I am a long-time season ticket holder to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (formerly known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center) (the “Center”). When my friend Jayne and I first subscribed (maybe fifteen years ago?), we had pretty crummy seats. Over the years, we were able to make our way down to fifth row orchestra seats, smack dab in the center of the row. Jayne was able to enjoy our current seats for a few shows before she passed away several years ago. (Every time I go to a show, I drive past her neighborhood on the way home as an homage to Jayne.)
Last night, Shannon (my new theater partner) and I saw Love Never Dies, which is the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. Beautiful sets and an extremely talented cast ensured a very enjoyable evening. To be honest, I wasn’t keen on seeing this show (Phantom is not one of my favorite musicals….so shoot me!), but I was glad I made the effort.
At the start of every show (as is customary in other entertainment venues showing live theater), audience members are given a program (i.e., Playbill, Revue). The program lists the cast, their biographies, and the performances, along with advertisements for the best jewelry stores and hotels in the area. (I’m sure a lot of the theater’s clientele can shop at those stores, but not little-old-me.)
This month’s program has a page-long article called “Share the Experience.” The Center wants you to know proper etiquette for theater goers. I’m surprised at some of the questions and answers presented here. To me, some are quite obvious.
- Please eat before the show, not during. This is a live performance. Unlike a movie, the dialog and music can often be very soft and any noise in the audience can be heard.
- But it’s my favorite song! Please remember that others want to hear the artist they paid money to see. Please don’t sing or hum along with the performance (unless encouraged by the artist).
- The set is so pretty; I must have a picture. Due to copyright laws, there is no picture taking or video recording allowed inside the theaters during a performance. If you forget this bit of etiquette, our friendly usher staff will remind you every time you take out the phone or camera.
- You like to smell good? We like that too, but go easy with the atomizer. Many people are highly allergic to perfume and cologne.
- Cough, cough, crinkle, crinkle! Please make sure to unwrap any cough drops or hard candies before the performance begins. (No, you’re not hiding anything by unwrapping them slowly during the show.)
- But it’s not my fault I’m late; traffic was horrible. We understand that sometimes arriving late is out of your control. For the safety of the performers and to preserve the artistic experience for those already seated, we may need to keep you in the lobby until there is an appropriate pause in the performance.
- Texting during a performance is bad manners. In a darkened theater, the light from your cell phone is incredible distracting to those around you, as well as the performers in some cases.
Okay, I know we have to be P.C. and play to those audience members who perhaps have never been to the theater before. They’re monsters! But some of these really are quite obvious, don’t you think?
For your enjoyment, I saved the best question for last.
- Do I clap now? For many shows, when to clap will be obvious, but for certain types of shows (like symphonies and ballets), it can be confusing. When in doubt, err on the side of not clapping. Don’t worry. You aren’t being rude, and it will be obvious if you should start clapping.