Thursday, November 30, 2006

Theatre Etiquette, Part One

Theatre Etiquette, Part One

Earlier this week, fellow blogger Stephen Mosher described a positively horrendous incident that marred a recent performance of Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone At Les Mouches (at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater). Seems one of the audience members was beyond inebriated to the point where she made a complete spectacle of herself and severely detracted from Kritzer's act.

Oh, that it were just an isolated incident. Unfortunately, with increasing frequency, it does seem as though a diminishing number of theatregoers are mindful of their fellow patrons and instead act as though they're still in the comfort of their own living rooms. Ste, you've certainly touched a very raw nerve here!

In fact, the new Steve On Broadway (SOB) poll question to the right asks you to name the theatregoer behavior you find the most appalling. I invite you to vote and then provide your comments below.

Way too many individuals still leave their cell phones turned on. Do Broadway and Off-Broadway patrons even realize that New York City has a new law prohibiting that behavior? Even worse, some actually have the nerve to talk on their mobiles or fiddle with their godforsaken BlackBerrys during performances. This is beyond reproach. It's the height of rudeness. If I were a theatre owner, I'd make it impossible to get any cell phone reception in my theatre -- if they can do it in an elevator, why can't they do it in a theatre?

Others have the audacity to arrive to the theatre late. I have adored performers who have singled these folks out, including Whoopi Goldberg and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna, who typically reminds these inconsiderates that if she can make it all the way from Down Under on time, they could certainly make it from halfway across town).

Still others insist upon talking above the din of the show. To infrequently whisper is one thing, but it's another to speak audibly so every one around you can hear your conversation. It's even worse if you happen to be prone to heckling or singing along with the performer. Quite frankly, I paid to see what's up on the stage, not you! And if you're hard of hearing (as many in my family are), ask for a listening device rather than incessantly asking the person sitting next to you what the actors have just said.

Others -- despite the plea of most theatres to unwrap their hard candies before the performance -- stretch out their ritual of taking apart the cellophane because they somehow misguidedly think that by doing it more sloooooowly will lessen the noise (WRONG!); and why do they always laugh when the announcer makes that plea in the first place? It's not meant to be a funny line.

Others go foraging through their bags that make noise looking for things -- unless it's your glasses or listening device, you should be sitting back and enjoying the show.

Then there are those with the screaming kids. While I can understand any small child getting a bit fidgety during a performance, there's no excuse for parents who keep the screamers in their seats. Once they've made their voices heard, it's time for parents to head for the nearest exit door. I didn't pay $100 or more to have to listen to that!

And don't let them kick the back of my seat, either!

And finally, speaking of theatre seats, I realize that many can seem downright constricting, but that is not an excuse for you to stretch your legs out into my similarly constrained space, nor is it an excuse for you to drape your coat over the back of your seat only for it to land squarely in my lap. Be considerate of those around you.

As I've shared with Ste, I honestly fear that the end of civilization is close at hand since fewer and fewer people understand that the first part of civilization is "civil," which according to Webster means, "adequate in courtesy and politeness."

"Treat others the way you want to be treated" was the way I was brought up (and I come from a very meager middle-class background). Unfortunately, there appears to be a complete and utter lack of proper upbringing anymore regardless of social stature. Instead self-absorption is (pardon me, Bill Maher) today's new rule.

Am I overreacting, or have I just touched the tip of the iceberg? You tell me!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 02 December, 2006, Blogger Rocco said...

What I absolutely can't stand right now is people carrying on text message conversations during the entire duration of a show. Every five minutes their phone vibrates, they open their phone (lighting up the entire section of the audience), push little buttons and then clap the phone closed. Throughout the enitre show!

Drives me insane, and its happening more and more lately. And you can't even shush these people cause they're technically not makeing much noise.

At 03 December, 2006, Blogger StephenMosher said...

Well, clearly (since I started this whole conversation), it is ALL just appalling to me. I'm not sure where it lands on the scale of "end of civilization" because I am a propriety geek and have noticed, for years, that people just aren't reading Miss Manners anymore; but I am also sure that it can get much worse.

