On our Facebook page not long ago, someone brought up the subject of theatre etiquette. He’d come across a blog post on movie etiquette and wondered if there was an equivalent for the theatre. Well, Keith McKee, here is it is – just for you!
Why don’t we allow photography in the auditorium? Well, there are several reasons for this restriction – and given the ease with which today’s social media allow images to be shared, we have to be even more diligent about it. To begin with, a set design – and even the design of a bare stage – is copyrighted material, so an unauthorized photograph of it is a violation, however unintentional, of copyright laws. Second, the sound and (even more importantly) the flash of a camera are annoying distractions for other patrons, and can be dangerous ones for the actors on stage. So please remember: no photography, still or otherwise.
I’m sure everyone’s had the experience of sitting in a theatre during a moment of intense emotional drama, only to have the breathless silence shattered by the crinkling of cellophane: a truly excruciating sound that always seems to go on for at least five minutes. Trying to unwrap your candy slowly and stealthily only makes it worse – trust us. That’s why, when you come to Stratford, you usually hear a pre-show announcement by Artistic Director Des McAnuff advising you that “If you have a hard candy or soothing lozenge, now would be an ideal time to unwrap it.” So please, for the sake of everyone around you, unwrap that treat before the show starts or during intermission.
Could anything be more annoying than a candy being unwrapped? Yes! Talking and cell phones – feel free to choose which offends you more. It’s bad enough leaving your phone on in the first place, but some people’s thoughtlessness doesn’t end there. I was at a production in a Toronto theatre recently when a woman behind me had her cell phone ring. But instead of turning her phone off at this point, she just rejected the call. So what happens next? The phone rings again, and again, and again – ten calls in total. Why not turn the phone off after the first one?
The theatre isn’t the best time or place to have a conversation with your friend. I can understand that sometimes you might have a question about what is happening on the stage, but please keep that question for the intermission – even if that means you need to bring a notepad along with you to the show. Discussions distract those sitting around you and the actors on stage – yes, those are real people, with ears that hear, acting on that stage. You can hear what they are saying; it just might be possible that they can hear you too!
Finally, please take a look at your ticket before you come to the theatre. There’s a lot of information on it:
- The show you are going to see.
- The date of the performance and the time it will start.
- Obviously, your seat number.
- A list of policies on the back.
If you take the trouble to look at your ticket beforehand, you’ll know what time the show starts. And yes, it does start at that time; they don’t wait for everyone to show up. It’s also important to look at the date so you don’t miss the performance or come a day or two early. Just as clearly as they can hear you, the actors can see late arrivers coming into the auditorium. So be sure to build enough time into your schedule so you can get to your seat prior to the start of the performance.
This may sound silly, but always check the production title on your ticket. People do come to the theatre not realizing they have a ticket for the wrong show. Imagine coming to the Avon Theatre to see Jesus Christ Superstar only to find out that the performance that night is The Homecoming. The information is all there to help you out.
Finally, let me touch on the question of scent. Among the many people who come to enjoy a show at Stratford, there are bound to be some who are sensitive to other people’s perfumes or aftershaves, and who may even have a strong allergic reaction. We try to offer a scent-free environment in our theatres, so please, to make the experience pleasant for everyone, come to the show without adding a scent.
If we all keep in mind that a show at Stratford is being performed live, by real people, with other real people in the seats around us, then we can all enjoy the experience to its utmost. I’ll leave you with these creative YouTubers who have created videos on the subject:
Know Your Theatre Etiquette
Getting Ready for Our Trip to Stratford (A school group gets the 411 on theatre etiquette).
Let us know if there’s anything else you would add.