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Saturday, August 27, 2005


When attending a live performance at a theatre or symphony (or even a film) in any public venue, there are some rules of etiquette that patrons should abide by. It is a very simple set of rules...please think about them before your next concert, theatrical performance etc*:

1.) Turn off your cell phone.

2.) When the lights dim, do not talk until the lights come back up...period.

3.) Keep young children (and adults) who will not be able to sit still (and quiet) at home.

4.) For goodness sake, unwrap your freaking candy before the show begins (this also refers to chips, cookies, foil, plastic bags or anything that will obviously be a nuisance to fellow patrons).

5.) Unless there is an emergency, don't leave before the performance ends. These performers (musicians, actors or otherwise) worked hard to make the performance an enjoyable experience for you. The absolute least you can do is give them the courtesy to sit through the whole thing.

6.) If you're going to make out, don't do it at the performance, nobody wants to see it nor do they care. Get a room...somewhere else!

7.) Don’t lean forward in your seat if you know your big ass head is blocking the view for poor souls behind you. Everyone paid good money to be where they are the last thing they need to see is your head in the way.

8.) Typically, putting your feet up (especially indoors in a theatre) is in appropriate. If you’re in an outdoor setting where this is “acceptable” be aware of where your feet are dangling…not everyone appreciates the fungus among us.

9.) Be mature and don't make fun of the people on stage, that's just rude. Save it until you're in the confines of your car, home...or anywhere that isn't on the premisis of whatever your seeing. If you're going to be that rude, please don't be dumb enough do it during a performance.

10.) If by chance you commit one of the aforementioned rules and someone politely asks you to shush, please consider the fact that you just might be a nuisance and stop whatever it is that you’re doing that is preventing others from enjoying their experience.

I am by no means Miss Manners, but as a frequent patron of the arts, I do know how I expect others as well as myself to behave. Just today, I received a link about audience etiquette (or lack thereof) at places like the Hollywood Bowl. I of course made the mistake of grandly stating that I haven't really encountered too many inappropriate folks at the Bowl...big mistake folks, big mistake. So on that note, I'd like to take the time to take you along to the most memorable events of improper audience/theatre etiquette I've experienced which include this evening's La Dolce Vita at the Hollywood Bowl as well as the Fiddler on the Roof debacle on Broadway from February 2005.

Before I get going on my tirade, let me first say that this evening, my two friends pointed out that not only do I not mention them by name in my blog, but I have yet to even write about them. I can't say that I didn't know they read said blog, but I didn't think they actually cared if they were in it or not. So, per their request, I will list them both by name...

Tonite, Tianyi and I took Jen to her first Hollywood Bowl concert (in celebration of her birthday). The section we sat in wasn't sold out, so we basically had our own row(s) and were able to spread out. For those of you who have been to the Bowl, you know that in a sold out section, they pack you in like sardines...thankfully, not the case this time. When this happens, you know that people will move down from their assigned seats to get something closer and better. Not a big deal, this happens all the time. Never has this been a problem to me, I could care less who sits where (as long as they don't annoy me).

La Dolce Vita at the Hollywood Bowl: ACT 1:

As the orchestra tuned and played their first note, a couple moves down in front of Tianyi. Please note the entire row in front of Tianyi was empty. They could have sat anywhere but, they plopped down right in front of her. Now, when I say the row in front of her was empty, I also failed to mention the row in front of that was too pretty empty. No matter where they sat, they would have had a clear view. So why they sat where they sat is beyond me. At least they had the courtesy to put their cell phone on vibrate at this time, but the phone kept going off throughout Act 1 and the vibration was strong enough for Tianyi to feel at her feet as they were propped up (but not in anyone's face). Though not a big issue, it was just distracting for her.

Jen and I sat behind Tianyi and from behind Jen, I see 3 young people about my age who I'll refer to as "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." move directly behind her. Throughout the entire first act, they were unwrapping something in foil. Yes, the ENTIRE FIRST ACT, they were fidgeting with their freaking tin foil while whispering. Not only were they loud, but they were directly behind Jen (who finally had to get up and move down the row in order to enjoy the concert). Then, some woman a few rows back decided she couldn't open her bag of chips...for like TEN FREAKING MINUTES. I understand this is the Hollywood Bowl, and there are rustling of food packaging and wine bottles rolling down the stairs -- that is normal, but a symphony of food unwrapping from ten minutes to over an HOUR? That's just inappropriate. So by now, I'm hoping that "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." behind me will say their peace to each other during intermission and shut the hell up during the second act.

La Dolce Vita at the Hollywood Bowl: ACT 2:

If you've been to the Bowl, you'll remember that there are 4 huge screen (2 on the left, 2 on the right) of the stage so the audience can see the musicans and or conductor close up. Some people find it interesting to watch a soloist play their part on the screen. Apparently "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." didn't think so. They began to make fun of the oboe player's mouth and the way he played his instrument while making snide comments as to his possible sexuality. And this was necessary, why? As if making fun of the oboe player weren't enough, they were making fun of the conductor's expressions during several of the songs but more so during Act 2.

