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Showbuzzness: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Ringtones

Posted Thursday, May 29th, 2008 at 2:15 pm by Mardie in Cultural Bees. More in 10001

You walk into the theater smiling and excited, admiring the gold leafing and plush red velvet accents. The usher hands you your Playbill and guides you to your seat. You squeeze between the too-tight rows and take your coat off in a Houdini-worthy display of contortion. Finally, you settle down, open your program, and ‘BERNIE! DID YOU BRING THE TUMS? WHAT IS THIS PLAY ABOUT ANYWAY?!’ Oh no.

You slowly turn around, and sure enough, sitting right behind you, is the Old Loud Couple. She can’t hear a thing, and he will shout explanations throughout the whole play, all the while noisily unwrapping two Twinkies and a bag of popcorn. And your theater experience is ruined.

Etiquette at the theater is, unfortunately, a dying breed these days. Between cell phones, candy wrappers, latecomers, loud talkers, and unruly kids, it’s easy to get frustrated when you’re paying $100 to enjoy a show in peace. While proper manners may seem like a no-brainer to some of us, to others it’s clearly not so obvious. After the jump you’ll find my five unconditional rules for appropriate behavior at the theater.



To me, there’s nothing worse than settling in to see a great show, only to have to do the stand-up-so-people-can-get-by routine well into the second scene. Plan to arrive at the theater 30 minutes before the show starts and you’ll avoid the hatred stemming from those seated around you. The start time can be found right on your ticket! There’s also this really cool thing called the internet that can give you not only the curtain time, but directions to the theater and even dinner suggestions for the area! Keep in mind that not every show starts at 8:00—matinee performances can start at any time (usually 2:00 or 3:00) and many Tuesday night performances start at 7:00. Check your tickets and plan ahead!


It’s appalling to me that I’d even have to write this, but seriously, people. If you do “accidentally” forget to turn it off, for god’s sake don’t answer it if it rings! (Side note: I was in a show once where a phone went off loud and clear in the front… we kept waiting for someone to turn it off or answer it—and then we realized that it was coming from the orchestra pit! That was a truly mortified violinist.)


This seems so silly, but it’s such a common problem that I feel the need to bring it up. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a snack during a show… but bring something that’s not in loud plastic, and prepare by unwrapping it before the show or at intermission. If you MUST unwrap your emergency cough drop, at least wait until a round of applause!


Generally speaking, the biggest culprits here are senior citizens and teenagers on school trips—but we can all use the reminder. Maybe it’s my own issues with concentration and distraction, but it’s just so unbelievably annoying when you’re trying to pay attention to a beautiful moment on stage and the kids behind you are gossiping about what happened on The Hills the night before. If you have something brilliant to say to the person sitting next to you, wait until intermission. And while there are certainly shows that call for audience participation, leave the whooping and shouting at the baseball stadium. (Though there are always exceptions—I can’t pretend that I didn’t get a little warm and fuzzy at the audience shouts of You go girl! during the anti-abuse parts of The Color Purple.)

Yes, you’re the one who paid to see them, and you deserve a great show for your buck… but actors are people too. That means not leaving at intermission (non-negotiable when you’re sitting in the front) and not bolting for the door before the curtain call. The people on stage can see you (especially at a small venue) and yes, it’s hard to not take it personally when audience members take off before the bows. Unless you have a genuine emergency, give the performers their dues and applaud politely (or ravishingly!) and exit the theater with the rest of the crowd when the show is over and the house lights are up. If it was a terrible show, you can always bash it afterward at the local pub.


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