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audience etiquette rant

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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?

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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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A few years ago (I can't even remember what performance it was) a woman and her husband sitting directly in front of me continued their talking and snuggling (complete with sloppy fake kissing noises) into the beginning of the overture. I leaned forward and with what I thought was complete restraint and politeness asked them if they could please be quiet, as the performance was beginning.

The woman turned around and said, Well, ex-CU-ze me! and proceed to talk for the entire rest of the performance, making remarks about how rude teenagers are, and how disgusting and offensive blue hair and tatoos were (both of which I had at the time). I was practically weeping with rage and frustration by the first intermission and then I moved.

Whew. I have to admit, the kiddies drive me nuts too--when I'm there, but I can always make allowances. Plus, I've never seen the kind of flat out rude-meanness in a child that I see in some adults at the theater...

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The responses are much too polite for me. Generally, a loud "Schuss" stops the clatter. However, recently at a performance of the Farrell Ballet in New Jersey a very lovey-dovey couple sat in front of me. Their heads were continuously together and they couldn't keep their hands off each other. When the houselights dimmed I tapped them on the shoulder and assured them that I did not come to see the back of their heads. They left at the first intermission. :devil:

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I have been known to tap on a persons shoulder and imform them that this is not a movie. I like the TV comment as well.

At a Broadway show, a family next to us pulled out bags of cornnuts and started eating them in the middle of the 1st act. We were two rows back (really nice comps!) and I;m sure the orchestra could heasr the crunching during dialogue sections. My husband finally turned to them and said "This is NOT a baseball game. Save your snacks for intermission." He then informed the ushers on the way out for intermission that those people had food in the theatre and were eating it during the show. The half eaten cornnuts were confiscated and the family moved seats (possible as the theater was nearly empty) away from my husband. Leave it to a stagehand to get really irrate and get the house staff involved.

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Funny, I was just thinking about this topic. We had a show yesterday, and one of the former dancers (mid-teens) was in the audience. Okay, she's known for being loud and likes shocking people. But anyways, the audience was getting into the performance, cheering while applauding, etc. In the beginning of Waltz of Flowers, after the harp part, she yells out. Like "yeah!" or something. She did it again once during the dancing (I think).

I talked to a friend who saw the show yesterday and she said that someone told the girl to stop that. Good. How annoying.

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At a recent performance of HGO's Tosca, a couple sitting next to me couldn't seem to stop giggling at the beginning of the second act. They must have found something funny about Scarpia's plans to ravish Tosca (Maria Guleghina!) and ruin Cavaradossi. Oh, they were trying hard to suppress their giggles, but as you can imagine, it detracted from the overall aura I should have been getting from this scene. What I really don't understand are people who pay hundreds of dollars for a seat and end up falling asleep throughout half of the performance, as was the case with this man in front of me (my seat was fabulous- smack in the middle of orchestra- but I got a 200 dollar discount on mine :devil: ).

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This is the most hysterical thread I have ever read, hands down! I'm going to steal bits and pieces for my great southern novel, just try and stop me!!! :devil:

"Oh, we never talk when they're singing." C'mon, that's priceless.

On a more sober note, I became chemically sensitive three years ago, which has changed my entire social life, particularly when it comes to attending concerts, which I do only when I want to see something so desperately, and just pray for the best. The perfume issue is insanity. In my mother's day, the only person who was supposed to be able to smell your scent was the person with whom you exchanged tender intimacies. Now, it's in your face. Even if there weren't the issue of chemical sensitivity, it would be obnoxious, to say the least. Ugh, I'm getting off my soapbox before I even start on that one -- you would not want to hear my discourse on the real reason women do this.

In any event, you might try to tap the offending party at the next concert, and simply ask, "Excuse me, is this performance interfering with your conversation?"

If that doesn't work, you could always enter the theater after intermission with the chain saw retrieved from your car's trunk. I think that, combined with a well honed death stare, would probably do the trick.

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I went to see a friend's DD performance and could not believe how rude some people are, even though the bell had rung for all to go into the theatre there were still people wandering in well after the performance had started. They had not arrived late they were already in the foyer well before the start of the performance they were just too self important to consider that the students had been rehearsing for months to produce a 'professional' performance. If I had been on the door I would have locked it and told them they would have to wait until a break in the program! Then at intermission people brought food and drinks in to the theatre, which they were not supposed to do, and then when they left at the end of the performance left their rubbish on the floor. Disgusting! :angry: At least the babies were well behaved this year and we didn't have to put up with @#% parents who won't take their screaming babies out of the theatre.

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Guest Banana Feet

I'm sure my friend and I annoyed a few ppl at Nutcracker when we were commenting on all the things that were wrong...but we couldn't even come close to the people behind us. This woman was there with her daughter who looked about 4 years old. The woman was explaining the story to the daughter--and since the music was loud the woman thought she had to talk over the orchestra. So for the whole ballet, I got to hear what this woman's idea of the plot was. Then during snow, the little girl screams "MOMMY LOOK AT THE PRETTY SNOWFLAKES." I started laughing...

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I went to see a friend's DD performance and could not believe how rude some people are, even though the bell had rung for all to go into the theatre there were still people wandering in well after the performance had started.

This reminds me of the final SFB performance at the Kennedy Center this year, when a mother and two little kids came in very late, at the start of The Unanswered Question, and marched all the way down front to their seats, with the mother directing the children where to sit in a voice that must have been audible in the entire theater, thereby completely destroying the atmosphere of the ballet. I'm used to unthoughtful patrons, but what in the world was the usher thinking?

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