Etiquette for the Theatre Audience

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I don’t think any theatre blog would be complete without talking about the etiquette of being an audience member visiting the theatre. Some actors have some real pet hates when it comes to manors of their audience and there are thing that make you as part of an audience talk of the dressing room and there are others that are just plain rude.

So let’s start with the basic housekeeping stuff, TIMEKEEPING this is so important. Don’t be late! When a show is advertised as starting, for example at 7.30pm that mean the curtain goes up at 7.30pm and the actors begin. Unlike the cinema where a showing is advertised 7.30pm but then there are a load of adverts and trailers before the film. So what you are actually going to see at the cinema may not actually start until 8.15pm or 8.20pm therefore you can afford to be 10 or 15 minutes late as nobody really minds during adverts.

When you are late you are not just disturbing the people in the row when you are sitting, but you also disturb those around you in other rows as well as the actors on stage. There are some places that won’t admit you into the auditorium once the performance starts, even if you have a ticket and may have paid a fortune for it. But this is definitely a good thing, and I think it’s at the Birmingham Rep that won’t even allow you to return to the performance if you are late back from the interval, they have a special standing room where you can watch the show on a screen.

In the 21st Century we are so luck that as an audience we are not expected to wear our ‘Sunday best’ outfit to attend performances, smart casual is just fine. In fact if you ever go to a performance at Australia’s Sydney Opera House they don’t care what you wear as long as you are on time, if you’re late then you miss out on the performance.

Then we have talking during a performance, this is without a doubt the height of rudeness; you may well have paid for the tickets, but so have the people sitting around you and your conversation wasn’t included in the price of their ticket, you are not the only person watching that performance. Theatres are built for sound to carry, so there will be a fair chance that the actors on stage will also be able to hear your conversation which can put actors off and spoil the show for everyone else.

There has been a lot of talk recently about photography and videoing during performances, and so many time actors have very rightly spoken out against people taking photos while they are performing.

There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t take photos or video a performance in a theatre, the main one is the exactly the same as why it is a criminal offence to record a movie on a hand held device in a cinema, which is copyright. The company presenting the performance has paid for the rights to the author and composer to use the material. You as audience members have only paid to watch it.

There is also data protection; you don’t have permission to take a photo or a video of the individual on stage. Whatever the cost of your ticket it does NOT include permission to take photos of the performers.

If the performers are children then it can cause a lot more problems especially if you then go posting those photos on social media. Things you may not know about certain children is that they may be under the protection of the law, meaning that their location must not be disclosed to a parent or another adult, whatever the reason it is not permitted. And it won’t matter how well you know the families and parents of the children involved these kind of cases, there are something that won’t be spoken about because it’s not easy and sometimes silence on the matter is a legal requirement.

You may think an innocent photo posted in your profile is OK and if you turn off the sharing it will be secure. The fact is that people can still download that photo and then share it by other means. It will get out there, it will fall into the wrong hands and once it is out on the internet it is very hard to remove.

Buy the professional photos or recordings. These you still won’t be able to post online but they will be of much better quality. Anyway, why post performances online? You have just paid somewhere between £10 and £200 for your ticket, if you post your video or photo online you are giving the world a free view of what you paid for with money you have earned, why would you do that? If they want to see it, then they should pay the ticket price just like you and not rely on individuals to post for free viewing online.

A quick break down of  costs used with the sale of your ticket, these will include (but no limited too) things like the rights to perform the material, hire of the venue, make up, costumes, props, set and if it’s a professional performance than the wages of the production team and actors.

Moving on, most venues allow you to take food and drink into the auditorium to consume, as the revenue from these sales usually contributes to the income for running the venue. But as we enjoy the performance while eating and drinking let’s not forget that the noise from our packets can actually be heard on stage unlike the cinema where it is all pre-recorded where that extra noise makes no difference, only to the person sitting next to you.

At the end of the performance take left over cups, bottles and sweet papers out to the foyer, some venues place the stewards to hold rubbish bags for you at doors on the way out. Most theatres these days, especially the smaller ones and regionals the stewards and ushers are volunteers, so they may well have been working elsewhere all day just like you and then come to the theatre to help enhance your experience for the evening. So by the time the show ends all they want to do is go home as they may have work early the next morning, so if they can get away quicker at the end I am sure they would appreciate it.

Finally stage door, for those of you who like to leg it round the back of the theatre after the show to see your favourite actor in the hopes of getting a photograph or an autograph, just be kind. Remember that no actor is obliged to mingle with the crowd after the show again your ticket is purely for the performance inside the building, it does not include a meet and greet afterwards. But there are artists that do go up to the foyer and meet fans after their performance, this usually happens in the smaller and regional theatres.

But in London’s West End and commercial touring shows the stage door is the common entrance and exit for the actors and often there will be a crowd of people waiting at the door at the end of a show. There are going to be times when actors choose to exit by another route through the theatre as they want to get off home or they may have other plans and sure this will be disappointing but it shouldn’t be take personally and you most certainly shouldn’t go sending rude or nasty messages to the individual via social media.

Just imagine if it was you, after you have finished a hard day at work you go to leave work through the main exit you are bombarded by a stream of loyal customers and friend all wanted to speak to you. There are going to be some days you may be able to put up with this, there will be some days when you just want to go home or need to get away quickly for other reasons. And that’s how actors feel about leaving via stage door. They are human just like you, even the big celebrities and they are entitled to privacy and a personal life away from the public eye, so after the performance on stage (which in essence is their day’s work), you owe them the respect and understand if they do come to stage door by just being kind and patient, don’t push or shout and if they don’t come to stage door just know they still appreciate your attendance they just need to be elsewhere.

And that is the basic etiquette of attending theatre in the 21st Century. It’s about treating everyone as you would like to be treated, being kind, have understanding. But most of all enjoy the experience, the team will have worked so hard and will be looking forward to show you what they can do and that what you see is worth every penny you have spent on your ticket.

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