- Responding to Roger Ebert’s reviews
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I’ve often wanted to share a crash course in basic theater etiquette with audiences of live performances. There’s not much worse than a show being ruined by those around you. At least let the cast and crew do it – it’s their job to make or break the performance.
I already know this, you say. But do you know why? Here, I’ve tried to explain some of the intricacies of the rules we all know about talking, eating and audience response to make everyone’s theater experience a little bit better.
1) Don’t talk
This is the most obvious rule – you might be rolling your eyes, but it still happens. And if you’re aware of this, you’ve probably been annoyed by talking during a performance. Also…
2) Just because the lights are off doesn’t mean it’s okay to talk
This isn’t an ironclad fist over your mouth – sure, sneak a quick sentence or two. But don’t start a conversation knowing that the next scene is about to begin. Save it for intermission. However…
3) When you talk during intermission, be aware
A lot of family and friends attend local and school theater like we find in Columbia. You should censor yourself (nobody likes the guy/girl who drops the F-bomb by little Timmy/Tammy), but also know that the mother of the actor you are about to criticize in your half-time review might be sitting in front of you. Don’t break mama’s heart! Save the gossip for the ride home.
4) Don’t text
this can w8 2 hrs, frend. But really, actors can see those little light-up screens, even if you try to shield them. Simply put, it’s rude and distracting. And if they mess up because you took them out of the moment, you aren’t the one getting blamed in reviews.
5) Don’t eat
Unless you have a medical condition, leave the candy bar at home. If you do need to eat, rip the wrapper prior to showtime. Then, if you need it, you can sneak whatever food you have out and chew it QUIETLY, preferably during loud music or laughter.
6) Bring cough drops
Okay, she JUST said don’t eat. True, but you don’t chew a cough drop and a second of wrapper noise is better than a coughing fit. Some box offices even provide cough drops. Again, remember to loosen the wrapper before the show.
7) Don’t bring a drink
Food is bad, but drinks are worse. Have you seen someone spill in everyday life? Chaos. Then, add the actors who can see you (and the 10 rows in front of you) freaking out because your shoes are being assaulted by an unexpected liquid. If your cell phone didn’t distract them, this definitely will.
8) Laugh freely
As long as you’re being considerate. This is definitely a gray area, but laughter isn’t appreciated during dramatic moments, and either is overshadowing actors’ lines if something strikes your individual fancy. But actors like hearing appropriate feedback – it’s gratifying.
9) Be sparing with standing ovations
Most rules are actor-based, but you aren’t doing any favors if you give the highest praise to a mediocre actor. Acting is a craft to be mastered – if you aren’t moved by the performance, don’t move. You should absolutely applaud – acting takes courage. But the standing ovation is like obscenity trials in court: You know it when you see it.
10) Have fun
If you come in with a negative attitude, there’s not much actors can do to change your mind. It’s as simple as that.
Now, go out into the world of Columbia theater and enjoy – there’s a lot to see!
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