Theatre Etiquette

October is a big theatre month for me! Remember that contest I said I entered at Ballet in the Park? Well, it turns out that I won!! This is pretty amazing because a) I don’t typically ever win anything, and 2) I actually tried for it and it paid off. What did I win? Tickets to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Dracula. Not only is this a world renowned production, it will be even more special because M will be visiting then! Before that, I am also seeing Potted Potter, a 70 minute retelling of all seven Harry Potter books, and The Book of Mormon. Today, in honour of all of these shows, I’m going to be discussing theatre etiquette! 


1)Dress Appropriately for that Particular Show

Most performances that you will see at a theatre deserve at least a slightly formal outfit- be it a blouse/skit (or dress pants) or dress, dress pants and a shirt for a man! A ballet, an opera, a play that isn’t a comedy? Dress up a little. I’m in no way telling you to wear a formal ball gown and a bejewelled opera cape, but everyone involved in the stage production has put countless hours into making sure that everything is exactly as it should be. Honour that and wear something that matches the effort! The only caveat to that is if the production itself is particularly relaxed, then dress appropriately for that. If you ever have the chance to see We Will Rock You, the fantastic musical based on Queen, it would be more than appropriate to wear jeans- you will potentially be up and jumping around, waving glow sticks, and shouting answers to things. If you are unsure about what to wear, check the show or theatre’s website; they will often have a blurb on what to wear.


2) Arrive on Time

Leave yourself more than enough time to get to the theatre at least 15 minutes prior to the show starting, including parking your vehicle and walking in if you need to. Most theatres will not allow you to enter a theatre once the show has already started, you will have to wait for a scene break or even the next act. Instead of having to stand outside of the theatre, waiting for an usher to let you eventually, make sure you arrive on time. (There are some theatres that no longer make you wait- do not be the person blocking the view of every person they pass because they were 10 minutes late.) If you have an extra few moments before, you can often grab a snack or a drink before the show starts!

3) Do Not Speak During the Performance (Unless Asked To)

Aside from a few productions, like Rocky Horror Picture Show and We Will Rock You, the large majority of productions do not ask for audience participation. No one wants to have someone chattering away beside them or in front of them while they are trying to enjoy the performance. Would you go to a movie or a lecture and talk the whole way through? Hopefully not! You can chat all you want at the beginning and end, and at intermission, but keep it to a minimum during the show.


4) Turn Off Your Cell Phone

No one wants to hear a cell phone ringing during a performance, least of all the performers. It takes a lot to get into and stay in your character, be it in dance, acting, or singing, and something a “Baby Got Back” ringtone can ruin that immediately. Also, the light from your phone is particularly distracting, especially for dancers. Normally you cannot see anything in the audience, it is a big dark void. When you see a light, it can actually be dangerous. Your eyes will try to focus on it, and it can throw you off while you are spotting turns. If you can’t turn your phone off for a few hours, perhaps skip the theatre! (Remember, you will be able to check your phone at intermission.)

5) Do Your Research Before

By research I mean check the address of the theatre, check the time of the show, and any other detail that you might want. I would recommend quickly Googling the show to avoid any surprises (ie. foul language, nudity, violence, anything else that might bother you). As I said above, most shows and theatres now have their own website that includes much of this info, making it fairly easy for you to check.


6) Applaud the Performers (At the Appropriate Time)

I don’t believe that every performance deserves a standing ovation, because that reduces the importance and respect of it. However, every performer deserves to be applauded and appreciated by their audience, no matter what. Even if it wasn’t your cup of tea, even if you have seen the performers give a better performance, even if you were offended, politely clap and thank the performers for their work. You don’t need to clap for every turn, jump, or monologue, but at the end of the performance is more than appropriate. Also, pay attention to what other patrons are doing; if everyone is doing a quiet golf-clap, perhaps hold off on the whooping and hollering.

One of the aspects of the theatre that I love is that it is one of the last hold outs of traditional culture. I appreciate the history and traditions and experience of it all, and I believe that it is something that everyone should be able to experience! I know that it perhaps may take people out of their comfort zone, but that shouldn’t stop us from experiencing life.

What is your favourite memory of the theatre?

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!


2 thoughts on “Theatre Etiquette

  1. Dork September 26, 2016 / 2:52 am

    These are all great tips! I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to the other members of the audience. I’ve had people chew gum right behind me loudly enough to be heard over a full-sized orchestra, talk continuously to explain the plot of a show to their partner/friends and (my favourite so far) eat crunchy snacks out of a very rustly bag during The Phantom of the Opera in London. The fine distinction between a live show and the cinema seems to have been lost on those guys.
    That said, after they had finished their crisps we all had an amazing show!


    • anhistorianabouttown October 2, 2016 / 8:32 pm


      But seriously- if people put a little bit of effort into their theatre experience, it would be much better for all patrons! You wouldn’t need to explain it if you quickly looked up the show *insert sigh*. I wish they would include etiquette tips in programs!

      Liked by 1 person

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