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10 Broadway Theater Etiquette Tips

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I attended a musical and was perturbed at the behavior of the person sitting in front of me. I had a hard time seeing as she kept moving her head to whisper something to her husband, not just a couple of times, but during the entire play. I was so mad, that I hardly enjoyed the performance. My husband thinks that I'm being too sensitive. Am I?



Dear Disgusted,

Being respectful and considerate of others is the main idea behind "rules" of conduct. The person in front of you violated good theater manners. The 10 basic etiquette tips for the theater are:

1. Arrive early: to avoid being late, plan to arrive 30 minutes early. Sometimes unexpected circumstances make it impossible to arrive on time. However, if you arrive late, you must wait patiently until there is a break in the act, performance, or symphony. Do not argue with the ushers about having to wait, they are just doing their job. Most theaters have a television screen in the lobby showing the performance while you wait.

2. Turn off cell phones, pagers, watch alarms, and other electronic devices. If you forgot to turn off your cell phone and it rings during the performance, immediately turn it off, do not answer the call. You can always check for messages during the intermission.

3. Do not talk, whisper, sing, or hum during the performance.

4. Do not eat and drink during the performance. It's too distracting, and out of consideration to the actors and your neighbors. Save the snacking for intermission.

5. Unwrap cough suppressants during applause, laughing, or loud musical numbers.

6. Keep feet on the floor, not on the seat or balcony in front of you.

7. Applause: performers appreciate enthusiastic applause, shouts of "Bravo" or "Brava," and standing ovations. Applaud after a well performed song or dance during a scene, after each scene or act, and at curtain call. At an Opera, the conductor is applauded as he/she walks in at the beginning.

8. At the end of the performance during curtain call, don't rush for the exits. It's very rude to the actors.

9. If you bring your child to the theater, prepare them beforehand by telling them about theater manners. Explain that they should be quiet, sit still, and not disturb others around them. If it is a serious play, tell them to listen carefully and not laugh at the sad parts or other inappropriate times. They need to keep any negative comments to themselves, until they get in the car or home. Actors have worked hard to prepare the play, and it will hurt their feelings. Have them use the restroom before the performance begins. If your child disturbs the audience, take them to the lobby and watch it on the television screen. Some theaters prefer children under 4 not attend, unless it is a youth symphony or other children's performance.

10. Do not use cameras or videotape during the performance.

Other useful tips:

If you dine out before attending the theater, use the restroom at the restaurant as theater restrooms will have long lines.

Normally, theater seats are staggered so that no one is directly in front of you. However, if your view is totally blocked by a tall person in front of you, get a booster cushion for your chair, or ask the usher to find you another seat before the performance begins if the performance is not sold out.