So you’ve made the decision to go and see some theatre, good on you! You’re about to engage in a tradition dating back bajillions of years, allll the way back to when cavemen probably lined their mates up along the wall and acted out their mammoth hunts by firelight.
Things are a little more advanced these days, but that relationship between storyteller and audience is what keeps the magic and theatre alive- unfortunately in this day and age, sometimes the real world wants to shimmy into that relationship too and that is what we’re talking about today.
A disclaimer before we begin: Acting in any performance is an absolute privilege. Anyone on stage in a large-scale production has probably trained for decades and fought through countless rounds of auditions against hundreds of equally talented people to earn that spot. Performers live transient lives, sacrificing holidays and time with family because they LOVE what they do.
Speaking as a performer and as an usher, here’s a few tips to make sure that you’re being a ferdydurking great audience member the next time you head to a show:
Phones. For the love of all things, phones. Do not text. Do not update facebook. Do not pull out your phone ‘just to check the time’. DEFINITELY do not photograph, film or decide that the soaring ballad is a good time to take a phone call.
Why: Remember all those times you’ve fumbled with something late at night and had the brilliant idea to use your phone light to illuminate the situation? Bingo. Any time that phone screen turns on, you’re effectively shining a torch into your face. Annoying for your fellow audience members and distracting for those on stage. Not to mention sitting next to the person waving their giant glowing screen around!
What you can do instead: Enjoy the moment. I think that we can all agree that theater tickets are ridiculously expensive these days- consider that an investment in some quality time out and enjoy the chance to unplug. Your instagram likes will still be there at interval, and that email won’t be any less urgent in an hour. Relax and enjoy what’s happening in front of you. If this sounds like an impossibility, you may want to join me in my two-week challenge here. If you do suddenly remember that you left the door unlocked/forgot to water the houseplants/urgently need to rebook that flight to Switzerland and it definitely can’t wait until the next break, just step outside! A lot of theaters have a live feed to their foyers so you won’t miss a moment, and you can haggle with your stock broker to your hearts content.
Werther’s Originals lovers, I’m looking at you. For some reason having some nibblies during a show seems to have become an integral part of the experience (and I’m so into that. Bring me my choc top!). The frugal among you may even think ahead and bring your own treats to avoid those sky-high prices at the theater kiosks. And I applaud you for that, think of all those savings!
Why: The REAL reason your friendly ushers hate you smuggling those illicit bags in is that inevitably, you’re going to want to unwrap them. One by one. During that boring but oh-so-important bit of dialogue. crinklecrinklecri…nklecrinkle…….
I can guarantee you’re the only person in the entire theater who’s enjoy that sweet.
What you can do instead: Prep, baby! Just unwrap any noisemakers before the show starts, problem solved (protip- don’t then proceed to dump all of your wrappers on the ground. Don’t be that person, just don’t.)
3. Hot Food
I get it. You’re running from work, traffic was hectic, you meant to grab dinner beforehand but there just wasn’t time. You’re plagued by a powerful hunger & that chinese takeaway next door will hit the spot nicely.
Why: That smell that is making your mouth water is also wafting deliciously through the theater. Much like hot food on public transport, there’s a bit of disagreement about whether this should be considered bad manners or not, but as far as I’m concerned, if your food is more fragrant than a pack of salt & vineger, then it’s not appropriate for a space that you’re going to be sharing with hundreds of other people.
What you can do instead: It might not be the most appealing option for some of you, but this is the time to make like you’re back in primary school and go for your packed-lunch classics. Think sandwiches, fruit, nuts – anything you can slam down quickly to fill the gap without leaving a lingering odeur de tuna. Save the main meal for a post-show feast where you relax with some great food & talk about the incredible performance you’ve just seen.
4. Loud Noises
This falls under the same loose category as Point 1 AND 2. If you’re not in the show, now is not the moment to try and claim your spotlight.
Why: It’s always important to remember that everyone else in that theater has probably also paid to see the performance, and while your witty observations are probably hil-ar-i-ous, there are people who might find them a little distracting.
What you can do instead: Save those for your post-show debrief (see above)
Important exclusion! If you’re enjoying the show, don’t be afraid to react. Laugh if you find something funny, hoot & hollar during the applause if you feel it’s deserved (heck, cry if you feel that you need to- that’s what theatre is for). The same goes for any show where the performers are clearly looking for a reaction (think comedy, panto, some cabaret). That’s the time to let your light shine! These events are definitely not the moment to be bashful- make that performers day by leading the audience in a hearty series of responses!
Think of your theater experience like this adorable little muggin:
- No bright lights (or loud noises)
- No (hot) food
- …don’t get it wet? (Actually, definitely don’t get too wet. No-one likes sharing an armrest with a messy drunk)
Easy as that! Keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll keep your performers, usher and fellow audience members happy.
Did I miss anything? Am I way out of line? Let me know! Theatre is constantly evolving, I would love to hear what you think on the matter.