It may not seem as though there is much of a knack to sitting down and watching a theatre performance, but there’s more skill involved than first meets the eye. As an experienced audience member myself and having committed most of these faux pas at some point or another, I pass on these simple words of advice…
Arrive on Time. There is nothing more awkward than a late entrance, having other audience members glare at you as you shuffle past and block their view. After falling into their laps as you attempt to find your seat in the dark, you finally sit down, hot and flustered, knowing that everyone in the audience now hates you.
Stay Awake. It’s been a busy week, you’re sitting in a comfy chair, the lights dim and it can be tempting to close your eyes, just for a second. The thing is, when every person in the audience has the same thought, the ticket you paid for now becomes an expensive group-napping session. Believe it or not, I have been to a performance where the audience simultaneously decided to have a snooze. It’s not the actors’ fault the plot is dull but it’s still painfully amusing to watch them scream their lines and exaggerate their gestures just for the audience to turn over in their seats, yawn, and fall back into their slumber.
Don’t Overshadow the Performers. I’m all for a bit of audience/actor interaction; enjoyment can certainly be found in watching the surprised faces when an actor directly addresses them. Yet this interaction is purely based on the actors’ terms and conditions, and any out of turn noise or disruption will result in actors and audience members alike uniting in silent disapproval — all of which includes the rustling of snack packets, mobiles going off, audience members collapsing and fist fights breaking out…well, that’s real commitment to stealing an actor’s thunder.
After reading this, if you’re thinking, “Hey, I already follow all of these rules!” then you have passed this class in theatre etiquette and should give yourselves — wait for it — a round of applause.