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Theatre etiquette: attending a live theatre production requires some basic courtesy

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By Riley Nowlan (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: September 10, 2014

There is more at stake than your social media presence — some consideration for the actors is a start. (Image:  Matthew Paulson/ flickr)

There is more at stake than your social media presence — some consideration for the actors is a start. (Image: Matthew Paulson/ flickr)

If you were to go up to a friend right now and ask them if they wanted to go see a show, you may be faced with some questions: “Which movie do you want to see? What time? Do you want to share a large popcorn?” However, you would most likely not be asked which play you had tickets to or what time the doors opened, and that is a shame. Live theatre is something I jump at the chance to experience and something I would encourage others to take part in, but unfortunately it has become an all-too-rare activity in our society.

Today we are fascinated with famous stars and enjoy the tailored perfection of dramatic car chases and romantic gestures that have been achieved through countless takes and special effects.

While I often go to the movies, there is something wonderful about being rows away from watching talented actors and actresses live.

With the difference in experience between a blockbuster movie and a Broadway musical, however, should come a difference in behaviour. This summer I had the pleasure of seeing Wicked and The Lion King, and while the shows blew me away, the poor behaviour of some of the audience concerned me.

For example, people took photos of the set even though all photography was prohibited — and even after being told not to, a few people couldn’t resist snapping an extra picture or two.

Now, this doesn’t overly grind my gears before the show has started; however, the use of flash photography during a play blows my mind. The musicals I saw were filled with intricate dance routines and stunts performed in heavy, complex costumes. A sudden flash from a dark theatre could certainly cause those dancers to lose focus, miss a step, or injure themselves or others. I was pleased to see that the actors in these shows didn’t miss a step, but the rule is there for a reason, and it’s not a hard one to follow.

I also witnessed an audience member in the first row sitting on the stage before the show started, all in the name of a good photo — and when an usher told her to get down she made sure that the photo was up to snuff before complying. People talked through the show, left their belongings in the aisle, or insisted to the ushers they knew where they were sitting and refused to show them their tickets.

Theatre is something I love, and as soon as the curtain goes down on a show I long to see another one.  I encourage each and every person to go and experience the magic of live theatre — but if you do not think you can show your respect to the actors, the staff, and the play itself, you should stay home and watch Netflix.

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