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Audience Behavior


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#16 Jayne

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 02:42 PM

We have discussed audience behavior over the years on Ballet Alert!

http://balletalert.i...ience-behavior/
http://balletalert.i...n-the-audience/
http://balletalert.i...ence-etiquette/
http://balletalert.i...etiquette-rant/

Even one about when management is in the audience:
http://balletalert.i...n-from-the-top/

I've noticed that audience behavior has been an occasional hot topic at ever performing arts or sports discussion group I've seen: you're not alone in your concerns.

Maybe we should combine the threads?

#17 SandyMcKean

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 03:47 PM

I'd say we are pretty lucky here in Seattle. I go to lots of ballet, opera, play, and occasionally symphony performances, and only occasionally do I observe this sort of thing beyond very minor, short lived infractions (certainly not anything like cubanmiamiboy describes in Miami).

All the things mentioned above do happen in Seattle, but not all that often. There is talking during overtures, but normally only at the start and almost always in hushed voices. Candy wrappers happen, but it is practically non-existent (OTOH, woman -- usually elderly -- going thru purses is pretty common anytime). Cell phone light is very hit and miss -- I only notice it if I sit high in the house (except during the first 30 seconds after the lights go down when you see the phone lights blinking off here, there and everywhere). Phones ringing is rare...and treated by nearly everyone as a sacrilege. I must admit (with some embarrassment for doing some profiling) that when I hear voices above a whisper during a performance, it is often Russian that I hear (I've been assuming that the culture in Russian speaking countries is OK with this.....after all in Shakespeare's day people considered The Globe to be a place to eat, visit, and talk incessantly).

I'll say one thing, if I observe any of this behavior near me that lasts beyond a quick indiscretion, I don't hesitate to say something, tap someone on the arm, glare with a disapproving face, or whatever it takes......sometimes quite pointedly. I can tell you it works.....and I feel no guilt for doing this.

#18 sandik

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 03:50 PM

I'd say we are pretty lucky here in Seattle. I go to lots of ballet, opera, play, and occasionally symphony performances, and only occasionally do I observe this sort of thing beyond very minor, short lived infractions (certainly not anything like cubanmiamiboy describes in Miami)...


We do get a lot of coughing in the wintertime, though. Perhaps a few cough drops wouldn't be a bad idea...

#19 Helene

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 04:02 PM

Combining the threads means they will be merged by date, and posts that appear directly under another and address that post without a quote in a single thread will make little sense with posts from other threads in between them.

#20 SandyMcKean

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 04:05 PM

sandik, you are right about that!! Sometimes I can't believe the coughing. Somehow coughing is excusable in many folk's sense of ethics. I guess because it is sickness and presumably one can't help it, but I don't buy that thinking. I note that even when coughing levels are high, when the program hits a powerful moment, nearly all the coughing stops. Coughing, it seems, is not quite as involuntary as most folks seem to think.

One advantage we seem to have in Seattle (altho perhaps many other cities have this practice too) is that coming late is not allowed. In most houses in this city, the doors are closed 30 or 60 seconds before the lights are fully down. If you come later than that, you sit outside until an intermission. Our main performance hall, McCall Hall, has outside seating with a TV monitor where late comers can sit and watch the performance on the monitor. I can't think of a single time that I've had to stand during a performance to let a late comer squeeze by me on the way to their seat.

#21 ord7916

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 04:23 PM

The performance I attended on Monday at the Met was the opening night gala with scenes from six or seven different ballets. So the flashlights were mostly an effort to read the program and see what was what and who was who. Like many others, I was also curious as to exactly what I was watching, but most of us knew to wait until intermission to find out.

I do wish that theaters would do a much better job of reminding the audience of proper conduct. There are usually announcements regarding no cameras or recording devices and to "silence", though not turn off, cellphones. A no texting, emailing, Angry Birds or flashlights announcement would come in handy.

Incidentally, at the Met, there was no announcement at all, just large signs in the lobbies, though most people were too busy trying to spot celebrities to notice.

#22 sandik

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 04:39 PM

sandik, you are right about that!! Sometimes I can't believe the coughing. Somehow coughing is excusable in many folk's sense of ethics. I guess because it is sickness and presumably one can't help it, but I don't buy that thinking. I note that even when coughing levels are high, when the program hits a powerful moment, nearly all the coughing stops. Coughing, it seems, is not quite as involuntary as most folks seem to think.


I used to be more doctrinaire about this, but a few years ago I had to take a medication that had me coughing frequently as a side effect. It was truly uncontrollable. I had some strategies to make it less obnoxious, but I actually had to curtail some of my activities because of it. I know that when people are thoroughly engaged in something, their brains often short-circuit some automatic activities like coughing, but there are people, like I was, who truly cannot suppress it.

#23 Birdsall

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:29 PM

I have been near a woman during an opera at the Met and she got the worst coughing attack, and she was so embarrassed by it but didn't really know what to do b/c she thought leaving would cause people to let her out and block their view, and she kept hoping it would end but finally when her coughing kept going on she left and apologized when she came back for the next act to everyone who had been near her. I felt sorry for her, because she was concerned about others around her and did not mean to cough so much. But I would be lying if I said I was not annoyed at the situation (only because it was an intense coughing fit that would not stop). It was annoying to have a coughing fit going on during the opera, but seeing that she was really embarrassed and upset by her fit made me also feel for her, because I think it can happen to anyone at some point in life. I think her attitude of remorse made it all better for me personally.

So overall I try to be tolerant of things like that. But I really do hate the slow unwrapping of cellophane (which can be helped) and talking during operas and have shushed, but then the person has shushed me back one time which I think takes a lot of nerve. I am more tolerant of talking during ballets since there is no singing and I do not miss any dancing while someone talks, plus most ballet music is not on the same level of Wagner or Verdi or Mozart, but I still think it is rude to talk during performances, but I am less likely to shush at a ballet and much more likely to shush at an opera.

