On etiquette

Hello Internet, it’s Monday, November 15, and I’m speaking to you from the past!

To be specific, I’m speaking to you from Friday night, right after I saw Sound of Music at the (completely sold out) Arts & Culture Centre.  The show was beautifully done, gorgeously performed, and aside from the inevitable problems with wireless microphones in that space, generally just a really good time. Well done, team.

My experience of the show was hindered, however, by the fact that the audience clearly had never heard of Theatre Etiquette.  My frustration has driven me to jot down a few basic rules of theatre going. I am completely aware that I am preaching to the choir, as I imagine that most people who read this blog know me personally and/or are involved/intersted in the arts, but I am doing it anyway.

1. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you wear perfume, cologne or any other strong-smelling substance to the theatre (or, for that matter, any other closed space where you will be sitting with several hundred other people). By disobeying this rule, you are making other people physically uncomfortable.

I get that you are on a night out, all dressed up in your Friday Best, but you would have to be living on Mars to be unaware that there are people who are allergic to scents. Very few workplaces allow perfume anymore… do you know why? Because it makes people SNEEZE. It makes them wheezy. It makes them twitchy. Heck, I’ve been out of that theatre and breathing clean air for an hour now, and my eyes are still itchy and my throat is still sore.

Performers are not immune to scents either, by the way, and there’s nothing like having your face break out in hives right before you go onto a stage in front of hundreds of people and try to sing.

2. WE CAN HEAR YOU when you whisper. See, theatres are generally rooms built specifically with acoustics in mind, which means that if you are sitting in one, and it’s quiet, and you whisper to the person next to you, everyone can hear you whisper.

We might not always know what you’re saying, but we know that we hate you for saying it.

3. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR KID is old enough to be seeing the show you’re taking them to. This is not only about whether or not the content is going to give your kids nightmares/put thoughts in their heads that you don’t want there. This is about them being interested enough in the subject matter to sit quietly and watch the story unfold.

As a rule of thumb, kids who can’t read yet are not old enough to sit through a musical about the Nazi invasion of Austria. (Case in point: the 5-year-old sitting on the lap of the woman next to me asked, loudly enough to be heard by the whole room – see point 2 – “Who is that man?”, referring to the leading man, during the final scene of the show. Did that child benefit from being taken to the theatre? No. Did she annoy every patron in the surrounding area? Yes.) Take those kids to Blue’s Clues.

4. IF YOUR CHILD HAS AN 8 O’CLOCK BEDTIME, what would possess you to bring them with you to a 3-hour show beginning at 7:30? Honestly. That’s just common sense.

5. THE TIME TO READ THE PROGRAM is before the show, during intermission, and after the show. If you are super-curious about who it is that is playing that character, or want to know how many scenes are left before intermission so that you can mentally prepare yourself to wait that long to pee, and there is enough ambient light for you to make out the words, it is totally acceptable for you to look something up in the program.

DO NOT pull out your cell phone and use it as a flashlight. The purpose of keeping it dark in the audience is so that stuff doesn’t distract you from what’s going on on stage. By lighting up your iPhone, you are defeating that purpose completely.

6. IF YOU HAVE CONSUMPTION, don’t come to the theatre. We are all very understanding of the need to cough. In fact, every time I have denied my need to cough, I have wound up believing that my brain was pushing itself out of my head via my eyes and nose. The problem is, when I hear you cough, I want to cough. This leads to a chain of coughing that can, in large theatres, just circle and circle until we as a group come to accept the sound of coughing as white noise.

So, with the understanding that it is not always possible to avoid coughing – if you have a lingering cough, bring cough drops and/or a bottle of water into the theatre with you. And if you’re really sick, you have no business locking yourself in a closed space with other people for hours. Go home out of it and stop infecting the world.

… whew. I feel better now.

On a totally different topic, Happy Birthday, Mike! You are pretty cool.