Monday, July 30, 2007

Theatre Etiquette, Part Three (Or The End Of Southern Gentility)

Theatre Etiquette, Part Three (Or The End Of Southern Gentility)

As regular readers know, I have a real thing or two to say about the end of civilization as we know it as it pertains to theatre etiquette (my current SOB Poll even asks an etiquette-related question).

This past weekend, I journeyed to Atlanta to take in what is anticipated to be the final performance by Jennifer Holliday as Effie Melody White in Dreamgirls. Not only was I thrilled to be seeing her, but I was excited to once again be setting foot into Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre, a sparkling venue brimming in rich theatrical history.

The Fox does an excellent job of providing a list of "Golden Rules" of engagement for the audience. After witnessing some abysmal behavior by a large cross-section of the 4,000+ audience members, it's clear why they have it printed in the program.

For starters, in clear violation of rule #7 ("THOU SHALT NOT TALK"), the couple seated directly behind me had a long, long conversation right during the build-up to Holliday's signature song "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." Their conversation reached its absolutely appalling apex when they up and left. Not only did they disrupt the experience for everyone around them, but they missed one of the most incredible performances in recent theatre history.

Then there were the intermittent violators of rule #4 ("Make sure all cell phones, beepers and watch alarms are OFF"), who not only let their cell phones ring....some actually answered the calls. A woman seated four seats down from me had the audacity to talk on her cell phone shortly before Holliday's show-stopping tune was delivered. Unbelievably, I saw cell phone light emissions all over the place. What is it that compels anyone to put himself or herself above the rest of the audience other than obliviousness at best or sheer selfishness at worst?

Worst of all was the hooting and hollering by the audience during Jennifer Holliday's signature tune. You know what? I came to listen to Holliday. I did not come to hear her being drowned out by an overzealous audience. This was the one moment when it should have been rapt in silent adoration. Instead, they demonstrated egregious disrespect -- not only for fellow audience members, but especially for Jennifer Holliday herself.

Finally, in violation of rule #9 ("Yes, the parking lot gets busy and public transportation is tricky, but leaving while the show is in progress is discourteous"), this audience didn't seem to understand that a performance isn't over until after the final curtain call. Throngs of audience members began departing the theatre before the final strains of "Hard To Say Goodbye, My Love" had even been sung. By the time the curtain fell, my entire row was already gone (with the exception of my group of four) and most of the row directly in front of us was also out the door. Unbelievable that anyone would pay significant dollars to see a performance and then ditch it before it's over. Shameful.

When will people learn? Is it too late?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Are You Cheering Yet? (July 27, 2007)
What Motivates You To See A Broadway Show? (July 5, 2007)
From Now On, I'll Just Sit On My Hands (July 1, 2007)
Talk To The Hand: Kevin Edition (June 20, 2007)
Spring Awakening Calling (June 18, 2007)
Rat Patrol: Coming To A Theatre Near You? (May 30, 2007)
Theatre Etiquette, Part Two (May 1, 2007)
Theatre Etiquette, Part One (November 30, 2007)

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At 30 July, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your audience sounds like every audience I've ever been in. I saw Sweet Charity in Houston a few weeks ago, and the woman beside me ate a gigantic box of Junior Mints throughout the entire show. Every few minutes she would shakeshakeshake the box to get them unstuck, then chew and smack them, then use her pinky to pick them out of her teeth. FOR 2-1/2 HOURS.

I feel your pain. I don't think these people are selfish, I just think they're idiots who don't know any better.


At 30 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Appreciate you sharing your story. I believe that people are so used to behaving as they wish in front of their own television screens that they forget that they're out of their own zone when out in public.

At 31 July, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

Unfortunately I don't think it's a matter of when will they learn, but rather a when will they care.

At 31 July, 2007, Anonymous e said...

Please, please give us a list of your more horrifying experiences. It's fun.

Great to see you this weekend, BTW...

At 31 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, I don't think that will ever happen, sorry to say. Alas, good manners just aren't taught the way they used to be anymore.

At 31 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

E, It was great seeing you as well and catching up to share some stories in person. And you can bet that I'll be calling out every major infraction I see!

At 01 August, 2007, Blogger Interval Drinks said...

I have posted on my particular bug-bear - audience members eating food during a performance here:

At 01 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

ID: And an excellent post it is. Hope my dear readers take it in.

I do think we need an all out campaign to teach proper etiquette that goes beyond just theatre ... airline passengers could learn a thing or two as well (as I once again discovered over the weekend)!

At 25 April, 2008, Anonymous Lani said...

I know what you mean! The other night I was at a Bernadette Peters concert. I know that a concert is different than theatre show, but people still need to learn their etiquette. Bernadette is my hero, and I was in almost the front row. But right behind me this lady literally felt the need to clear all phlegm from her throat and spit it in her mint box. She coughed and hacked and gagged through the whole concert, and I wanted to turn around and strangle her. Then a ton of people left before the second encore. Bernadette was still on the stage, and they just walked out. I see no point. And to answer your question, no. They will never learn.


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