Believe it or not, there are certain do’s and don’ts that come into play when you go to see a Broadway show. No, there aren’t a hardcore list of rules that must be followed, but there are certain practices that most people generally agree upon when it comes to theatre etiquette. These guidelines are not in place to constrict you as a viewer, but rather to help maintain the integrity of the show and its actors while also respecting other audience members around you. Here is a general overview of some house rules and theater etiquette to follow to ensure that you remain respectful to the process.
When it comes to what to wear, there is not a strict dress code. Certainly don’t come in your pajamas, but it isn’t expected that you would wear a ball gown either. The general thought is that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening performances call for more formal attire. Weeknight performances generally call for business attire. A Sunday matinee performance however is much more casual and calls for less formal wear.
Though we are a generation that cannot seem to part from our cell phones for even the briefest of moments, the most considerate thing to do during a performance is to turn off your cell phone. Few things are more irritating than a loud ringtone in the middle of a show, someone texting and shining their screen light in another person’s face, or someone talking on their cell phone as a performance is going on. A couple of hours of great entertainment on stage minus your phone won’t kill you. However, if you must keep your phone on put it on silent and refrain from using it in the theatre.
Just as talking on your cell phone can be a distraction, talking to another person during a performance can be just as distracting. You don’t want someone else to miss what is being said because you have a comment to make. Save the talk for intermission or after the show in order to be respectful to those around you. That goes double for singing along with the performers. People plunked down their hard earned dollar to hear the professionals roll out their best, not their tone deaf neighbor who is butchering the lyrics. If you must sing along, please do it in your head.
Do we really need to tell you not to photograph or record the show? Its printed on your ticket and the advisory booms over the loud speaker before the curtains part. Whether its on your phone or via a camera you’ve smuggled in — unless you are shooting with a Nikon d4 with the long lens — the photos are going to turn out looking like a fuzzy mess. Is that what you really want to remember from your cherished Broadway experience? Traditional cameras and especially camera phones can’t handle the low light of theatres. The best reason though is its prohibited and distracting to the performers and your fellow theatre goers. Do you really want to get shown the door by an usher because you wanted a grainy picture? Sit back and enjoy the show.
It may seem like common sense, but it bears saying that you should not eat in the theatre. Eating and drinking should be reserved for the lobby where concessions are sold to audience members for a fee. There is ample time prior to the show’s start or during intermission (usually 15-20 minutes) to enjoy a snack and make it back to your seat on time, so as not to interrupt anyone during the show. However, it is generally recommended that you eat prior to coming to a show so you can truly focus on the show and not how hungry you are. Plus, a pre-theatre meal is a part of the Broadway tradition; so why not partake in it?
An aspect that we often don’t think about is how we smell. The wear and tear of the day can take its toll on our bodies. A long day of work or some time at the gym before a show can leave you smelling quite unpleasant to the people who have to sit near you for the next few hours. Take some time to freshen up beforehand, but don’t go overboard. Too much perfume/cologne or a body wash/lotion that is too heavily fragranced can be just as overpowering as an unpleasant smell.
If bringing a child to see a show, it is important that your child understand proper theatre etiquette as well. This means no food in the theatre, no kicking seats, no talking, no getting up, and no sitting on another person’s lap. Following these rules ensure that those around you enjoy the show as well. Therefore, make sure your child is mature enough to handle a few hours abiding by these guidelines before spending money on a ticket.
While these aren’t all of the theatre etiquette rules to be considered, this is a compilation of what are considered to be the most important rules.
Author: Diamond Grant