Good Behavior: Being a considerate theater goer

Pamela Eyring from the Protocol School of Washington shares good theatre etiquette with Tyler Ryan


COLUMBIA SC (WOLO)–Common sense and manners are increasingly becoming less common, according to Pamela Eyring from the Protocol School of Washington.  With examples of good etiquette growing scarce, Eyering point out that a place were good manners are quickly eroding include the arts.  From a gallery to the theatre, there is a notable change, but not one that can’t be over come.

The old show business saying that promises “the show must go on” was definitely penned way before the dawn of text messaging. Just ask legendary Broadway star Patti Lupone who just last year stopped a live performance at Lincoln Center to snatch a mobile phone from an offending audience member who had been texting during the show.

Unfortunately, mobile devices, social media and a general rise in rather boorish behavior have turned traditional arts patrons into something that rivals drunken revelers at a 1970s roller derby.

However, we have hope that with a little cultural intelligence, today’s audiences can restore dignity and decorum into the arts experiences—avoiding the wrath of a famous diva and ensuring all the drama stays on the stage and screen.
Five ways to be a better arts patron:

Go Unplugged: Imagine the days before cell phones (we still can!) when it was perfectly fine to be disconnected from reality for a couple of hours (not even counting intermission). And isn’t that what the arts are really all about—being transported into a new world, experiencing different points of view and broadening your mind in new and thoughtful ways? One slight glance at a text message or Snapchat of your cat eating spaghetti can break the fourth wall for yourself and your audience mates, taking everyone out of the illusion and back into the vagaries of reality. Those little cell phone screens are also very visible to actors and your fellow arts patrons, especially in a darkened theatre. One “harmless” text can prove to be a very visible and obnoxious distraction to everyone around you. What about that awkward moment when someone’s
cell phone goes off? Just imagine seeing Hamlet for the first time and in the middle of the most famous speech in theatrical history—“To Be or Not To Be”—you’re suddenly interrupted by a ringtone of Justin Beiber’s latest hit. “To Beiber or Not to Beiber” should be the question we all ask ourselves when remembering to hit the off button during any live performing arts event.

Volume Control:  There’s a funny scene in one of the “Scary Movie” horror spoofs where a young woman is talking back to the movie screen in a most boisterous manner, an act that causes much anger from the crowd, leading to her own comic demise. While we don’t advocate any confrontations in today’s increasingly violent world, we do advise movie and other arts patrons to keep the running commentary to themselves and save the discussion for after the show. On this same note, there’s nothing worse than someone singing or humming along at a musical or other vocal performance. Do everyone a favor and be a good neighbor to your audience mates by leaving the performance to the professionals.

Wardrobe Malfunctions:  In general, arts patrons wear much less formal attire than they did in the heyday of Broadway; however, we still don’t advocate flip flips and shorts at any cultural event (unless it’s Shakespeare in the Park or some other outdoor concert that was designed to be informal). Personally, we still long for the days of white gloves and evening gowns at a premiere, but we know that is a bygone era (save for invitation only events that are billed as formal). However, we can all afford to class it up from time to time in a nice ensemble when visiting the theatre, opera or symphony. By treating the
cultural event with a sense of reverence, the event will feel like a real special occasion.
Dinner and a show: Unless you are at a legitimate dinner theatre, you really should avoid eating snacks during a live performance. Many an aria have been ruined by the irritable sounds of candy being unwrapped and loud chewing can test the nerves of the most patient patron. Remember that an intermission is not only for a quick trip the restroom, it’s where you can get your munch on and finish up your snacks before you head back into the auditorium. Even though the cinema encourages food consumption, there are ways to keep your popcorn mastication at a minimal level.

Plot spoilers: This is a relatively new phenomenon but definitely worth mentioning in the age of Netflix and delayed television viewing—the unforgivable act of spoiling. Say you’ve waited all week to watch last week’s finale of “Game of Thrones” to learn the fate of Jon Snow only to see the ending spoiled for you on someone’s social media feed.
The time limit for spoilers is debatable since everyone is watching television on their schedules these days, but a good rule of thumb would be to wait at least one or two days before offering your armchair review of a popular show. Even better, if you do plan to talk about plot points that may have not been widely revealed, put a “spoiler”
disclaimer at the beginning of your post. Your friends and fellow fans will appreciate it.

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