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8 Theater Etiquette Tips to Live By

Don’t let bad manners upstage you.

| February 20, 2014

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In the same way we observe proper decorum when watching movies, there are basic manners to keep us from being the insufferable theatergoer.

When watching musicals or straight plays, keep in mind these 8 rules:

(P.S. Find out what 8 shows you can catch this first quarter of 2014 here.)

8. Gadgets off

At the Movies Series

We’re not just talking about muting your phones to keep them from disrupting the show. Nobody wants to see your bright LCD flash in the middle of the theater as you text your friend, “Start na Wicked, egzoited na me!” Keep every distracting gadget away from sight. Some venues are so strict that they even require you to deposit your cameras at the reception, so it’s best to just leave them at home unless you have time to fall in line post-show for claiming.

7. Photography is forbidden

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No, you may not take snapshots during the show—not even if your flash is turned off. Plays are protected by copyright laws, so taking unauthorized still photos, videos, and audio recordings is a violation. A single flash is enough to distract a performer and even cause safety issues. You also don’t want to get dirty glances from other theatergoers.

6. Come early

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The production won’t care if it took you one hour to park, 30 minutes to fall in line in the toilet, and another 30 minutes to visit the souvenir stand. If the ticket states that the shows starts at 8 p.m., it will start at exactly that time and it won’t matter if your car broke down en route to the venue. Be in your seat at least 10 minutes before the show starts. Latecomers will temporarily be seated at the back and will only be allowed to go to their assigned seats during intermission.

5. Dress appropriately

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Gone are the days when watching a play meant ball gowns and tuxedos, but please don’t come in your ripped denims and Havaianas. For gala nights, come in cocktail dresses or formal wear, but for regular show dates, smart casual to semi-formal is preferred.

4. Be quiet

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Whispering doesn’t count as being quiet (depending on the acoustics of the theater, even actors on stage can actually hear whispering from the audience), so reserve your chatter until after the show or during intermission. Applaud only when appropriate (i.e. after a song or dance number or a great line). Refrain from making catcalls and howling; this is not a concert! Obviously, food and drinks are not allowed—not even chewing gum. The popping sound of gum and crinkling wrappers is distracting and annoying. If you’re diabetic and need to counteract low blood sugar, “quiet food” such as raisins may be eaten discreetly.

3. Don’t be rude

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If you know you’re freakishly taller than the average person, don’t purchase a seat right smack in the middle where you will block the view of the people behind you. Sorry, ballers! Avoid wearing hats, cuddling with your boyfriend, and leaving in the middle of a performance. Also, be nice to the ushers. They are not your butlers, so don’t power trip. They have the authority to kick you out of the theater if you violate the rules or act like a privileged prick.

2. Control your children

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Take your kids only to age-appropriate shows, or just leave them at home or with a babysitter. You’re wasting your money if they won’t understand the show. If you do bring kids, make sure you’ve prepped them to be quiet and behaved. And no, it’s not cool to explain the scenes to them every 10 minutes or let them run around with a yaya.

1. Fan-girl after the show

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You’re not the only one who memorizes the songs or masters every line by heart, so please do not sing along or loudly explain tidbits about the play to show off that you’re a super fan. After the curtain call, feel free to gush all you want and stalk the actors at the stage door. But during the show, please behave.

What other theater etiquette do you recommend? Share in the Comments Section.