Search This Blog

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Theatre Etiquette for Dummies

I caught the closing performance of NextStage’s latest show, Frame 312 last night at the Phoenix. I thought it was a good show and perhaps a little unfairly judged by the critics. The script had its weak points, sure, but the performances were quite good. I got a particular kick out of Jennifer Forsyth, who I had last seen as Dorine in Germinal Stage’s Tartuffe: Born Again.
However, I am not writing a recommendation about Frame 312. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend it, but, as I said, it was the closing performance.
Instead, I would like to go over a few guidelines of behavior in the live theatre setting that some people may have forgotten. Certainly they were forgotten by a few patrons of the Phoenix last night.
Rule #1: Timing is everything.

Sometimes on the poster for a show or on the ticket, you will find a series of numbers in addition to the play’s title. If there is a month before the numbers or perhaps also a “th” immediately after the number, this indicates a calendar date for the performance. If there is a “$” symbol in front of the number, that is the price of the ticket. Now, the number to which I would like to draw your attention most closely will usually have a “:” symbol somewhere in the number or perhaps a “pm” or “P.M.” after the number. (eg.: “7:30 pm”) This number indicates the time of day that the performance is scheduled to begin. Sometimes there may be five minutes grace built into this, but don’t count on it. Acceptable reasons for showing up for a performance, say, twenty minutes after this time include:

Extremely unfortunate traffic.
Extremely unfortunate weather.
Extremely unfortunate Biblical plagues.

An example of an unacceptable reason would be:

Ordering just one more gummy-bear-flavored martini “for the road, bro.”

This brings us to Rule #2: Live theatre is not the same as a movie.

While, in real life, Keanu Reeves may be easily distracted by shiny objects and “like, thinking, dude,” no amount of talking, belching, or stumbling into the movie theater will throw him off of his undoubtedly stellar performance. The reason for this is that he’s not actually there and cannot see, hear, or smell you.
The actors in a live theatrical performance, however, do not enjoy the same luxury. It is, therefore, considered uncouth to loudly agree or disagree with what the actors say, particularly when they are quite obviously (one would think) not talking to you.
If you feel that you must speak to the person next to you about something in the play, well, you’re wrong. However, if you insist upon being wrong, then make every effort to keep your conversation as brief and as quiet as you can, and just for kicks, you might consider turning in the direction of the person to whom you insist upon speaking. (Hey, they brought you. They should have to put up with your breath.)

Rule #3: Just because it’s called a “play” does not mean that you’re on a jungle gym.

If you look very closely, you may notice that the big footrest in front of you is not, in fact, a footrest, but the back of one of the seats in the row in front of you. Occasionally, there is the additional clue of the back of a person’s head. Even if there is no one sitting in that particular seat, there is often someone sitting in that row, and, again, if you will observe closely, the seat that you are assaulting with your feet and legs is attached to all of the other seats in that row. Therefore, your percussive tae kwan do demonstration on the seat in front of you is actually being felt by people all the way down the row, and is probably interfering somewhat with their ability to enjoy the show which they, too, have paid to see. Now, I know that your seat is uncomfortable. So is mine. So is everyone’s. This is sometimes the sacrifice that the discerning theatre-goer must endure for quality live theatre. You know what is comfortable? Your sofa. At your home. Perhaps, if you prioritize comfort over, I don’t know, decency, you should consider renting 2 Fast 2 Furious for the eleventh time and spend next Saturday night on your couch.

Rule #4: Hang it up. Turn it off. Put it away.

Even though this is Colorado, Rule #4 does not, in fact, refer to handguns. It’s about your cell phone. That’s right, the little device you can’t live without, not even for an hour at a time. There are lots of things written about cell phones these days; many of them on large pieces of paper or cardboard called “signs.” Many theatres have these “signs” outside their doors that say “Please turn off your cell phone.” Sometimes, if you manage to get to the theatre before the start of the show, you may see someone who will politely address the audience and remind everyone to do what the sign requested. Now, hard as this may be to believe, turning your cell phone off does not kill it. You see, Timmy, even though your cell phone seems like a living, breathing thing, it really is just a very small machine. If you turn it off, you can turn it right back on even several hours later.
Turning the cell phone off in the theatre helps to prevent things like electronic interference with the sound system and loud, unexpected phone calls in the middle of important scenes. (Ooopsie!) If, however, that fifth White Russian has impaired your ability to remember to turn your cell phone off, and a surprise call from your parole officer causes your Flock of Seagulls ringtone to chime loudly through the theatre, the best thing to do is to try to cover the phone with something thick, like your coat or your girlfriend, to muffle the sound. You might also try refusing the call and, as quickly as you can, turning it off. The wrong thing to do would be to answer the phone and say, “Dude, I’m at a play, what is it?”
This could prove just a little distracting to the actors on stage. Remember: Keanu Reeves isn’t really there, but Janelle Christie is.
As a side note, I have so far only seen this happen in a movie theater, but if I should ever see during a live show that electric blue hue of an ongoing text-message exchange, there is a very good possibility that someone will be eviscerated.

Rule #5: Asking for half a million dollars for a beloved neighborhood theatre, knowing that it will probably be razed to the ground by a developer, instead of selling to a patron of the arts at a fairer price is tacky.

Tacky. Tacky. Tacky.

That’s all for today, boys and girls. Remember to always look both ways when crossing the street, never run with scissors, and, if a stranger offers you candy to get in their car, ask to see the candy up front.

1 comment:

Erica Gamet said...

Funny, funny, FUHHH-NEEEE and, as usual, right on the money! Remind me not to try to drink while reading any of your blog entries!