At movie theaters or play theaters, in cabaret venues and dance arenas, out in freakin' public, no one has any manners anymore. I just want to grab people's cellphones and throw them against walls. People come to the theater with bags of candy bought at Costco and dig and rattle (and, frankly, if you are more interested in eating--go to Arby's). The whole texting during a play/movie thing REALLY irritates me. But what are we to do? I have asked people to stop talking, stop texting, stop eating..whatever. THEY get mad at ME. They seem to have some kind of sense of entitlement that makes no sense, whatsoever, to this Southern Boy whose mama brought him up right.

But then, I am shocked when people call my home before or after ten am/pm. I think I am destined to be, forever, disappointed by the human race.

I get the infra red devices for myself so that I (at least) can hear the actors, and not my neighbours. As for the rest, I think I am going to travel with a water gun filled with Amonia..better yet, cat piss..and all the unruly theater-goers:

Watch out.

At 03 December, 2006, Anonymous Esther said...

I think some people just don't know how to behave in public anymore. They have no sense of what's appropriate. Plus, there's a feeling of entitlement. "I paid my money so I can do whatever I want."

I was at the movies last week and the couple sitting behind me kept talking. I turned around and glared at them a few times, which didn't do any good, so I got up and moved. As soon as I walked away, I saw the woman drape her legs over the back of the seat where I'd been sitting!

I moved all the way to the back of the movie theater, only to be disturbed again by the sound of someone constantly opening and closing a bag and unwrapping some kind of candy or something. So I had to move again!

Sure, I understand there are times when a little noise can't be helped. You have an emergency or a coughing attack or something. But that wasn't the case in this situation.

No wonder so many people would rather just stay home and watch a DVD than venture out to some public event.

At 05 December, 2006, Anonymous Gene J. said...

You left the category of "All of the above; does Miss Manners have to address every audience about this subject?"
One added peeve I have here in MN is the theaters allowing patrons to take their beverages back into the auditorium and hearing all the ice being jostled about while that person seeks one last, little drop of fluid out of that glass. Alas, the theaters need to pull in that extra money via the beverage sales.
Oh, and could some patrons go light on the cologne or perfume....just a dab not a bathing will usually suffice and remember the more your senses become accustomed to the fragrance the more you think you need to up the don't and my allergies will appreciate your courtesy......

At 06 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks to both Rocco and Ste for independently sharing your perspectives on the growing incidences of text messaging taking place during shows.

Again, I wonder whether theatre owners wouldn't be better serving their patrons if they used blocking technology to make it impossible to transmit messages of any kind.

Esther, you privately wrote about emergencies. While many theatres currently have the capability of enabling patrons to provide loved ones or emergency contacts with a special number to call in the event that the customer needed to be notified urgently, more need to employ that practice.

Both Esther and Ste brought up the sense of entitlement individuals seem to have, and I've endured my share of inconsiderates who make me out to be the bad guy because I've asked them to be quiet or refrain from kicking my chair or to turn off their cell phones.

I agree that this sense of entitlement is getting way out of hand, thus the reason for my writing about it in the first place.

Gene, you're right, I probably also should have listed "all of the above" as an option on the poll. And thanks for the reminder on those who douse themselves with too much perfume or cologne!


At 04 August, 2009, Anonymous cabaretowner said...

Help! I run a professional cabaret/supper club where the performers are all beautiful women who sing & dance but are also scantily clad (a la Chicago-esque.) We have somehow managed to (unfortunately) attract mostly women to our club (stagettes, etc.) It seems that the majority of these women are not of the highest class and tend to be extremely catty and more often than not, comment rudely about the performers (picking apart their bodies, etc.) loud enough that the performers can hear them. There is barely any distance between stage and table due to the nature of the venue. I'm appalled (having come from a professional theatre background) that a) I am even having to discuss this and b) that people would do such a thing. Can someone please help me as to how to deal with this? Thank you!

At 04 August, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

My advice? Post rules at the door that have as part of the notice your right to remove patrons for ugly behavior.


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