Mashinka

Rules on how to behave in the theatre

213 posts in this topic

It wasn't taken from the Daily Mail? Well, I'm sorry, if I can't take umbrage I'm just not interested. The temerity!

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Personally, I love the way its starts with good manners and ends in wicked tongue-in-cheek. W.C. Fields would have adored the following:

13 If the child you’re bringing is chatty, gag it. If it’s fidgety, handcuff and shackle it. And if you’re altruistic enough to bring a school party to a Shakespeare matinée, threaten potential wrongdoers with tickets to the next revival of Timon of Athens, to be followed by a ten-page essay on the ethics of Apemantus.
:D:)

Out of curiosity, I rechecked the character of Apemantus, who appears to be the inventor of Insult Comedy:

Timon: Wither art thou going?

Apemantus: To knock out an honest Athenian's brains.

Timon: That's a deed thou'lt die for.

Apemanthus: Right, if doing nothing be death by the law.

...

Timon: How dost thou like this jewel, Apemantus?

Apemantus: Not so well as plain-dealing which will not cost a man a doit.

Timon: What does thou think 'tis worth?

Apemanthus. Not worth my thinking.

...

Painter: You're a dog.

Apemantus: Thy mother's of my generation: what's she, if I be a dog?

[etc. etc.]

To the extent that he cannot deprive himself of the last (invariably negative) word, Apemanthus sounds like a familiar figure in today's angry world.

A plague on thee! thou art too bad to curse.

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Thank you for posting, Mashinka. Endless variations can be played on this particular theme. :D

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Thanks Mashinka for the link :). Here's the intro to Reese Thompson's review of Vishneva & Gomes' "Romeo & Juliet"

at the Met last month. http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_09/au...0709.htm#bigpic

The following incident shows what happens when Golden Rules 1 & 2 are ignored. *(Bold emphases are mine).

Like any type of theatre, Ballet is a contract between performer and audience. Often when we hear a comic refer to a good crowd, it usually means the audience is supplying a sufficient amount of attention and energy from which he can draw upon to bolster his performance. Theatre (not just ballet) is like a waltz where the artists on stage lead the audience around the floor a few times. If it was a good performance, we (the audience) leave the dance floor slightly dizzy but exhilarated. This is also true for ballet, where the emotion and excitement of an audience responding collectively to great artistic and acrobatic feats can create a sort of electrical current between performer and spectator. And since a lack of energy from the crowd can often sap the energy of artists on stage, a review of a performance is, implicitly, a review of the audience. Which is why I'm sorry to have to begin by saying how incredible it is that anyone, whether they're watching a comic perform in a bar or sitting in the orchestra section of the Metropolitan Opera, would ever answer their cell phone during a performance.

This is what happened during the first act of ABT's Romeo and Juliet. Actually it happened twice. And it was the same woman. I suppose it can happen. I myself, a card carrying Wagnerian, once received a call during those heart-stopping climatic moments of "Die Walkure." I should mention that my ringtone at the time, Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl, meshed surprisingly well with Wagner's Magic Fire Music - though not everyone thought so. Needless to say, I was mortified. So I take it for granted, whenever someone's phone rings, that it simply must have slipped that person's mind, and wait patiently for them to fish out their mobile device and shut it off. I don't, however, expect the next thing I hear to be: "Hello?" Even after a blitzkrieg of some of the most violent shushing I've ever heard in my life, I swear I thought I heard the lady-in-question continue by saying: "Sure, I can talk. I'm just at the ballet." Joking aside, the culprit looked well past the age of knowing better and even seemed unapologetic when approached by an usher. I wish I could say that this was the only incident of inappropriate audience noise at the ballet.

:D.

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The following incident shows what happens when Golden Rules 1 & 2 are ignored...

Is there a permanent BAM (Bad Audience Member) thread? If not, maybe there should be.

I've been told to sit down, in the middle of a standing ovation... chewed out, when I poked awake a snoring patron... swatted, when I tapped somebody's tinkling wrist bracelets...

And nah, I'm not perfect either :D

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Many, many, many (this is depressing) years ago, my mother bought tickets for us to hear Arthur Rubinstein. Comes the day of the performance and I still had a bad cough from a long-departed cold. My mother went but made me stay home, not as I assumed out of concern for the health and well-being of her only child ("Oh for heaven's sake, stop being such a baby; you'll live..."), but because she was worried my hacking and wheezing would disturb Rubinstein and/or the audience.

Times have changed, I guess.

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I have a semi-related Rubinstein story: My mother wanted me to hear Rubinstein when I was around ten, not that young but not that old and not exactly a music aficionado: The only tickets available were on stage--she still got them and I attended and enjoyed the concert, but I remember being given repeated lectures beforehand, from her and one of my older siblings, about how I had to sit absolutely still and make no sounds whatsoever, not a cough, not a sniffle...essentially they gave me the impression I should not so much as breathe when Rubinstein was on stage.

