Theatre Etiquette Tips

Theatre Etiquette For Boors 
By Walter Ang
June 15, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As soon as the schoolyear opens, most theater companies start their seasons for the year. After taking a break from doing shows to hold workshops during the summer months, theater companies will go into full blast as they resume staging productions that run the gamut from Greek classics to Broadway musicals.

One of the biggest captive audiences most theater companies have are students who are required to watch at least one show for school. This is why most seasons are scheduled in tandem with school calendars. Exposing the youth to culture and arts is a noble enterprise, however, woe to the unlucky and unsuspecting theatergoer who has to endure hours of sitting with noisy, fidgety, unappreciative kids.

Bringing busloads of teenagers into a darkened theater will give you the usual scenes: boys asleep, girls giggling and chattering away, cell phones going off during the most importune times, whole groups wanting to go to the bathroom at the same time. All of that, and the play hasn't even started yet!

Some of us has experienced at least one horror story while watching a stage production. These inconsiderate individuals should at least try to realize that they aren't the only ones who are in the theater. A little common courtesy can go a long way. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what courtesy means anymore. Teachers really should try to brief their students with a few etiquette tips before they head off to the theater. In the meantime, here's a few reminders for the most common offenses:

1. Turn off those cell phones.
If you own a pager, or a cell phone, or a radio unit, or all three, turn them off. First of all, the various lights, beeps and other strange sounds emitted by these devices will distract not only fellow audience members, but especially the performers. Leave the light and sound effects to the professionals.

Second, a unit that's switched to either vibrate or mute mode will still send out signals that will interfere with sound systems. We already know how telephones and computer monitors are affected whenever a nearby cellphone is receiving an incoming text message. Now imagine the same annoying interference amplified for all to hear, drowning out the lines of the actors onstage.

Third, owning a cellphone is no longer a status symbol. Even fruit vendors in Divisoria have them. So if you think you prove how cool you are by letting everyone hear your ringing tone of the latest AprilBoy ditty, you're just showing everyone how crass you are.

Fourth, don't even think of taking or making a call during the play! This may be a concept that is alien to many of you, but this is considered rude. If you've forgotten what rude means, you'd better go back to preschool to take a refresher course.

2. Don't talk.
This reminder is for people who like to give a blow- by-blow account of what's happening onstage to their companions. If you want a career as a commentator, don't practice while the play's going on. And don't we just all hate the whiny, know-it-all who does nothing but complain and claim how he or she could do so much better?

We've got good news for people who aren't enjoying the show like the rest of us. There are moments during the play called black-outs. Most of us think black-outs are for scene or costume changes, but the truth of the matter is, they're really for those of you want to leave the show! Black outs are specially put in for you by the playwrights. Don't you think that's so gracious of them?

3. Don't heckle.
For a whole generation raised on explicit, graphic scenes of sex and violence on television, I do not understand why some audiences shriek and swoon whenever there's a kissing scene onstage. Are you experiencing kilig? Or are you just worried that the kissing actors might harbor some horrible diseases that they could contaminate each other with? If you think you're being cute, think again.

There are a whole lot more things to keep in mind. Yes, watching a live production is not like watching the latest Latin American television soap opera at home. You cannot scream at the villain, you cannot put your stinky feet up, you cannot talk on your phone, etc. Having reactions to what's happening onstage is perfectly fine. Laugh if you must, cry if you must, but always remember, you're not the only one in the theater so remember to behave.