In honor of Black History Month, many theaters will spotlight Black educational and entertainment programming. From local schools to New York’s Broadway, performances in theaters will range from a child reading an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr. to a spectacular performance by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.
It is important that you adhere to theater etiquette, not only out of respect for other audience members but also for the performers and all involved in the production. Be mindful that in “live theater,” the actors can hear and see you and they react to the responses from the audience.
Dress according to the “dress protocol” of the theater. Opening night performances at Broadway shows are dressy affairs. Men, this is your opportunity to sport that tuxedo and a formal gown for the ladies would be perfect. Continue to dress up (suits, cocktail dresses) for evening performances on weekends, however, mid-week shows are less formal and matinee attire can be casual. Be considerate when using cologne and perfume. Other theatergoers may be allergic to certain scents.
Before, During and After the Show
Plan to arrive 30 minutes before the show begins. This allows you plenty of time to “take in” the ambiance of the theater, locate your seat, read the playbill, and possibly meet new people. I also recommend using the restroom before the performance begins because lines tend to be extremely long during intermissions.
The protocol of most auditoriums is not to allow late arrivers to enter until there is a break in the performance. When couples are escorted to their seats by an usher, the procession is usher, female, and then male. If an usher isn’t present, the male goes first and his date follows.
Please follow the rules of the theater regarding food, drink and photography. Most importantly, remember to turn off your cell phone or place it on vibrate as soon as you sit down.
Respond appropriately and respectfully during a show. It is okay to laugh or applaud when you are enjoying yourself, however, do not whistle or scream out a performer’s name. It can be very distracting and cause a mishap on stage. Parents, friends and relatives should refrain from shouting from the audience during a performance. Wait until the end, and then applaud enthusiastically.
To keep from being a distraction to other viewers as well as the actors, remain in your seat during the entertainment. Most theatrical productions and musicals allow one 15-20 minute intermission; you may have two intermissions during an opera. Don’t rush to leave immediately after the show. Stay for the curtain call to show appreciation to the performers.
Bringing Children to the Theater
Before bringing a child to live theater, share some information about the storyline of the play, and discuss theater manners. Tell children that while they are enjoying the performance, they should sit quietly, keep their feet down and do not disturb others. Since food is not usually allowed, eat beforehand and remember to stop at the restroom before going to your seats.
Following these guidelines for theater etiquette will enhance your theater experience and make it a performance to remember.