Stecyk

Etiquette - Eating During a Performance

35 posts in this topic

Often when I am watching a performance, the people behind me are munching on something. I can hear the crackle of their wrappers as they eat licorice or whatever. Is this normal behavior? And, if not, is there anything that can be done?

By nature, I enjoy quiet--especially when I am immersed in something. I am usually engrossed in watching a performance, yet my ears pick up on the noises behind me.

I have a hunch that this is my problem, one that I will have to live with or learn to tune out. There was a recent Wall Street Journal article on a similar theme: "Annoyed by Loud Chewing? The Problem Is You." [subscription might be required] Granted, I don't hear the chewing noises, but I do hear the crinkling of the wrappers. So perhaps it is just me.

I have looked back a few times during their eating, so they definitely know I am not impressed by their behavior. Yet, it doesn't stop them. I could confront them with a discussion. My fear, however, is that the person says, "I enjoy eating my snacks during the performance; too bad for you."

I am not interested in making a federal case out of this situation. That is, I don't have any inclination on approaching the ballet company to intervene on my behalf. I don't want to make a small issue become a big issue.

Any advice?

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There are auditoriums where food and drink is not allowed, although exceptions are made for throat lozenges and very few people unwrap them before the curtain comes up. (Carnegie Hall has them in receptacles in the lobbies and tiers.) In those places, it should not be your problem.

I was at a performance of "Dialogue of the Carmelites" in Vancouver, BC, and someone two sections over was crinkling a plastic bag for at least the first ten minutes of the performance.

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Thank you, Helene. Unfortunately, I believe the decorum at our auditorium is more flexible. I haven't seen any signs posted not to bring food or drink into the seating area. I bring along purchased water to drink during the intermissions.

I don't see an easy solution. Without a direct conversation, my body language has conveyed my displeasure. Yet, as soon as I confront the person verbally, no matter how nicely I attempt to do that, the situation is raised to a higher level. As mentioned, I am wanting to make a smaller issue into a bigger issue.

There's always the possibility that if I can't beat them, I can join them. Perhaps they wouldn't enjoy my disturbance. The only problem is that I don't want to inconvenience others around me.

I have a hunch I am just going to have to "suck it up."

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I was rather shocked to see candy allowed in the Koch Theatre in NYC. As a child, I don't ever remember that being an option, anyone know when that started? My son is 8 and he knows even now that snacks are eaten outside, during intermission and never in a performance. Are we really all starving to the point we can't survive 45 min without food in our hand?!?!

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I agree, Fraildove. Intuitively, I would think that others would realize that their eating habits are disturbing to others. Yet, they seem not to care. These are very good seats, too. It's odd challenge.

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I don’t think the WSJ article necessarily applies to you, Stecyk. (Thanks for the link, BTW, interesting read.) The piece is mainly about a subsection of people who can’t tolerate any kind of loud or loudish chewing in any circumstances, not just in a theater where people are trying to concentrate on a performance.

I agree with Fraildove – I don’t know when noshing, quietly or otherwise, became okay during anything other than an outdoor performance or in a movie house. And even in the cinema there are supposed to be rules – you do most of your eating during the (endless) previews or early in the movie, and refrain from excessive crinkling of plastic and paper. (I get really annoyed by crinkling noises.)

That said, in some cases you may have to tolerate it, at least in places where rules are not in place and/or it’s not possible to complain discreetly to an usher. You never know when you’ll run into someone like this guy. At least in the heavily armed US of A.

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I just learned that there is an announcement that food is not allowed or something to that effect. I usually tune out announcements, because I know to turn my cell phone off, not to film or record anything, and to be responsible.

I discussed whether I should confront those behind me by telling them of the rules. I have no aversion to doing so. However, I think the situation might be more diplomatically handled by an usher or by ballet personnel. A simple, no-nonsense reinforcement of the rules should clear up any issues. Furthermore, the people don't know with confidence who informed the ushers.

The crinkling of wrappers was driving me nuts, especially as they crinkled them during some of the quieter portions of yesterday's performance.

