Over the past year, we've seen interpretive dance performances, heard the splendor of live orchestras and enjoyed getting swept up in the storytelling in numerous plays. Yet unfortunately, among our biggest takeaways was this: Some of you really don’t know how to behave in public.
Most people don't have the scratch to regularly buy tickets to the opera, symphony or theater. It's a special experience, not the time to burp your baby, repeatedly crack your knuckles or clear your unlozenged throat loudly every few minutes. Here are a few ways to mind your manners around other patrons of the arts.
Be On Time. Or Better Yet, Be Early.
This shouldn’t be too hard. You bought a ticket to the event, and the start time is printed on the ticket. But every time we finally settle into a comfortable position in our seat, which is usually just big enough for a large cat, latecomers come barreling through the tiny aisle, tickets crumpling in hand, drinks spilling over and a look of confusion washing over their faces as they obnoxiously whisper “Sorry!” House lights have dimmed, and it’s now dark because our entertainment for the evening has begun, so they can’t see the tiny numbers indicating which seats are which. I wonder if they realize everyone around them has to get up and awkwardly position their bodies in the already crowded aisle. Arrive early. Grab whatever snacks or vices you need from the bar. And get to your seat.
Check Your Assigned Seat
Most productions require you choose your seats when you purchase them. Which is why we're always baffled when theatergoers assume they can sit wherever they want. Also, just because one or two seats a couple of rows ahead of you are empty when you arrive, that doesn't mean you can just take them. You'll more than likely receive an aggressive tap on the shoulder (“Um, you’re in my seat") from one of those latecomers. Can’t figure out whether you’re in the right area? Ask an usher. That’s literally the job.
We'll never forget the time we attended an orchestra performance and while the conductor's baton hung in the air just before directing the first note of the night, a woman went walking down an aisle in the loudest shoes imaginable, made louder still by the acoustics of the venue. The conductor held the start of the song as she slowly click-clacked her way across the theater. The start of the performance, which was no more than one or two seconds away, abruptly stopped while the entire theater waited for Ms. Heels to find her seat. (If she was on time, this wouldn’t be a problem.) It’s kind of hard to anticipate, but be mindful of the floor, your shoes and whether you should just hang back for the first movement.
Nobody, Not Even You, Wants to See Those Terrible Smartphone Photos and Videos
How many times have you revisited that blurry, out-of-focus small dot on your screen that only you know is a famous musician? Zero. By the time you're making after-show drink plans, you've already forgotten about the videos you took of the performance. Just enjoy the moment and let the professional photographers and videographers do their thing.
Loud Camera Shutters Are Annoying AF
We saw a small fight almost break out during an intermission once. The reason was that somehow a photographer got cleared to slink around up front during a musical performance and snap photos throughout the first half of the show. Besides his distracting broad range of motion just below the first row of musicians, his camera’s shutter seemed to clack obnoxiously at precisely the quietest parts of the performance. It was obvious that plenty of audience members were fed up with him, and one gentleman acted as our emissary in telling him to shut the hell up. Document the performance without becoming part of it.
Keep the Children Near the Aisle
Sometimes you can’t find a babysitter, or you really want to begin educating your child in theater or music at an early age, so you bring them to the opera. We get it. But there’s got to be some ground rules here. When children start crying in center seats and the parents try to usher the criers out, the commotion distracts the audience from the performance. So do the iPads and smartphones some of you hand over to them to keep them entertained. These are huge distractions to everyone else around. You’ll need easy access to the performance hall exits when Billy starts fussing about how bored he is. Buy. Aisle. Seats.
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Here’s another point that shouldn’t have to be on this list, but it is. Shut up. Nobody bought tickets to hear you talk to your best friend about the guy you’re seeing. Or to hear your critique of the costumes or hot takes about the performances. Even if you’re whispering. In fact, whispering is almost more distracting than if you were speaking quietly. (We can still hear you. That’s why people are shushing you. Also, quit getting butt hurt when someone tells you to shut the hell up. At the recent Annie Leibovitz talk, several attendees engaged in a shush-off of sorts.)
Wait Until Intermission for that Third Cup of Wine
If you’re like us, you prefer the company of some vino when attending a performance. Grab two if you’re really thirsty because getting up for seconds or thirds during a performance is very distracting, and walking back through to your seat could mean spilling that merlot on someone’s dress. Some venues allow you to pay for drinks before the show if you anticipate wanting to swing back by the bar during intermission but don’t want to wait in the long line.
Keep Those Empty Bottles and Cups Safely Under Your Seat
It’s easy to misstep in dark theaters. Especially in small aisles. And nothing prompts an eye roll like hearing a glass bottle slowly roll down to the front of the stage.
Grab the Cough Drops
Every few notes of a musical or line of a play seem to be punctuated by someone’s repeated coughing. Grab cough drops if you’re sick. Or better yet, just don’t go out.