Thursday, July 9, 2015

Theatre Etiquette for Everyone

Theatre is in my mind the most wonderful art. It combines all disciplines, all forms, and most importantly is live. The artists are all there with you. You are experiencing a work of art in real time and it is unlike the performance has ever been or ever will be again. You have the privilege of participating in a singular, once in a lifetime event and you can feel the energy. Even if you don't concur with my boastful opinion, you must agree that theater is unique, even among the performing arts. That is why there are certain rules that must be obeyed; so that you and your partners in happening can get the maximum enjoyment out of your individual and societal experience.  The rules were laid out, not because of pretension and animosity, but to ensure the most fair and democratic enjoyment.

1. This should go without saying, but it is apparently necessary as manners and common courtesies have gone by the wayside. 
You are not in your living room! This isn't a ball game! You can't get this kind of experience at home watching tv in your underwear, or even at the movies. This is live and no matter what you might think, everyone can hear you. Actors, Crews and most importantly, other audience members. You are breaking everyone's concentration and unless you are the most ignorant human who has ever existed, I know you can feel the stony glares emanating at you from all directions. Seriously, some shows require people to complete very difficult and dangerous tasks that require utmost concentration. You are literally endangering people's lives and quite literally your own.  So please enjoy the show, savor every moment, talk to your companions after the show. 
   SHUT UP!!!!
If this rule seems shocking and uncalled for, not talking will actually be a great exercise for that dull and underworked organ rotting between your eyes. Also try to remember and savor. It's something we don't get to do very much in this epitome of consumer American whoredom that we call cultural existence. 

2. This should also go without saying but this is also a sticky point,
  BE ON TIME!!!!! 
And by on time I mean at least 15 if not 30 minutes early!!!
The reason, a theater production involves a lot of people, more than you would imagine most likely: and all of those people agree to a strict schedule by being hired or purchasing a ticket to said event. If you are late for a train, it will leave the station without you. So will a plane, a car service, an elevator, most things in life adhere to a schedule. Theater is no different. You may be a paying customer but you agreed to be on time when you purchased the ticket.
   Subpoint: don't you dare yell at the front of house staff for ANY reason but especially if YOU are late. This is your fault. Even with the most valid excuse in the world (Hint*--dinner ran late, usual traffic, oversleeping, you forgot the tickets at home, etc. are NOT valid excuses) the other partons, ticket holders, customers, call them what you will all managed to make it here on time. None of us will be waiting for you. If they did hold the house for you, I have pity on your soul.
If it were up to me, you wouldn't get in, you wouldn't get to reschedule, and you wouldn't get a refund! Thankfully it's not up to me. Most theaters will find a time to slip you in if heaven forbid you are late, but that is at their and the directors discretion. Yes, the director decides these moments, so once again keep your frustration and self loathing to yourself. Don't you dare try and talk an usher into letting you in. They won't and it makes you look like an asshole.  No matter when you are slipped in, it will be disruptive which causes the same effects as breaking rule one. DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!

Along the same lines
This means, find out how long the show is BEFORE you attend, find out if and how many intermissions there are and when they fall. All of its information can be found on the magical interwebs via mother Google™. Most of you reading this are adults although kids should be taught too. If you know you personally can't control your bladder for 45-100 minutes, Skip that drink at the bar, don't enjoy a second with dinner, and for God's sake stay coherent. The reasons are all listed above. If you've forgotten them, read it again!

4. This one can Get sticky but as a general rule unless specifically told by someone,
This is more for legal reasons than anything. Everything you see inside a theater--usually including the theater itself--is intellectual property and therefore copyrighted material.  It is protected under all the statutes that a painting or a sculpture is.  The designers can technically and truly sue your ass if you publish photos of their material and have every right to under copyright law.  The control aspect is the most important to designers. Think about that for a second: if something you spent countless hours creating, perfecting, and overseeing. Would you really like it if someone who you had no input or contact with, published an unapproved image with unapproved angles and sometimes truly poor aesthetic sensibility? Remember that whole Instagram™ Fiasco with copyright a while ago? It was undecided who held the main rights the "artist" or the publisher? America spoke and said of their own free will that the artist holds the copyright.  There you go. Also, since most people cannot properly operate a smartphone camera and therefore cannot turn off the flash, that is also distracting. See Point 1 again for the issues of distraction.

You as an audience member know nothing about the actual logistics of an individual stage and set. I mean nothing! You are the epitome of clueless. Why would you even attempt something you know so little about? you could bump something or move something necessary for the show or worse, for someone's safety! You wouldn't go into the generator room of a power plant or onto the tracks of a train. Both are necessary for the essential functions and both can be destroyed by ignorant hands. In the theater, that's you! Stay out of everything except the auditorium! If you even begin to question whether you should be somewhere, don't do it!!!  This is ALSO distracting to everyone!!! See Point 1 for the umpteenth time for the issues of distraction.

All of the people who I was just talking about, FOH staff, technicians, designers and actors? They can all see you. You might not believe me but I promise it is true. We all know when you are leaving and it is very hurtful and disheartening to all involved. If you have stayed for the entire show, there is no excuse for this behavior. I don't care if you want to beat traffic, beat the bar line, or get to your favorite restaurant before the crowd--there is no excuse for your tasteless, offensive, and inexcusable behavior. You will be judged accordingly.

7. Finally and MOST importantly, 
you are responsible for your own good time and the good time had by everyone else. What makes theatre it's most powerful can also destroy it in an instant.  Your bad attitude has an effect on people and It's amazing how quickly feelings spread throughout a group. I am no sociologist but I have experienced first hand an audience turning on a show in both good and bad ways.  Come in with an open mind, don't listen to the critics, and let theater work its magic on you because it can.  A great performance of a great piece of theater can change your life much less your night. That power is what separates it from the other arts and it is something that once experienced will live forever in your mind and will be something you seek for the rest of your existence! Don't mess it up for yourself or others.