Dirac, I saw your post about the Florida guy. Absolutely tragic. It's amazing that people can get through life without having had to make appropriate "proportional responses" before. Perhaps it's like road rage, where a seemingly innocent issue completely takes over.

The WSJ article is entertaining, with some of the reader comments accompanying the article even more so.

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I was rather shocked to see candy allowed in the Koch Theatre in NYC. As a child, I don't ever remember that being an option, anyone know when that started? My son is 8 and he knows even now that snacks are eaten outside, during intermission and never in a performance. Are we really all starving to the point we can't survive 45 min without food in our hand?!?!

They've been selling candy in the Theater Formerly Known as State since I started going there w-a-a-a-y back in 1978. At first it was standard fare like M&M's, Hershey Bars and the like but it's gradually moved upscale to the faintly gourmet-ish stuff they offer now.

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I come from a Spartan theater etiquette education. My lowest, most primal instincts seem to snap when triggered by the seemingly increased notion of chewing on something 25 hours a day.

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I come from a Spartan theater etiquette education. My lowest, most primal instincts seem to snap when triggered by the seemingly increased notion of chewing on something 25 hours a day.

Well, at least it's not the Kabuki Theater in Japan, where it is not uncommon to see Bento boxes unwrapped and eaten during the performance. I think it's entirely appropriate to mention it to an usher. You may or may not get a response. Both the Met and the State Theater are pretty good about regulating the "no food" issue. Sadly today far too many people come to the theater and behave as if it's their own home, where anything goes. (including putting their feet up on the seats!). I come down on the side of immersing myself in the entire experience of whatever it is that I'm watching. I suppose if one is bold enough and clear enough in one's aversion to another's eating during a performance, then it's also entirely appropriate to say something to the offending person. If, for instance, you are watching "Swan Lake" you might say something like, "I don't think they had wrapped candy in the Prince's Court." Or, "I hope you intend to take that noisy wrapper with you when you leave the lakeside." Or, "You must not have received the memo in your program that Odette is particularly adverse to noisy candy wrappers" Or, "Don't make me ask Rothbart to come up here to this seat and ask for your half sucked candy!" Be creative!

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Part of the fun of seeing Chinese opera in San Francisco was watching and listening to entire families eat their lunch during the performance.

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Well, at least it's not the Kabuki Theater in Japan, where it is not uncommon to see Bento boxes unwrapped and eaten during the performance.

That's very common. And in some performances of long cycles (like the Mahabarata) in India and other southeast Asian countries, the event feels a bit like a fireworks show, where people set up a little camp, with picnic baskets. If the show is going to last 24 hours or more, you need to think strategically.

It's a cultural thing, though -- in the US, we didn't eat inside the theater for many years if it was a serious event -- you ate and drank at the music hall, but not the concert hall. One of the things that distinguished movies from other events was the fact that you could eat inside the theater.

I suppose if one is bold enough and clear enough in one's aversion to another's eating during a performance, then it's also entirely appropriate to say something to the offending person. If, for instance, you are watching "Swan Lake" you might say something like, "I don't think they had wrapped candy in the Prince's Court." Or, "I hope you intend to take that noisy wrapper with you when you leave the lakeside." Or, "You must not have received the memo in your program that Odette is particularly adverse to noisy candy wrappers" Or, "Don't make me ask Rothbart to come up here to this seat and ask for your half sucked candy!" Be creative!

I would actually suggest otherwise -- you can be direct as long as you're not nasty about it. Something along the lines of "You many not realize that other people hear you eating during the performance -- it's really very distracting."

Just my opinion -- you need to do what you're comfortable doing.

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Well, at least it's not the Kabuki Theater in Japan, where it is not uncommon to see Bento boxes unwrapped and eaten during the performance. I think it's entirely appropriate to mention it to an usher. You may or may not get a response. Both the Met and the State Theater are pretty good about regulating the "no food" issue. Sadly today far too many people come to the theater and behave as if it's their own home, where anything goes. (including putting their feet up on the seats!). I come down on the side of immersing myself in the entire experience of whatever it is that I'm watching. I suppose if one is bold enough and clear enough in one's aversion to another's eating during a performance, then it's also entirely appropriate to say something to the offending person. If, for instance, you are watching "Swan Lake" you might say something like, "I don't think they had wrapped candy in the Prince's Court." Or, "I hope you intend to take that noisy wrapper with you when you leave the lakeside." Or, "You must not have received the memo in your program that Odette is particularly adverse to noisy candy wrappers" Or, "Don't make me ask Rothbart to come up here to this seat and ask for your half sucked candy!" Be creative!

