Steven's Theatre Etiquette for Dummies (or "Madam, would you KINDLY shut your trap?")

Steven's Theatre Etiquette for Dummies (or "Madam, would you KINDLY shut your trap?")

Imagine you’re at the movies: silence reigns supreme while you watch the new Tyler Perry epic, only to hear the person next unwrapping their Sugar Daddy with volume equitable to the H-Bomb going off? Have you been trying to watch the latest revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Jennifer Lawrence and Lin-Manuel Miranda and are distracted from the brilliant acting by the old wench next to you jawing with her husband about how she thinks the cabbage in the fridge is about to turn? Have you ever wanted to set two women with gin-soaked breath (and breasts, perhaps?) on fire for yelling during a Backstreet Boys concert?

If so, you may have been subjected to that most heinous of entertainment-related crises: the inconsiderate, slovenly, heathen known as the Inconsiderate Spectator.

As I am embarking to California this week, and am attending three different concerts in three different venues, I thought this would be a brilliant time to share my thoughts with you on this very timely, important issue.

What’s the root of this issue? I believe it all boils down to respect: for both the person who is performing and also for the considerate theater-goer who may be seated in the vicinity of your shenanigans. There are untold amounts of cash that are funneled into even the most bare-bones production, and all involved deserve your silence, which is free, I might add, and simple to procure – simply SHUT YOUR YAP.

Here are some of the most common things that you should refrain from doing before, during, and after your show (and this applies to every form of entertainment, unless specific allowances have been made):

  1. Cut the Stink: Before you arrive, make sure you’re not wearing any odor-emitting perfumes, colognes, or other various toiletries. Some people who may be seated near you might be allergic, so please refrain from putting on your blueberry body spray for one night.
  2. Know Your Stuff: Research what you’re going to see before you see it, so you’re not bewildered and belligerent during the show. Even a simple plot summary or synopsis can help immesnsely, especially if it’s a work you’re not familiar with.
  3. Dress for Success: Basing your opinion on what venue you’re going to, dress appropriately. Obviously, if you’re going to a movie, this doesn’t apply, but don’t dress like a slob at a live stage production. One of my former directors put it best: if you wouldn’t wear it to church, don’t wear it to the theater.
  4. Respect My Space: As on an airplane, you should be conscious of the comfort of the people next to you. The space might be small, but you have to inhabit it for the next several hours, so exchange pleasantries with them, arrange yourself so you’re comfortable, yet not spilling onto their seat, and always be sure to honor the suggestions they make, and vice versa. A kind neighbor is a happy neighbor (unless you put your feet on their lap.)
  5. Banish the Electronics: Before the show starts, turn off your phones, computers, beepers, pacemakers, watches, dialysis machines, and any other sort of beeping, blinking, or blaring device! If you’re grafted to your phone, you need to go see a psychiatrist and figure out why you can’t just shut the damn thing off. It’s a matter of modern courtesy that many have yet to grasp. Also: leave your flash photography at home! No one needs to blinded by a flash while trying to sing a Puccini aria.
  6. Silencio, Por Favor: Once the show starts, SHUT YOUR YAP (have I made that clear yet?) No one pays $300 to hear you talk about your children (God forbid) or discuss what’s happening on stage with Ethel next to you. Not only are you impeding the enjoyment of the people around you, but you’re depriving yourself of that magic that is happening onstage! Why would you pay big bucks to do what you can do for free at a coffee shop?
  7. Take Bean-o and There’ll Be No Gas: Whether it be coughing, burping, flatulating, or any other sort of offending noise, please find a way to (temporary) silence it before heading to the theater (this includes…God, do I even have to say this?…brushing your goddamn teeth!) Stock up on cough drops (but unwrap them before the show starts, which also pertains to candy) or take a Zantac and cut the gas off at the pass – my nostrils will thank you!
  8. Hold Your Applause: Depending on the situation, it is rude to clap or shout at inopportune times. Use your best judgment or, best of all, defer to the crowd and wait. No one wants to hear you applaud after the first movement of a Beethoven Symphony. Natural reactions, such as laughing, gasping, or crying are, obviously, up for grabs… just make sure to respect your neighbor!
  9. Clean Your Garbage: As you leave your seat for the final time, survey your area and clean up your junk. There are people who are paid to clean up your crap, but that doesn’t mean you should make their jobs even harder because you’re too damn lazy to take your giant empty popcorn bucket to the trash. Refreshments are a privilege, not a way to mark your territory.
  10. Form a Line and Wait Your Turn: This goes for before and after the show – wait your turn in the line as your enter and exit. No one likes that one burly man who thinks it’s his feudal right to be first in line. Being an audience member isn’t a contact sport – so be kind and respectful!

If you follow these little tips, to the best of your abilities, you’ll find that the experienced is heightened not just for you, but for everyone in your vicinity!

But, of course, the most important thing is to have fun! Going to a show should be a joyous moment, a chance to immerse yourself in a foreign world for a few hours and let your stress melt away.

And, of course, remember this little fact: Patti LuPone might take you to task and rip you a new one!

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And, the newest episode of my podcast, The Objectivist and The Vegan, has been uploaded to SoundCloud

In this episode, Jack (The Vegan)and Steven (The Objectivist) reassess the Objectivist view of moral judgment and apply it to the recent rise and thunderous downfall of conservative spark-plug Milo Yiannopoulos. Also: Jack hates on Perez Hilton, Steven admits to being a provocateur, and a special visit from star of stage and screen, Paul Lynde!

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