One time another person (not me) shushed someone and the person being shushed got downright belligerent telling the person off who shushed him using profanity. It was really shocking. The back and forth went on a few sentences, until an usher came and they both hushed. So correcting someone's behavior nowadays can create even more disruption because many people have no shame. They act like jerks and if you correct them, they will escalate their behavior. It is like, "How dare you tell me to stop being a jerk to everyone!" It is really absurd!

And I think the other problem is that at least in the U.S. the ushers are almost always little old ladies who are simply volunteers and do not have the desire or personality to take charge and stamp out bad behavior. I suppose if I were doing it for free I would not want to get into a verbal argument with some of the worst offenders.

What's funny is I took a quick picture of the auditorium at NYCB before the show even began because I try to collect theatres that I have visited, and there the usher was on me like white on rice telling me no pics are allowed. The curtain was down and the lights were still up, and I told her I would not take any during the actual performance but apparently you can't even take them beforehand. I turned to my partner and said, "She cracks the whip so I can't take a pic of the auditorium, but watch later comers allowed in! I would rather she crack the whip about that!" and sure enough. A couple of late comers came in......

Oh, well......I don't think there is much we can do.

#24 Jayne

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:43 PM

Combining the threads means they will be merged by date, and posts that appear directly under another and address that post without a quote in a single thread will make little sense with posts from other threads in between them.


Maybe they could be "pinned" them under a separate subforum?

#25 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 10:13 PM

Cuban theater golden rule. Patrons cease to have rights over a seat right after the second the lights go down. If someone gets lucky enough to gain access to the auditorium-(a very rare case)-during that very moment, with the lights already off, he/she has to look for an empty seat if there's already someone seated in his lost assigned seat, for which the theater allows for a couple of minutes for the audience to fill out the empty spaces-(moving forward as they want)..
The outcome...? NO LATECOMERS WHATSOEVER.

After those minutes of re arrangement, with doors locked for good and everybody seated and in silence, then the overture starts...

#26 Cygnet

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 07:45 AM

I apologize if this has already been mentioned, but if it hasn't: Those who hum along with the orchestra.
Birdsall mentioned that the Russians comment alot during performances. This is true, at home and
when the companies tour here.

#27 bart

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 07:55 AM

As Helene posted above, we've discussed this several times before ... but the culprits are not listening. Bad audience behavior seems to be one of those gifts that goes on giving.

My latest experience -- a performance of Wagner's Rienzi at Rome Opera. The last act has its longeurs before the thrilling conclusion. Several couples could not wait until the end and proceeded slowly down the center aisle, edging their way along the FRONT the of the first row. Since the conductor was standing quite a bit above the eye level of the audience, these early leavers could easily have kissed him on the neck or given him a backrub. The singers, at thay time singing their hearts out right at the edge of the stage, and orchestra members could not possibly have failed to notice.

#28 Birdsall

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:19 PM

I apologize if this has already been mentioned, but if it hasn't: Those who hum along with the orchestra.
Birdsall mentioned that the Russians comment alot during performances. This is true, at home and
when the companies tour here.


Yes, the humming or even singing along at operas is ridiculous! I don't know what is going on in their heads. We are paying to hear the people on stage not our fellow audience members.

#29 kfw

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 04:46 AM

The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog put up an article yesterday called Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Cell-Phone Smashing of 2013. An excerpt:

New York folk heroes are born with an act of brazenness. And not just any kind: the heroic act has to give voice to the voiceless (or at least the passive-aggressive), display moxie where others have buried their heads in frustration. [ . . . ] Now comes Kevin Williamson, who two nights ago blogged at the National Review about an act of vigilante theatregoing during “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” the “War and Peace”-inspired poperetta currently playing in a tent in the Meatpacking District. The show unfolds in a faux-Russian supper club, where audience members swill vodka and dine on caviar and borscht. Still, you’re supposed to be paying attention to the actors as you’re revelling—unlike the woman sitting next to Williamson. According to his account, the woman was incessantly Googling on her smartphone. (In her defense, maybe she was looking up the Battle of Austerlitz?) When he asked her to stop, she replied with a dismissive “So don’t look.” After several more attempts, Williamson used his “famously feline agility” to snatch the phone from the woman’s hand and hurl it across the room, at which point the woman slapped him and stormed out, as security escorted Williamson to the lobby. He is still waiting to see if she’ll press charges; he told Gothamist, “I don’t want to suggest I’m Henry David Thoreau protesting the Mexican-American War, but I’ll do a day in jail if I have to.” And you thought “War and Peace” was eventful!



#30 elena

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 05:52 AM

I apologize if this has already been mentioned, but if it hasn't: Those who hum along with the orchestra.
Birdsall mentioned that the Russians comment alot during performances. This is true, at home and
when the companies tour here.


When I saw this thread this is what I thought of immediately! We barely ever have big classical productions here where I live, recently they did a SL after ELEVEN years of not showing it... and I got stuck next to a guy that was humming along all night. He kept ruining the moment for me, especially since he only hummed along the famous bits, he was just trying to show off IMO which made it even more aggravating.

Also was stuck behind a lady that decided to hack and cough to clear her throat during Odette and Siegfried's PDD... it wasn't a couching fit she couldn't control. I was very annoyed.

Not to mention a bunch of people that showed up late and were let in (I'd say about 15 people) and caused an interruption getting to their seats in the middle of Act 1.

Rude. Especially since there barely ever are productions like these here, don't know when I'll be able to see a big classical ballet production again, so I wanted to enjoy the moment a lot. Not to say it wouldn't be rude otherwise...


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