While I like your suggestions, by nature, I tend to be more direct: "I hope my deep immersion in and concentration on the performance isn't affecting your munching on your candies." While that response might be satisfying for a moment, it certainly would not help the situation. So I will have to forego my direct approach.

I would actually suggest otherwise -- you can be direct as long as you're not nasty about it. Something along the lines of "You many not realize that other people hear you eating during the performance -- it's really very distracting."

Just my opinion -- you need to do what you're comfortable doing.

I am going to have ushers or auditorium staff handle the affair.

My simple plan is to have an usher come directly in front of me at about five minutes before the performance begins and tell us, the row behind us, and the row behind them that eating during the performance is not permitted. That way, no one is being singled out specifically, yet the message is delivered. The offending party has offended on more than one occasion. They have seen my head snap around and my head shake in disapproval, so they are well aware that their noises are not appreciated. Furthermore, the party is an acquaintance and is well connected. Thus, I plan to use an usher who can deliver the message forcefully, yet tactfully. Then, just let the chips fall where they may.

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Then, just let the chips fall where they may.

Ouch!

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Ouch!

Nah. My hope and expectation is that the offending party stops their poor behavior and that's it. Once I either confront or request assistance from an usher, the future events are beyond my control. That is, I can't dictate how the other party will react. Most people, however, when made aware that their conduct is inappropriate, change for the better and get over it.

If roles were reversed and someone brought an usher to correct my behavior of eating during a performance, I would feel rather sheepish and would quickly abide.

This matter is really a small issue.

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It really depends. In Wagner performances where one act can be longer than entire operas (Gotterdamerung and Parsifal first acts and Die Meistersinger third act runs two hours) I've seen people armed with snacks and eating during the acts.

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Nah. My hope and expectation is that the offending party stops their poor behavior and that's it.

I was actually replying to the joke -- asking someone to stop eating and so the chips fall where they may...

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I usually turn my whole body around and S T A R E with a long, hateful, Joan Crawford look right deep into the offender's eyes. It works more than not.

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I was actually replying to the joke -- asking someone to stop eating and so the chips fall where they may...

Great, thank you, sandik. I outsmarted myself.

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I usually turn my whole body around and S T A R E with a long, hateful, Joan Crawford look right deep into the offender's eyes. It works more than not.

While I like your approach, that would be a little too confrontational even though it is effective. In reality, none of these steps ought to be required, as the offending party should know better.

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While I like your approach, that would be a little too confrontational even though it is effective. In reality, none of these steps ought to be required, as the offending party should know better.

We are talking about Neverland here, remember.. (aka Miami)

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We are talking about Neverland here, remember.. (aka Miami)

True enough. Thank you for your comments!

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Where's the common sense? Crinkly wrappers are bad enough, but the other night in the Kennedy Center's Opera House I was dismayed to see the woman next to me open and proceed to sip from a bottle of Diet Coke during the performance. Not only was there a risk she might somehow spill it, it was very distracting and obstructed the view of the people seated behind her. I don't begrudge someone discreetly stowing bottled water or soda in their purse while they are in the auditorium, but as well as theater policy it's a matter of respecting the performers as well as your fellow audience. (Beverages are sold in the Grand Foyer before performances and at intermissions, but the ushers make it clear those drinks cannot be brought into the house.)

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AG, the answer to our questions is that people are strange. Some don't think beyond their immediate wants and needs. Fortunately, small problems such as these can usually be addressed by the intervention of an usher.

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I was rather shocked to see candy allowed in the Koch Theatre in NYC!

There is a sign in the Koch, going from the orchestra to the promenade, saying food and drink are not allowed in the auditorium.

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