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audience etiquette rant


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#1 syr

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 02:24 PM

Wondering how others deal with situations when you are in the audience, and those seated next to you conspire to spoil your enjoyment. Once in the throes of the situation, right and wrong have little relevance; it becomes a tactical question about whether the situation can be improved, and whether saying anything will make things better or worse. Some recent examples in my life:

At a recent professional Nutcracker, we found ourselves seated next to a family including a baby-on-lap whose new vocabulary included the words "juice!" "crackers!" "up!" "down!" and "no!" all of which were proclaimed with regularity throughout the performance to the dismay of my adult daughter seated next to her. Additionally the mother would cover the baby's ears whenever my daughter applauded and glare at her.

At a recent musical theater production, -- great gift seats in the orchestra --- just before curtain, the people next to us arrive and ...... the woman next to me seemingly has bathed in perfume before leaving the house. I'm not exactly allergic, just sensitive enough to become nauseous and have a pins and needles sensation progress around my nose and lips ...... Seemingly nothing to do here but shallow-breathe through Act I and swap seats with my husband for Act II.

People who talk during over the overture or during the performance. This is the only one that seems to have an effective fix - the simple "how-dare-you glare."

The one where I surprised myself was when I attended a NYCB performance of Sleeping Beauty with my daughter and a friend some years ago. I was shocked when the much older woman seated next to me starting humming softly along with the score. However, I gave it a few minutes, and the fact was, that given that she was in tune AND she was obviously having such a darn good time, I thought - what the heck - and let her enjoyment be part of my enjoyment.

So - how do you deal with bad luck with your seat mates?

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 03:06 PM

I think various adaptations of your last-named experience are best, but here's an anecdote (try and stop me):

I went to a gala performance in which the party I was with were required to wear uniform, if they were entitled to them. So, I wore mine, complete with presentation sword, highly-polished boots, and all the medals. I clinked and clanked, but above all, there was THAT SWORD. Nobody bothered me. :wub:

#3 BW

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 03:40 PM

OK, Mel - you must have been quite the sight! :D :grinning:

But syr, I feel your pain. I've had some revolting behavior sitting either next to me or behind me. :wub: :green: :dry: In the case of a non-professional performance I've tried to control myself and tell myself that if so and so's little brother wants to pull his chewing gum out of his mouth by about two feet and then stuff the wad back in over and over and his father who is sitting on the other side of him doesn't care - neither do I and I block my vision with the program! :blink:

But if someone is kicking the back of my chair or talking right behind my ear - well, that's where I turn, and politely ask the mother or father if they could possibly put their offspring in handcuffs? :rolleyes:

It drives me crazy, I admit.

#4 Ed Waffle

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 04:03 PM

A few notes:

1) Audiences at Nutcracker performances are a thing unto themselves. One can only hope not to be seated next to a talky child.

2) There are some overture talkers for whom a glare doesn't work. We have found that simply saying "Please stop talking" works wonders--although a group of ladies of a certain age (actually pretty close to my age) once were behind us during a performance of the opera Carmen. They talked during the overture and tried to keep it up during the wonderful entr'acte divertissments. When my wife turned and asked them to keep quiet one of them (the spokesperson?) said "Oh, we never talk while they are singing".

3) Help can come from unexpected sources. Years ago we saw the National Ballet of Canada do Don Quixote with Karen Kain in Windsor, Ontario. The woman seated next to me was wearing a lot of bracelets on each arm and I resigned myself to listening to them go "clink/clank" during the performance. Which wasn't the case--not a clink was heard. However, the people immediately behind us were Karen Kain superfans. During her first entrance they started talking with each other about "Doesn't she look great?" -- "No, I think she is losing weight"-- etc.

I was too shocked to turn around, but didn't have to, since Ms. Bracelets pivoted in her seat and gave them a really terrifying SHUUSH!!--which kept everyone quiet.

4) Those who hum along with the music can be a real problem--perhaps moreso in opera than ballet, since so much of the standard rep in opera has been used in commercials, movie themes and cartoons that it is extremely familiar--and mellodically very rich, of course, which makes it easy and fun to hum. I have found that many of them are doing it unconsciously, which makes it really difficult to stop.

#5 MYBkid

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 04:10 PM

I have sat next to a number of interesting characters but for the most part I can cope with whatever they are doing and it normally stops. The worst I would have to say was when I saw ABT do Swan Lake at the Met two years ago. The person I sat next to disturbed me so much I actually thought I could of written a comedy skit out of it, and I wasn't sure if I was on one of those hidden camera shows or something. She first started it off by laughing everytime Angel Corella danced. I found that odd, but to top that off everytime Julie Kent came AT ALL to do any solo she would curse!! Yes she cursed the entire time. I am not making this up at all I was in a state of shock through out all her dances she would just curse. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse she hummed through four little swans, another variation, black swan pas, and during the Angel's black swan variation.........this wasn't a soft tiny hum oh no!! She hummed like a rock star!! And then when I thought it could get NO WORSE not only was she humming during Angel's variation but she started belching........this was when I thought I seriously was being framed for a TV show. I worked up enough courage to glare once to see what in the world was going on but I was to shy to say a word to her otherwise. Yes, so I kept that as another interesting experience of mine to share. :grinning:

#6 BW

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 04:56 PM

Thanks for the laughs Ed and MYBkid! :wub: :rolleyes: :mondieu: Love that "Mrs. Bracelets"! :blink:

#7 Treefrog

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 08:40 PM

At least this wasn't something I'd paid big bucks for, but in BOTH our school's performances of Nutcracker this weekend the friends/family of a particular student yelled out "You go, L_____!" at the same point in the show.