First of all, don't EVER make fun of John Mauceri...EVER. Mauceri is a spirited, knowledgeable, well spoken and extrememly talented conductor for whom the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was created for. If it weren't for him, there would be no Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Period. Second, would you go into a palace and make snide comments of a king behind his back? Only an immature imbecile would be so foolish.

So now, I'm not only annoyed that these "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." are being loud and annoying, they're totally disrespectful! By now, I've turned around and said "shhhh" a few times as well as glaring at the really annoying one whose bare foot is dangling over the seat in front of him within 2 feet of me. As the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is playing their final piece of the evening, Respigi's powerful Pines of Rome, one of the "Stooges" decides it would be funny to narrate his version of the music. Let me first say, I don't care if you drink at the Bowl (I do). But if doing so is going to end up precliding you and others from enjoying the night, then why are you there? It's not like The Hollywood Bowl is the "cool" bar scene on a summer evening. If you want to talk and drink outside, go somehwere else! How can you hear the music if you're talking the whole time? I was getting so annoyed by this, I could feel my blood starting to boil. Again, I asked them to be quiet. And it almost seemed like they were getting louder to spite me. Maybe not, maybe they were too drunk. Who knows, who cares. By now though, "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." were so loud that Tianyi (who was sitting one row in front of Jen & I) could hear and becomes annoyed & distracted. She looks one of them square in the eyes and puts her finger to her mouth and sternly says , "Shhhhh." They comply for all of 1 minute until they see a musician dressed up as a Roman and points and says, "What is that? The USC marching band?" and then continues to "narrate" the music as the fireworks are about to go off.

OH MY GAWD...SHUT THE F*** UP PLEASE!!! (I know, when do I ever censor myself?)

I wanted to hear the freaking Pines of Rome but I couldn't because "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." were so distracting. So by now, the fireworks had started which meant the piece was almost over and then "The Three Stooges with A.D.D." get up and walk out. WHAT? First of all, they talk the entire performance, distract me, my friends and those around us and then they walk out early? SO disrespectful. I don't get this kind of behavior because yes, it is disrespectful, but also, you paid money to come, you've been sitting there for what, 2 or so hours now and you can't even manage to sit through the entire finale? And it's not like there is an advantage to leaving the Bowl early because A.) Stacked parking means no leaving early and B.) If you took one of the shuttles, they don't leave until the show is completely over. At this point, I'm a little conflicted. Am I happy they're gone and I get to enjoy the last 2 minutes of the Pines of Rome or am I pissed that they've once again disrespected the orchestra? Ok, so I was obviously more frustrated that I didn't get to fully enjoy the piece. To top it off, as we're walking out, a little man pushes me out of his way. It wasn't a subtle "oops, I got in your way" accidental shove, but a full on deliberate shove. Apparently, according to Tianyi, he heard me tell her this and he looked as if he felt bad about what he did. **Oops**And to think, I had just said earlier that I didn't typically encounter rude audience members at the Bowl. See if I ever make a statement like that again!

As if this installment isn't long enough, I'll just go into the Fiddler on the Roof debacle on Broadway from February 2005 because I can (don't worry, it won't be nearly as long as the experience at the Bowl).

At the end of February, I am asked to go to New York on business for a week, so of course Tianyi comes with me so we can finally go to a few Broadway shows together (it was because of our respective love of musical theatre that we were set up by student housing our freshman year of college). By now we've seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which was really good) and now on Day 2, she was able to get us TKTS tickets to Fiddler on the Roof starring Harvey Fierstein as Tevye. We get to the theatre and everything starts as usual and all is fine until...

Fiddler on the Roof -- ACT 1:
This gaggle of women who I think were all related, start making noise as the curtain goes up. One starts popping her gum...repeatedly. Another one (maybe it was the same woman) starts humming the music. Then as if going down the list of things NOT to do, we hear the unwrapping of candy. This isn't a quick candy unwrapping, but the kind that just won't open so it takes quite awhile. Can't we just enjoy the show? Tianyi turns around and asks them to be quiet. The woman popping her gum stops (woo hoo) but then starts smacking her gum (boo hoo). UGH. So now, we hear voices (and they aren't the ones in our heads) because apparently some of these women don't speak English, so the need someone to translate. No freaking way. It's not as if they were really trying to whisper either. It sounded like the translation was going on in their normal voices, not paying attention to the fact that they were INSIDE A THEATRE. This isn't your DVD version of Fiddler on the Roof and y'aint in the privacy of your own living room.

Intermission starts ...and ends. And just as the curtain goes up for Act 2, one of these women pulls out her bag of candy and passes it up and down the row of her family members/friends and now we have a row full of women unwrapping candy as the entr'acte begins. Not just as the entr'acte begins, but throughout the entr'acte.

