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Rules on how to behave in the theatre


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#61 Helene

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 11:26 AM

As a university student, the nearby theatre had a young mothers' room at the back. It had windows to watch the screening and piped in sound. The mothers could settle down infants without disruption. My childhood church had a similar room.

I wonder if this could work for fine arts?

I've seen this work where it wasn't optional, ie, that's where parents with small children and babies were expected to sit. My favorite is thenopposite: mid-morning movie showings for parents, usually moms, where they can bring their babies with them, and baby noise is expected.

If I remember correctly, there was a room at the back of Orchestra level at New York State Theatre that was sound-proofed, with sound piped in. I'm sure I heard at least one interview where someone in NYCB said they brought their child, so that the child wouldn't disturb anyone.

#62 SanderO

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 04:24 PM

There is no way to get a great audience these days as many who attend are not truly lovers of the performances they attend but are there for any number of reasons... someone gave them the tix, they were invited on a date. When I have scanned the audience near me I suspect that perhaps 1/2 those at the Met for ballet and opera are not really "into" the performance and it is likely that these are the people who "don't get" it what other people are trying to concentrate on the performance. Heck they eat popcorn at the movies, and hot dogs and Shea Stadium.

I once begged the usher to remove the person in front of me who coughed non stop through to the first intermission. How selfish can some people be... completely oblivious to the fact that others are trying to take in a performance and not their fits of non stop coughing?

However, there are those moments when you can hear a pin drop in the hall and everyone is completely into the performance. That's magical.

#63 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 04:57 PM

Is it acceptable to drink water from a bottle at a performance?

Of course not.
I remember in Cuba when sometimes foreigners would be amazed and confused at the ushers request to drop their water bottles, not even to get into the auditorium, but even to make it to the theater lobby. The Lorca theater in Havana-(the ballet house)-has a patio with a café where people can have a snack during the intermezzo, but EVERYTHING has to be dropped before getting into the lobby. I guess it is also a cultural thing...as a kid one would be told to drink and go to the bathroom before performances. And if one would even TRY to sabotage a performance with an improper request, one only had to get "the look" from either parent plus "NOW YOU WAIT, AND SHUT UP!" to be quiet for the rest of the time. When I got to US I was-(and still are)-TOTALLY amazed to see all this food vending inside the theater, where one can see a huge garbage plastic container in the middle of the $400 000 000 theater lobby next to a woman wearing a $50.000 diamond ring while holding a greasy donut on her hand. Honestly...I truly don't get it...

#64 sidwich

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 05:31 PM

I remember in Cuba when sometimes foreigners would be amazed and confused at the ushers request to drop their water bottles, not even to get into the auditorium, but even to make it to the theater lobby. The Lorca theater in Havana-(the ballet house)-has a patio with a café where people can have a snack during the intermezzo, but EVERYTHING has to be dropped before getting into the lobby. I guess it is also a cultural thing...as a kid one would be told to drink and go to the bathroom before performances. And if one would even TRY to sabotage a performance with an improper request, one only had to get "the look" from either parent plus "NOW YOU WAIT, AND SHUT UP!" to be quiet for the rest of the time. When I got to US I was-(and still are)-TOTALLY amazed to see all this food vending inside the theater, where one can see a huge garbage plastic container in the middle of the $400 000 000 theater lobby next to a woman wearing a $50.000 diamond ring while holding a greasy donut on her hand. Honestly...I truly don't get it...


It's all on a cultural spectrum. I remember when "Peony Pavilion" was being performed at the Lincoln Center Festival many years ago, North Americans were shocked with the jolly socializing, preserved plum-spitting and picnicking going on during the performance.

For myself, I always bring a bottle of water and a bag of sugar-free lozenges with me to the theatre to help my cough (prescription side-effect, can't be helped and never going away). Other than Chinese opera, I'm not wild on loud talking, singing along with the performance, or cell phones, but nothing else bothers me that much. I very rarely notice much of what my fellow audience members are doing.

#65 kfw

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 06:04 PM

Is it acceptable to drink water from a bottle at a performance?

I think the basic standard is not to distract other members of the audience, and that means moving as little as possible so as not to distract the persons next to and behind you.

#66 kfw

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 06:09 PM

I remember when "Peony Pavilion" was being performed at the Lincoln Center Festival many years ago, North Americans were shocked with the jolly socializing, preserved plum-spitting and picnicking going on during the performance.

Funny, I caught a couple of the five (?) sections of that opera and don't remember all that, perhaps because I sat up close. I do remember that the audience was encouraged to go out to the lobby to buy snacks. Were they allowed back in the auditorium with them? Probably.

#67 bart

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 06:30 PM

This conversation has reminded me about something that occurs in our opera/ballet house -- not during the performance but during the curtain calls.

Lots of people get up as soon as the curtain falls and edge their way towards the aisles and (I suspect) the ladies' rooms. This is very distracting and annoying, and comes across as disrespectful to the performers. It seems to be an effort to beat everyone else to the impossibly long intermission lines at the ladies (rarely the men's) rooms.

I remember the days when women in NYC, and possibly elsewhere, staged a kind of civil disobedience and started using the men's rooms. I never had a problem with this. It seemed rather sensible and to work quite well. But I can't remember when it ended. Or why. Does anyone know?

P.S. During an intermission break at the Sunday Matinee (Miami City Ballet last weekend), a very heavy woman was trying to get by me while the house was still dark. She got stuck between me and the seat in front. At least I assume she was stuck; she never acknowledged my existence. She just stood there, blocking the entire stage. Finally I got my legs up over the arm rests and extended them over the neighboring seats, giving her maximum room to move. After a few seconds (which seemed much longer) she moved on her way. What can one do except .... :clapping:

#68 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 06:54 PM

bart--the way you describe that is hilarious. And then your leg-movements...it was a kind of dance itself (communicated without words, only movements), although I think Leigh may tell us it wasn't ballet. OTOH, it may be your regular ballet classes that made this all possible.

