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A Guide to Theatre Etiquette

Theatre, whether it’s a mesmerizing Broadway show, a hilarious comedy act, a thought-provoking drama, or a lively musical performance, offers an escape from reality and a journey into the world of creativity and storytelling. But, just as there are rules and customs for any social setting, there are also established norms of etiquette that should be followed when attending a theatre performance. In fact, audience etiquette is generally wonderful to know because also lends itself to other scenarios including talks, keynotes, speeches or presentations. The dos and don’ts of theatre etiquette will not only allow you to fully enjoy your night out, but it will also ensure a respectful experience for fellow patrons and performers alike. 

  • Fashionably Late is Not Appropriate

Doors typically open 30-45 minutes before a performance for good reason. Arriving well in advance of your show or performance is incredibly important as to not disrupt those on stage and other patrons once the show has started. Arrive early to buy refreshments, use the restrooms and settle into your seats. In many instances, shows will close doors to the theatre and hold late guests outside until an act or scene is over, so you may even miss some of the show by being late. Arriving on time will also help you stay respectful to other patrons and avoid any embarrassment of having everyone stand to let you to your seat.   

  • Silence Your Devices Before Lights Go Down 

In an age dominated by smartphones, it’s crucial to remember that a theatre is a place to disconnect from the digital world. The bright glow of a phone screen can be not only distracting but also disrespectful to the performers and fellow audience members. Before the show begins, make sure to turn off your phone, or at the very least, put it on silent or airplane mode. Avoid texting, browsing social media, or taking calls during the performance. It’s not only a sign of respect but also a way to immerse yourself fully in the production.

  • No Filming or Recording

While capturing a memory is tempting, it’s a cardinal sin in the world of theatre. Recording or filming a live performance not only violates copyright laws but also distracts both performers and audience members. The glow of a recording device or camera flash can ruin the ambiance and disrupt the experience for everyone. Leave the recording to the professionals, and instead, purchase a program or merchandise to commemorate your night at the theatre.

  • Keep the Volume Down

The theatre is not the place for chit-chat or commentary. During a performance, silence is golden. Whispering, talking, or commenting on the action on stage can be incredibly distracting and disrespectful to those around you. If you must communicate with your companion, do so quietly and discreetly during appropriate moments, such as intermissions.

  • Take off Hats (yes even fashionable ones)

Hats off to a good performance…always! As soon as you enter a theatre or performance space, hats come off and stay off throughout the entire performance. Not only is it a sign of respect to the actors, but also won’t block the view of others behind and around you. 

  • Stay Seated and Mind Your Space

Once the performance begins, it’s essential to stay in your seat until intermission or the end of the show. Walking in and out of the theatre, especially during intense scenes, disrupts the flow of the performance and can disturb fellow audience members. Be mindful of the space around you and avoid blocking the view of those seated behind you. It’s a small effort that contributes to the overall enjoyment of the show for everyone.

  • Dress to Show Respect

Theatre experiences can vary in formality, from casual to black-tie affairs. Before attending a performance, consider the venue’s dress code and aim to match it appropriately. While there’s no need to wear a tuxedo or evening gown to every show, dressing neatly and respectfully shows appreciation for the art form and the effort put into the production.

  • Mind Your Snacking Habits

Eating during a theatre performance is generally acceptable, but it should be done discreetly. Avoid loud, crunchy snacks like chips or popcorn during quiet moments in the performance. Instead, opt for softer options like chocolates or mints. Furthermore, refrain from bringing outside, strong-smelling, or messy foods into the theatre. Stick to concessions provided by the venue.

Attending a theatre performance is a wonderful and culturally enriching experience that can only be made better by good audience manners. By following these simple rules of theatre etiquette, you not only enhance your own enjoyment but also contribute to a respectful and enjoyable atmosphere for everyone in the audience. Remember, the theatre is a communal space where we come together to celebrate the magic of storytelling and performance, and respecting these norms ensures that the spotlight remains on the stage where it belongs. Enjoy the show!

To watch an example of theatre manners, click here

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