Fiddler on the Roof -- ACT 2:
As if talking and eating candy, popping and smacking gum wasn't bad enough, it gets worse. By now, both Tianyi & I have shushed the women behind us a few times as was another woman who was sitting next to us. I hear the cleaning of hands behind me...the wiping away of crumbs from a bag of chips (that I could hear and see) off of a pair of hands. I turn around and this old woman is doing this above MY HEAD. Good lord woman, why? The madness stops for a little while. Then at some point later, a cell phone rings behind us. And instead of silencing the damn thing, one of the crazies answers the phone. You've got to be kidding me. By this point, our entire row is frustrated. Yet only Tianyi, one of the women in our row & I have asked the women behind us to PLEASE be quiet. As we again turn around to shush them, we are shushed for shushing! How is it that makes sense? So we turn back around to hopefully enjoy the last few minutes of the show and realize that while we were shushing, we miss the most important and symbolic part of the entire freaking show. The three of us are now not only frustrated and annoyed but pissed that we missed the ending of the show because of the gaggle of women behind us who tormented us for 2 hours!

What gives people the right to think that they can behave which ever way they want in a public setting with other people around? Do they think that in places like the Hollywood Bowl, since it's an outdoor venue that they could talk as if they were in their own home? Are people too used to home entertainment in which they can talk during a movie or a "concert" so they forget that this type of behavior isn't acceptable in public? It is inevitable that someone will commit one or more of the 10 rules for audience etiquette when going to the theatre or symphony. Seriously though people, please learn a lesson, do your part and don't become a violator!

* for more, please see the article with points from Jaqueline Kennedy's social secretary, Letitia Baldrige or check out the hundreds of links on Google regarding audience etiquette.


Mitch Glaser said...

Seems like the person who sent you the link on theater etiquette jinxed you...what a jerk!

I enjoy a good rant provided that it's wit: "fungus among us"..."immature imbecile." And your point is well-taken: many people seem to lack common courtesy not only at performances, but elsewhere in their daily lives. I think that people don't do it intentionally so much as they refuse to be cognizant of their surroundings. I say: make the effort, folks. We've got to share this world.

"The Three Stooges with ADD" -- sounds like a million-dollar idea to me -- a blockbuster movie, or at least a TV series. Have your people call my people on that.

Just start talking more trash about your friends, they'll be begging you NOT to use their real names.

Tianyi said...

Brava, Lis, brava! [golf clap]
Most etiquette is common sense. Though some more hoity-toity, mostly common sense.

One of my biggest theater pet peeve... audience members leaving early. I have the utmost respect for any live performance. Whether it be broadway, symphony, concert, or stand up comedy... I never understood people who hustle out of a show early to race the crowd out of the parking lot. An applause is our way, as an audience, to tell the performer on stage a simple "Thank you." Thank you for making me gasp with you, cry with you, and laugh with you. The people who bee line out early are the same people who rudely grunt when a door is held open for them.

Let's not forget the horror stories of bad behavior from guests you bring to a show with you! When bad behavior is coming from the company you're with, it is more torturous when you can not turn around to glare and shush. Lis, let me share some more theater horror stories that you've missed out on (from the times when I'm not with the BEST theater partner ever!!). I've had the experience of accompanying a group of acquaintances to the bowl this year. I will not name the show or the date, in fear of outing anyone. While trying to get to our seats, the girl who led the way, approached our assigned row and with a smile, she politely asked the couple seated at the outer end of the row "Excuse me, may I?" The older couple smiled back and stood up so a group of us can pass. This girl, then returned the smile again and said "Thank you," then STEPED ON THE BENCHES to get to our seats. Not only did she step on the old couple's seats, she stood waiting on the bench for the rest of the crowd to get up from their seats so she can continue on her way. Clueless about what she has done, this girl then decided that she needed the restroom then passed the same crowd again, this time, properly from the front. When she returned, she picked up her cell and started to call up all the friends who are still arriving late to pass from the opposite end, "The old couple on the end are rude," she said. "They glared at me when I wanted to go to the restroom. I don't understand, how can you sit at the outer end and not expect people to walk in and out?" The next set of friends who arrived and are unaware of what truly irked the old couple slid into their seats from the opposite side troubling 20 people to stand up instead of 7.

So, I think your list is missing one more important rule. Not a hoity-toity rule, but one that may not occur to our common sense right away.
11) When passing down a row, pass from the ground and not on the seat.

PS Davis Gaines is so gay.

chizi said...

Yea, Tianyi, you FINALLY commented (and my dear, YOU are the bestest theatre partner ever)! :)

scmusicals said...

I haven't had the best of luck at the Hollywood Bowl this summer either. My most favorite experience was going to the Sondheim b-day celebration. There were a group of friends who sounded like they were having a party in the next section over, someone behind me had their phone go off 3 times, and the lady directly in front of me kept blinding me w/ her camera as she took pictures of the big screen to our right...oh...and her camera kept making clicking and beeping noises. Maybe I'm uber-sensitive at the theatre, but it seems like on the average, proper etiquette has been sub-par lately. So sad...

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