not as bad as automatic standing ovations in my book.

4). Leave the young children at home
Some theaters do not allow children under a certain age to be in their theaters. Other theaters do not have such a policy. (Strangely enough, the Gallagher-Bluedorn does not have a policy.) This is unfortunate because screaming, crying children are really annoying to other audience members. So annoying, I am sometimes amazed that an actor doesn’t break character and the fourth wall to tell an audience member to please take their child out of the theater. Please leave your infants and toddlers–unless you’re a group of preschoolers attending a play with special school performances–at home for the evening. However, due to the current economic situation and the fact that I doubt most babysitters are willing to do pro bono work*, if you must take your child, please take them out of the theater to console them as soon as they become fussy.

5). Leave the condiments outside
Candies or throat lozenges being unwrapped during the performance are very annoying (although, I find that Ricola wrappers aren’t very noisy). Throat lozenges I can tolerate more because the sound of a crinkly wrapper is nicer than someone coughing loudly throughout a performance. Most theaters have a no food or beverage policy, but some ushers are not always attentive and people can slip tiny candies in their bags easily. But drinks should be an obvious. I was almost clobbered in the face with a water bottle during “Joseph” because a woman was making very large hand gestures with her water bottle.

6). Don’t Sing or Clap Along With Songs
Just don’t. Unless the actors ask you to join them, don’t. Please.

And now for that funny story. When I went to get a ticket for “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Cedar Falls Community Theatre, the woman at the Box Office asked if I knew anyone in the cast. She said it in a manner that implied that in order to be seeing it, I must know someone in the show. I didn’t know this was a prerequisite to see theater.

*I, your humble blogger, do hold a babysitters license. I took a very lengthy class to obtain it when I was in seventh grade. However, I have never babysat because people were content with their usual babysitters and I tend to look very serious and not very fun to be around. I would have been willing to do pro bono babysitting for people, but now I’ve given up on doing so.


One thought on “Shut Up!: A Guide to Audience Behavior

  1. Couldnt be More T)rue!

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