I don't recommend that level of strictness when taking children to the ballet, but following the article's suggestion, I am all for shackling children who can't remotely keep still -- I don't mean children who occasionally fidget or move their head to see the dancers or even whisper one or two questions, I mean jump up and down out of their seats, crawl along the floor, get on their mom's lap, get off their mom's lap, stand up, sit down, turn around to face away from the stage and do all of the above repeatedly and non-stop. I am in fact describing almost all I can now remember of a Part/Halberg Swan Lake I attended last year: I finally whisper-pleaded politely to the mother during breaks in the dancing and the person I was with eventually spoke to her rather more forcefully. The mother said nothing, but during intermission, found an usher willing to find them different -- better! -- seats. In fairness it was a children's matinee, so I'm sure she felt we were the ogres, but I note that everywhere else around me were very well behaved children just one of whom got understandably distracted when looking over curiously at this overactive and quite young child who...uh...should not have been there. Again, all for shackling or, at any rate, taking them home at intermission.

Incidentally I was myself taken to see the Bolshoi when I was about the same age or younger than this particular child -- that is, I was around four or five years of age. An older family member could not attend and I was permitted to use the ticket but here, too, only after extended instructions on theater behavior. It makes my family sound unrealistically strict -- but I never experienced it that way, especially when the ballet was in question; I felt I was being given this extraordinary privilege and even as what most would consider a too-young-to-be-at-the-ballet child, I thought the whole experience was just thrilling. I still remember a fragment of that performance...

Actually, it's only pretty extreme cases of poor behavior that I feel comfortable complaining about, since I want ballet to be popular and I'm not always perfect myself--despite all the early lecturing...I often say that the next best thing to having no-one in front of you at a performance is having no one in back of you: you can raise yourself up as much as you like, scratch your itches, cock your head to the side, and shift when you have a cramp -- all without qualms of conscience or fear of being sniffed at!

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After an atrocious incident with a friend's daughter, I won't go to any performance with friends who bring children unless they have voluntarily shared their exit strategy with me and the kid(s) who are old enough to understand, there are enough adults to remove any given child who acts up without destroying the day for the well-behaved children, and the designated adult is willing to eat the $X tickets after 10 minutes if s/he has to, the odds for which are quite high if the child is under 4 or 5.

What's most shocking is that some of my friends have been quite willing to do this, despite my lack of sympathy.

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Re: talking young children to the theater:

... only after extended instructions on theater behavior.
... [not]unless they have voluntarily shared their exit strategy with me and the kid(s) who are old enough to understand, there are enough adults to remove any given child who acts up without destroying the day for the well-behaved children, and the designated adult is willing to eat the $X tickets after 10 minutes if s/he has to, the odds for which are quite high if the child is under 4 or 5.

I remember this kind of preparation, both as a child and as a younger adult taking children to the theater from time to time. Unfortunately, one needs to understand the problem and to know and VALUE the rules before you can teach them to your own children. That is what seems to be missing today.

Drew raises the matter of achieving balance: how do you encourage or even require behavior that respects your neighbors without giving the impression that you are trying to turn everyone into stiff and motionless worshipers at Bayreuth?

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Oh...it didn't matter where was I as a kid, either at a theater, cinema or my parent's friends house...I only had to get "The Look" from my father-(which was something like this :mad: )...and that's it...that would be the end of any programmed sabotaging action on my side...not even words had to be included with "The Look", BTW... :)

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I'm all in favor of having a minimum age for performances. In Denver, some theatre companies do this (typically 6 years old) but none of the dance or music organizations do (at least none of those that I attend). It's become increasingly common for people to bring infants to the symphony (even if they aren't playng any Mozart), which perplexes me. The best case scenario is that the parents will notice the warning signs before the actually crying commences, but that still means that one of them will have to hang out in the lobby for 3/4 of the concert.

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Last night I happened to witness a shocking scene that needs to be recounted in this thread. I was attending a night at the New World Symphony, where right after the intermezzo its director Michael Tilson Thomas was to conduct the orchestra in Dvorák's "Symphony No. 8 in G major". Now, as we know, the second movement of this wonderful symphony is a very subtle, low, almost imperceptible Adagio, which requires just almost a contention in one's own breathing in order to be able to listen to the notes. I was, as usual, reclined in my chair in almost another world, eyes semi-closed when suddenly a super loud crash resonated in the auditorium, to which the orchestra stopped. I stood up right away just to see Mr. Tilson turn around, and with his baton in hand still fresh from hitting it against his music sheet to stop the orchestra, and with furious, piercing eyes he looked down to the first raw and shouted "Turn if off...NOW!!!".

Yes, it had been the sound of a cell phone-(not sure if in a texting situation or a ring, but I'm inclined to think it was the first one, because I did not hear any ringing...).

I had NEVER seen something like that before...the whole place was dead silence-(a packed house)-and after the offender had done what ordered, Mr. Tilson slowly turned around and proceeded to start the Adagio all over again.