#8 Hans

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 08:49 PM

What a timely thread :wub:. This very day, I was seated in front of a child who sang along with the chorus, off-key, during the snow scene. I thought about giving him/her my Death Glare, and would have had the principals been dancing, but it wasn't a pro production, so I decided to just be happy that such a small child knew the music (and prayed that it wasn't because of the Barbie Nutcracker!)

#9 Amy Reusch

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 08:57 PM

My most "obnoxious audience member" experience was at a flamenco show when someone in the front row thought he was entitled to stand up and take flash photos at will!! And when the usher asked him to cease, not only continued to stand up, but started shouting loudly in an indignant argumentative voice that this was what he ALWAYS DID at performances. If he'd been any closer to me, my glare would have burned a hole in the back of his head. Finally he was angry enough to deny us the privelege of his attendence, thank heavens! I suppose the only thing would have been to stop the show, but that kind of initiative is easier with hindsight.

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 09:03 PM

Accessories come in so handy at the ballet. Simple classic things that make a statement - tire chains, a lead pipe, a board with a nail sticking out of it....

#11 syr

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 09:30 PM

that sword sounded like a simple, yet elegantly effective fashion statement! :blink: :wub:

#12 carbro

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 10:04 PM

Recent NYCB Nut: Mama and baby. Baby is either scared, tired, hungry or some combination of all three. The mother had the near courtesy to take the baby to one of the alcoves by the restrooms at the top of the Fourth Ring. She started to object when I went to close the door, until I assured her it was to give her more privacy.

Hans, next time I'm anywhere near where you are, will you coach me in Death Stare? I'm afraid that most of the time, mine has lost its edge. :wub: :shrug:

#13 Helene

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 12:28 AM

My worst experience was at an evening performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker that I attended with a friend. There was a couple in front of us with a six-year-old daughter, who they sat in the very tall father's lap. I found a position where I could see around them, which was approved by the person sitting behind me, but the wife insisted on leaning her head on her husband's shoulder and playing with his hair and ears -- blocking my friend's sightlines -- and the couple talked through the entire act. In the meantime, the six-year-old didn't move or say a word throughout the entire first act.

As the lights were going down for Act II, they started again. Alicia said something to them, and the wife turned around, looked back and forth at us -- two women -- and turned her glare into a patronizing, sickly sweet smile of pity. That's when I lost it and said in a stage whisper, "This is NOT television." She was shocked, but she sat still still, in her own seat, for the rest of the performance.

#14 fille'smom

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 05:47 AM

Oh my goodness! I've enjoyed reading these experiences! Funny that I was laughing out loud at some of them when it absolutely makes me CRAZY when it happens to me!

Last month at a performance all of the sudden a man two rows in front of me started yelling at another man to BE QUIET! The second mans wife was heard to say to the first man "He can't help it. He has a problem." Man 1 replied "He is GOING to have a problem if he doesn't SHUT UP!" Wife informs him that "my husband has Torretts Syndrome." Irrate Man practically screamed "THE TORRETTS SEATS ARE IN THE BACK!!!" Well, needless to say all of us around this little group were horrified! I actually thought that Irrate Man was going to punch man 2! After the intermission I noticed that crazy, screaming, Irrate Man didn't return to his seat. Everyone was happy.

I agree that Nut performances can get a pretty noisy but it is a perfect ballet for little ones to enjoy and they can't really be expected to behave as adults should. If not for all the little voices ooohhhing and awwwing in the audience far fewer tickets would be sold and probably far fewer little dancers would be born.



Maybe I can think of this thread the next time I'm sitting in my seat, with a 3 year old kicking it from behind, and I'll just smile.

#15 Farrell Fan

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 08:23 AM

At a NYCB performance once, the man sitting next to me kept jiggling his leg. When I'd had enough, I said to him, "Must you jiggle?" His jiggling then tapered off, but at intermission he berated me for having spoken to him "sarcastically."

The fact is whenever I'm disturbed by audience behavior, if I react with a shush or a comment, I find myself only getting more upset. So now that I'm approaching my dotage, I just concentrate on the ballet and hope the offensive behavior will cease. It usually does.

While on this subject, I must say I usually find young dancers and dance students the very models of audience decorum. But occasionally there are those who maintain a running commentary on what's happening onstage. On these occasions, I do turn around, and glare of the stars of the future.


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