Ask Mr. Manners

Manners at theatricals

For as long as I can remember, I have always owned a suit. I don’t know if this is attributed to my Southern roots, or can be traced back to a mother who believed all culture stemmed from attending a stage show — regardless, my life full of etiquette for the arts is a blessing. As we prepare for spring, it’s time again to give everyone a refresher so you are not the odd man out.

Unless posted, there is not a formal dress code for attending the theater. But, we know that just because something isn’t in writing doesn’t mean it is unknown. Some people like to dress up and make a night of it, and some people go in jeans. My rule of thumb is that you should dress similar to the performers on stage. If the ensemble is wearing tuxedos, then start with a suit and work up from there. If the performance is less formal, at least wear a blazer. One thing to keep in mind is that, like movie theaters, live theater can be highly air-conditioned in the summer, so the blazer is a must.

Now that we have dressed the part, we need to talk about how to act in public. As you may recall a particular wave of rude theatergoers that has hindered the experience for others. Before you find yourself being the next offender, I recommend you also incorporate a few etiquette tips to keep in mind for your next theater outing.

Stand in Line — Stay in Your Seat
If there is a line outside of the theater, stand at the end of it and wait your turn to enter. Chances are, the show won’t start until everyone in the line is in the theater, so there’s no need to cut.

Don’t Get Up During A Performance
There are three ample opportunities to blow your nose, use the bathroom, or send text messages before, midway through, and after a show. It’s rude to interrupt another person’s theater experience by getting up during a performance to use the bathroom or make a phone call.

You’re Not the Only Person Attending the Show
Be courteous to others. There are other people around you, so please try not to take up more than one seat. Your coat and shopping bags did not pay for the seat next to you, so refrain from making yourself at home. Please be gracious to the people around you.

While this list is not exhaustive, I hope this has cleared a few things before we start this next theater season. Just follow the rules for this upcoming arts cycle, and I guarantee you will not be the victim of Patti LuPone’s next audience attack. No one wants to be that guy. Trust me.

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