Even if I wasn't the owner of the cell phone, I felt very embarrassed...

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Thanks for that story, cubanmiamiboy. Sounds as if it wasn't the first time Tilson Thomas had been distracted by a phone or PDA in the front rows.

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Thanks for that story, cubanmiamiboy. Sounds as if it wasn't the first time Tilson Thomas had been distracted by a phone or PDA in the front rows.

You're absolutely right, dirac. On my way out after the concert I overheard a conversation which referred to Tilson in a similar situation a year ago, which he resolved just walking off the stage. I don't know what did the musicians did when faced with this challenge...although I was very tempted to ask.

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A few years ago at a concert at Meany Hall in Seattle, an audience member sitting at the front of the house had a coughing fit, and pianist András Schiff walked off the stage.

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A few years ago at a concert at Meany Hall in Seattle, an audience member sitting at the front of the house had a coughing fit, and pianist András Schiff walked off the stage.

Well, it's still pretty annoying, although there are a few things you can do to minimize the distraction to those around you (cough drops, covering your mouth, leaving the auditorium for violent spells, or just simply staying home if you are sick) but coughing is often very hard to control. The distraction from the damn phones and PDA's is completely avoidable if the owner has an iota of consideration for fellow audience members.

Unfortunately sometimes coughing seems to be contagious though and sets off a chain reaction like one dog barking and then all the other neighborhood dogs start barking in response.

Going back to that age-old, rather than techno-hot, distraction of coughing in a theater and performers response, my favorite story is tenor Jon Vickers' reaction.

Vickers is a pretty prickly sort anyway but he had had enough of the audience provided obbligato to his singing during a performance of Tristan und Isolde in Dallas many years ago. During Tristan's long scenes of delirium in Act 3 Vickers snapped. He stopped singing and yelled out to the audience "Shut up your damn coughing". A resourceful amateur documenter (read bootlegger) captured the performance, with Vickers' outburst, on tape.

Jon, let us know how you REALLY feel......

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Great story. :)

Well, it's still pretty annoying, although there are a few things you can do to minimize the distraction to those around you (cough drops, covering your mouth, leaving the auditorium for violent spells, or just simply staying home if you are sick) but coughing is often very hard to control.

Coughing is tricky, especially because a cough can linger for days or weeks even though you're no longer ill. But you should do everything you can to minimize it and not honk uninhibitedly.

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My story while filming at an outdoor stage...

First I had to contend with the weather: it rained 4hrs before the performance, we squeegied and mopped the stage to damp-dry; it rained again 2hrs before the performance, so we did it all over again. Then the temp dropped to just above freezing so I had to "bearhug" the camera all night so it would keep recording. Then a latecomer comes running up the aisle and effectively blocks my shot of the 2nd adagio movement of "Clear". (I curse to myself, but then think I'll be able to get the shot tomorrow, and there's always editing)...But NO!!!...

2nd night--Again, it rained and hailed that afternoon, but luckily it was only freezing cold/damp that night. Then, "the talker" began a long dialogue during that quiet 2nd movement, until he was superceded in arrogance by ALL SIX USHERS who decided at that moment to cross directly (ie. 1ft) in front of my camera in their clicking high-heels while talking!!! They obliterated my shot, and ruined the soundtrack. You can hear my strangled screams if you listen hard. So...I flew 7500 miles, spent $$$ to travel and film this historic moment, and the headless, heedless, clueless, idiotas ruined the shot. My only consolation is that they only half coincided with the previous night's blocked shot, and maybe precise editing will let me salvage the piece. But I will never forget or forgive them.

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4rmdnr, your experience shows -- in an extreme way -- just how much one person's behavior can impact on another person in a theater setting. I'm saddened by what happened and truly in awe that you did not grab a battery pack or similar object and bop someone on the head.

I hope your forebearence and sense of humor pay off for you, and that you'll find a wonderful way to use the footage you WERE able to obtain.

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Coughing is tricky, especially because a cough can linger for days or weeks even though you're no longer ill. But you should do everything you can to minimize it and not honk uninhibitedly.

Some common prescription drugs also have an unfortunate "dry cough" side effect. Although water and lozenges can help, it's not really possible to eliminate the side effect completely.

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I was at a lecture a few weeks ago when the topic of audience behavior came up. The speaker noted that when the audience is really engaged, really really engaged, it doesn't fidget, cough or even clear its collective throat. She paused -- to a stony silence followed by a moment of gentle laughter.

So please, ladies and gents, do not drag unenthusiastic partners to the ballet/opera/concert/play because you want a companion. They diminish the experience for the rest of us.

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So please, ladies and gents, do not drag unenthusiastic partners to the ballet/opera/concert/play because you want a companion. They diminish the experience for the rest of us.

Yes, yes, YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!! :dunno::):clapping::clapping::clapping:

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But that would cut the number of tickets sold. An awful lot of male ballet viewers in our area are dragged there by their wives. It's money for the company. Most of them don't even snore. :dunno:

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