#69 dirac

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 07:58 PM

Regarding the women trying to get to the ladies' room before the line gets too long, you might be less judgmental, bart, if by some magic you found yourself transformed temporarily into a member of the opposite sex. :clapping: I imagine most women try to avoid using the men's room out of a sense of propriety and possibly necessity and the situation would have to get pretty desperate before they started getting in line for the men's room. I note the sexes will often wait for "their" restroom even when it's a room with no booths and you have total privacy once the door is locked. The large lady may have remained silent out of embarrassment - our culture is not kind to the fat - but nevertheless she should have apologized or thanked you.

There can be many reasons for leaving before the curtain calls are done. I'm sure getting to the ladies' room is one of them but I certainly don't blame the women in such a case.

#70 dirac

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 08:00 PM

It's all on a cultural spectrum. I remember when "Peony Pavilion" was being performed at the Lincoln Center Festival many years ago, North Americans were shocked with the jolly socializing, preserved plum-spitting and picnicking going on during the performance.


That's a good point, sidwich.

#71 carbro

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 09:10 PM

It's all on a cultural spectrum. I remember when "Peony Pavilion" was being performed at the Lincoln Center Festival many years ago, North Americans were shocked with the jolly socializing, preserved plum-spitting and picnicking going on during the performance.

Oh, it went far beyond that. I was at Peony Pavillion's opening night as part of an overwhelmingly non-Chinese audience, and we were encouraged to get up in the middle and buy something to eat, if so moved -- the way they do it in China, we were told. As I recall, the first segment (the only one I saw) ran about three hours, no intermission. People were definitely moving around. I'm glad we were told beforehand that this was expected, although, as sidwich indicates, it was quite a contrast to what we're used to.

Also, there are some Broadway houses that allow you to take your drink to your seat. As a drink-carrying neighbor took her seat beside me many years ago, I shot her The Look :mad: , and she very politely smiled and said, "I know, but here you're allowed to bring your drink in." She was so blatant, I had no choice but to believe her.

#72 bart

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 05:41 AM

dirac, I'm truly sorry if I gave anyone the impression that I was expressing a value judgment concerning the ladies' room situation. Far from it: there is an inequity, and -- as I said -- I rather liked the solution of women using the men's room when there were long lines at the ladies', and I sympathize, especially as I observe my fellow men walking in and out of their "own" space rather speedily.

I also understand that, given the iinevitible long lines, trying to be first on line makes sense. It does, however, impact on other members of the audience.

My question was , I hoped, value-neutral: when did this (to me) sensible movement to use men's rooms when there was a backup in the ladies' stop? And why?

Patrick:

I think Leigh may tell us it wasn't ballet. OTOH, it may be your regular ballet classes that made this all possible.

I think you all would be proud that I actually pointed my toes AND used my turn-out while doing this. I'm not kidding; it's automatic after a few years of ballet class. In fact, taking ballet classes makes a LOT possible, even for those like me who ae on the older side. I recommend it to everyone. :mad:

#73 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 06:35 AM

One had to be there at the ballet one afternoon at the Met during an intermission when (I kid you not) I saw someone slip off their shoes and rest their bare feet on top of the seat in front of them.............

#74 sandik

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 09:19 AM

dirac, I'm truly sorry if I gave anyone the impression that I was expressing a value judgment concerning the ladies' room situation. Far from it: there is an inequity, and -- as I said -- I rather liked the solution of women using the men's room when there were long lines at the ladies', and I sympathize, especially as I observe my fellow men walking in and out of their "own" space rather speedily. ...


Before its remodel, the Seattle Opera House (now called McCaw Hall) was notorious for the long lines for the women's rooms during intermission. As a critic I often get an aisle seat and so I could manage to get in line fairly quickly, but there were always women waiting in line for their turn (who had left the house promptly and not stopped off to chat or have a snack on their way to the restroom) when the bells rang for the next act.

[Not to mention that there was only one ADA accessible bathroom, on the main floor, and so if you were in the balcony you had to get on the elevator, make your way down to the main floor, wait on line and then get back on the elevator to get up to the balcony. I heard of several instances where this took so long that the woman was late getting back to her place, and the usher wouldn't let her in to the auditorium. It looked like there was going to be a lawsuit filed, but the remodel fixed that problem]

I was at the press conference where they were outlining the remodeling project, and every other PowerPoint slide was

"More Women's Bathrooms"

I felt like cheering.

#75 sidwich

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 12:09 PM

Before its remodel, the Seattle Opera House (now called McCaw Hall) was notorious for the long lines for the women's rooms during intermission. As a critic I often get an aisle seat and so I could manage to get in line fairly quickly, but there were always women waiting in line for their turn (who had left the house promptly and not stopped off to chat or have a snack on their way to the restroom) when the bells rang for the next act.


The Hollywood Bowl used to have the same issue. It's still not great, but it's much better than it was when I was in high school and many of my friends would usher there during their summers. One of my friends had the unfortunate job one night to be stationed at the men's room to "guard" against women overrunning the men's room. I won't go into detail about what those women would do to a poor young teen-age boy to use the men's room, but suffice it to say that he still remembers. :mad:

I am glad that newer venues try to take the disparity in restroom use into account during the design phase. I've been in some venues where the panicked rush to the restrooms during intermission isn't necessary and as trivial as it sounds to some, it makes a real difference in the theatre experience.


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