You’re at the concert hall for an evening of music, dance or opera.You sit down, the lights dim and what happens? Your evening is ruined by snoring, coughing, people talking on the cell phones or eating noisily.
Have these people been reading the rudeness manual? Have they been living in a cave and never ventured out in public? Does their mother know how they are behaving? As a public service, here is a handy list of do’s and dont’s for those wishing to attend the theater without appearing socially challenged.
DON’T: Arrive late, at least ten minutes when everyone is settled and enjoying the performance. Wear a large coat that you will have to remove while standing thereby blocking the view of those behind you.
DO: Plan ahead so you will be on time or early “Coming to the theater is a ritual and there is a timing to it.” says Robert Ashens, Conductor and former opera company director. Some theaters have a no late seating policy and will charge you if you don’t show up or call to cancel.
DON’T: Be noisy. Bring candy wrapped in cellophane and remove it as loudly as possible, especially during the quietest passages. Have a buffet set up on your lap and eat throughout the performance.
DO: Eat before you come and open any wrappers before the performance starts. People are used to eating in front of the TV and this bad habit has spilled over to public places.
DON’T: Come when you have a cold. Cough, sneeze or blow your nose continuously.
DO: If you are not feeling well, stay home. Studies have shown that coughing fits spread through a crowd, not to mention the virus. Going to a show you’ve paid for is tempting but think how annoying you find someone else's cough.
DON’T: Talk to your companion as if you were sitting in your living room watching TV. Comment loudly on the acting, conducting, singing or other people in the theater.
DO: Be quiet. Nothing is more distracting than people talking while trying to listen to a performance. Save your comments for intermission and after the show.
DON’T: Bring your cell phone. Put it somewhere so it takes at least seven rings for you to retrieve it. Answer it and have a loud conversation with the caller with total disregard for your neighbors.
DO: Turn off your cell phone even if you think no one will call. It is inevitable someone will at the most embarrassing moment. Probably the number one complaint. Many theaters have to resort to clever or repeated announcements reminding patrons to turn their phones off.
DON’T: Applaud inappropriately: whenever there is a pause in the music, between movements of a concerto or whenever you feel like it.
DO: Wait for the music to stop completely or rely on others for cues when to applaud.
DON’T: Hum, sing, tap your foot or conduct along with the music. After all, isn’t theater supposed to be interactive? Make sure you are out of tune and have no sense of rhythm.
DO: Listen to the performance in silence to fully enjoy and appreicate it. Follwing along, outloud is the equivalent of singing in the shower or in your car. Listening to music with a group can be a thrilling experience, sharing it with a group is not.
DON’T: Arrive drunk, be belligerent with request for silence, then get into a fight with anyone who trys to tell you to shut up. Resist being ejected from the theater by the usher. This is a common occurrence at rock concerts. Do we really need to bring it to a classical concert ?
DO: Come to the show sober so you can at least remember it. Most offenses are based on selfishness so when being politely reprimanded by other patrons, offenders often react with glares or respond rudely. If an usher has to intervene, you are violating house policy. Listen to them as they have the authority to remove you from the venue.
DON’T: Bring young hyperactive children. Let them climb on the seats, kick the seat in front of them, then complain that they are bored or that the man in the next seat staring at them is scary.
DO: Use prudent judgement when bringing a child to the theatre. Children have short attention spans and can find sitting for long periods difficult. As a test, see if your child can sit through an hour long tv show without fidgeting, talking, or getting up. If you bring a child to the theater it’s best to sit in the rear or near the aisle so you can leave quietly if they become disruptive.
DON’T: Fall asleep at the show, snore loudly and remain asleep during the intermission so the people in your row must climb over your slumped body. Wake up at the end and compliment the show you just slept through.
DO: Take a nap before attending a concert. If you have fallen asleep more than two times at a concert, take it as a sign you need to get more rest. It is disruptive not to mention unsafe to sleep in a crowd as someone can rifle through your pockets or place you in silly poses.
People need to recognize there is a difference between private and public behavior. “We serve the broad public, so we ask for appropriate concert behavior.” says Laura Niles, Community Relations Director at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
Remember the golden rule: respect other peoples need for quiet enjoyment and they will do the same for you.