Last week we wrote an article about the 70th Annual Tony Awards nominations. With shows like Hamilton, She Loves Me, Waitress, Book of Mormon, Hedwig, and several others that are doing really well, more crowds are flocking to see them live than ever before. That being said, there is now a mix of regulars and newbies in the audience. For those of us who grew up in the performing arts (whether it was being on stage, behind the scenes, or as a fan), we know there are rules that audience members should acknowledge. However, there are some who might not be familiar with those written and unwritten rules of the house. Let’s change that shall we? 

Recently, several performers have addressed the issue of audience members breaking their phones out during their show. Hamilton front-runner Lin-Manuel Miranda and She Loves Me co-star Laura Benanti have gone to great lengths to talk about the issue on social media after offenses have occurred once they’ve clocked out. As a former performer and usher myself, it still irks me whenever I see someone attempt to break their phone out during a show from the corner of my eye or whenever I hear someone try to unwrap a snack (even when they’re not supposed to) nearby during a quiet moment. We know you worked hard to get those tickets. But that doesn’t entitle you to ruin the experience for everybody else around you. Please try to be considerate and aware of your surroundings. That’s all we’re asking.

Video Credit: Lauren Molina Official YouTube Channel

Whether you believe it or not, the theatre is a sacred place. There’s a connection between the audience and the creative team during a live performance that’s undeniable. Encores happen because a performer believes that the crowd deserves it. It’s great when you can witness a moment live. Especially ones that eventually go down in history. Do you remember the first time you saw your favorite artist live? Do you remember what it was like to see your favorite show on Broadway or in the West End? That’s probably something you still like to talk about, huh? It doesn’t matter how big or intimate a show is, please follow the house rules. They’re there for a reason.

But I’ve never gone to a show before. What do I do? What do I wear? It’s okay to be a newbie. We want more people to get involved in the arts. That way it can continue to stay around forever. This is by no means a complete list, but hopefully these guidelines can serve as a useful tool for you whenever you go out to enjoy a show that you’re unfamiliar with.

  1. Do research on the show and venue before hand. Yes, this is important. Unless you’re a regular, don’t try to wing it without understanding what you’re getting into first. Each show is designed differently.
  2. Who can I bring and what if I have special needs? Some shows will have an age limit (i.e. don’t take little kids to see American Idiot until they’re old enough to handle those situations) but most venues should be able to accommodate your needs as long as you let them know about it.
  3. What do I wear? It really depends on the kind of show you’re going to. Ballets and philharmonic concerts (i.e. Los Angeles Philharmonic or the Russian Ballet) tend to be more upscale and formal. Punk rock concerts and outdoor festivals tend lean more on the casual side (i.e. It’s Not Dead Fest or Coachella). That’s where doing your research before hand will come in handy.
  4. What time should I get there? If you haven’t gone to a venue before and don’t know what the parking situation is like, always allow for lost time. Try to get to the show at least 30 minutes before hand. That way you have enough time to settle in.
  5. Cooperate with the house staff. They know how the operation is supposed to flow. As much as you may want to believe this, they’re actually not out there to make your life miserable. Be mindful of holds and listen to ushers if you have to step out during a performance and want to come back in.
  6. Can I bring food and drink? This rule will change depending on what kind of venue you’re going to. If you’re not allowed to bring these items inside the theater, DON’T BRING FOOD INSIDE. Eat it before you go back inside. A water bottle is okay but don’t be that person that likes to crumple it either. Even though it may seem like you’re attempting to be quiet, we can still hear you. If you need cough drops, make sure to unwrap everything prior to your visit (it’ll make your life easier).
  7. But I really want to take a picture or record a video for my friends on social media. If you want to prove that you were there, take a picture before the show starts and/or during intermission with the program/ticket. Unless you’re allowed to take your phone out during the show, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY AND KEEP IT OFF OR IN AIRPLANE MODE. If you can’t separate from it, let the people you talk to regularly know that you won’t be able to respond for the amount of time you’re going to be away. If you absolutely have to answer a call, step outside into the lobby. Don’t answer it or leave it ringing during a show. You don’t want someone calling you out for it. Do your tags and Snaps before you head inside, etc.
  8. When can I clap? Sometimes shows will have an upbeat melody that might get you excited. Look for signs. Is there someone on stage cueing the audience to clap along? Sometimes regulars will also know when it’s appropriate to do so too. But make sure you stop when everybody else does. If you go to a formal show internationally, it’s also considered rude to clap during a piece. Save it for the very end if you’re absolutely unsure. Know that there’s a difference between a rest, fermata, and the actual end of the piece (watch the conductor)
  9. Can I lip-sync the lyrics or mouth the quotes with the performers? This is usually frowned upon unless you’re given an appropriate signal to join in on the action.
  10. Don’t forget that performers feed on your energy. If you’re an attentive audience, they’ll feed off of your energy and give you a performance you won’t forget. Otherwise, it’ll just be awkward the entire time. Let’s avoid that.

Video Credit: Alexander Galant YouTube Channel

Phew! We made it. Ultimately, we theatre fans want everybody to enjoy the show. Don’t be that person that gets angry stares. Manners matter.

Can’t make it out to Broadway? The theatre community has created BroadwayHD, a new streaming site that lets fans watch shows from the comfort of their own home. It doesn’t have everything on there but it has a good library nonetheless. Click this link to move forward: What are some of your pet peeves? We’d love to hear from you!