Etiquette for live performances:
Don't be a jerk in audience or on stage
By Ryan Pence
October 26, 2006 | The following rhetoric is meant
to be helpful and not hurtful to those who like to take
things, including themselves, too seriously.
One might ask why write on the etiquette for live performances;
the answer to this is an easy one. About a week ago
I was invited to go to a concert/documentary. I thought
to myself, "Sounds like fun," so I went. I
got to the auditorium my usual 10 to 15 minutes early
to get a good seat and prepare myself for the performance
and found myself to be watching the crew/performers
still setting up.
I thought, "This should have been done before I or
any other audience member arrives."
So to make a long story short, a program set to start
at 8 p.m. didn't start till 8:35. Not acceptable by
any means to any self-respecting person. To make matters
worse, the crew insults the audience by saying, "Sorry
it took so long; we were experiencing technical difficulties"
when the only technical difficulty was their incompetence
to arrive a few hours earlier and set up their equipment.
Instead we get fed a line and had to wait 35 minutes
for something that ought to have been done an hour prior.
Sometimes I feel the need to drive nails through the
thick skulls of various people -- but I don't because
I'm civilized and I live in a civilized world. Besides,
once the madness starts it'll spread and keep spreading
until everyone has a nail sticking out the top of the
head. And then someone somewhere in the future will
wonder what was it all for?
After much long deliberating and debate the answer
will become clear, the live performers have had it with
the disrespect that the audiences display at performances,
and that audience members have had it with ill-prepared
performers for whom they are paying money and spending
their valuable time.
Both the audience and the performers have jobs and
roles, but they also have a responsibility to the other.
There comes a time when these rules must be written
down so that they are understood by both sides. So that
both the audience can enjoy the performance and so the
performers can deliver their best.
the audience members (this would be most of us)
Since we (the audience) are coming to see you (the
performers), there are a few rules or guides that you
might like to follow, not to mention most people --
notably those in your immediate vicinity -- would appreciate
too. Some of the following will not be applicable to
all types of live performances, but still try to keep
them in mind.
The first series of rules seems obvious, but there
are people who ignore them. Absolutely no photography,
especially with the use of a flash. This distracts the
performers, and the clicking noises and sounds of charging
flashes annoy neighboring fellows. Do not record the
performance in any way on any medium; if you haven't
figured it out by now, most material is copyrighted.
In performances that includes but is not limited to
scripts, songs, music, dancing, actors blocking, sets,
lighting, etc. Not only is it silly to watch someone
try to record a performance, but to watch such recordings
is an almost unbearable feat that should include the
warning, "may cause nausea, headaches and anxiety due
to shaky, fast moving and overly used zoomed images
mixed with horridly poor audio and some big guy's head
consuming half the allotted screen space."
Shut off you cell phones. This is not a suggestion,
this is a request. If there is something more annoying,
let it be known. Having a cell phone out in a theatre
or auditorium is a good way to show disrespect. Not
only are cell phone perfectly visible to the performers
on stage, but they are also a distraction to other audience
members who are trying to enjoy the performance.
OK, I understand the need to be connected to the world,
friends, family, etc. but come on, you are at a live
performance. Chances are good that you paid to be there,
so pay attention. Besides if it doesn't stop voluntarily,
it will be stopped legally, just for your information
it is against the law in New York City theatres to have
your cell phone turned on, if you're caught using your
cell phone you will be removed from the theatre and
you will be fined. Similar laws are popping up across
the country to address the cell phone issue. Some of
you may ask, "What if I'm a doctor and I'm on call?"
The answer is a simple one; in the Broadway theatres
you leave your cell phone and your seat number with
the house manager, if a call comes through they'll come
and get you.
Do not leave in the middle of a performance. Again,
it is disrespectful and this just bothers everyone for
really obvious reasons. Do not show up to a performance
late, it is a generally good idea to show up 10 to 15
minutes before the start of the show that way the show
can start on time. Do not talk to your neighbors; I'm
not even going to tell you why you can figure this one
out on your own. Do not boo at the performers, this
is childish and rude, and we are not living in Europe.
Etiquette for performers
Some of the same rules apply for you mainly because
if you don't follow rules such as turning your cell
phone off or showing up to a performance late, it will
make you look foolish, cause embarrassment and in general
make you look amateurish and very unprofessional.
First and foremost, if you do not have a stage manager,
house manager, travel manager or just a manager, get
one quickly. A manager will make a performers life a
whole lot easier and better. Having someone in charge
who knows what needs to be done, and how best to get
it done will save a lot of time and grief in the end.
Show up early so you can prepare yourself for the
performance, get into costume, character, warm up the
voice, tune your instruments, resolve possible problems,
relax and rest. Be sure that everything is setup at
least thirty minutes prior to show time, that includes
the set, audio/video equipment, lighting, instruments,
props and clearing the stage of miscellaneous stuff
which isn't going to be in use. Which means if you have
to show up earlier show up earlier, an audience doesn't
pay money to watch the crew setup.
The following is just a side note: if projectiles
are going to be shot into the audience, i.e. water,
blood, confetti etc., make sure at least the front two
rows are aware of this. Also if real fire is to be used
on stage, even if it is only a candle, make sure you
clear it with a fire marshal. Remember you have a living
audience that probable value their lives, and fires
can spread especially on wooden stages pretty fast.
Lastly, if you are using smoke or haze machines be sure
to get the smoke alarms turned off, because those machines
can set them off.
Well there you go, an expedited list of do's and don'ts
for performers and audience members. Remember to respect
others and the performances, whatever they may be, will
be more enjoyable with more professionalism and less