Performance Etiquette

Dos and don'ts at public performances and other things your mother (or someone!) should have taught you

If you like having people think you are a dumb hick from Bumpkinville, hit the "back" button and ignore this page. Otherwise, read on.

For the purpose of this page, a public performance is any expression of the performing arts such as musical concerts, plays, recitals, speeches, lectures and even cinema. You have probably noticed that you generally have not attended such public performances ALONE. That is the point: they are public, not just you and your family sitting around the living room yelling over the television. Thus, a little COMMON COURTESY, born of common sense, is in order.

1. ARRIVE AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES EARLY. This way, you are not crawling over fellow patrons of the arts, giving them a too close view of your posterior, while they are trying to enjoy the performance. COROLLARY: If, in spite of your best efforts, you are late, wait in the lobby or discretely at the door until the end of a musical piece, or the scene. Most theaters will actually insist that you not interrupt the performance and will not immediately admit you if you are late. This rule applies to the movie theater as well. Arrive ahead of time! If you must feed during the movie, arrive in sufficient time to visit the concession stand and get to your seat before the film begins.

2. TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE, or better yet, leave it at home. If you must have your cell phone with you, at least set it to "silent mode," NOT "vibrate." COROLLARY: If your cell phone does ring, get up and go to the lobby BEFORE you answer it.

3. DO NOT TALK DURING THE PERFORMANCE. Do not talk while people are singing, acting, making announcements, or even while the movie is playing. The people around you came to experience the performance, not to listen to whatever random thought happens to flit through your mind. Running commentary on the quality of the performance is not needed. So remember: shut your pie hole. COROLLARY: If you absolutely must communicate something to a fellow patron of the arts, whisper as quietly as possible. If you need to speak at length, wait until there is a break in the performance and then go to the lobby to converse.

4. DO NOT EAT DURING THE PERFORMANCE. You probably will not starve if you refrain from feeding your face for an hour or so during any given performance. Your fellow patrons don't want to listen to the sound of you unwrapping candy, crunching, gurgling, or otherwise emitting noise while you eat. EXCEPTIONS: You may eat at dinner theaters and movies. Even then, however, you don't need to sound like a cow grazing on oats. Close your mouth while you eat.

5. APPLAUD AT APPROPRIATE TIMES. Yes, your dancing niece is incredibly cute, but you should nevertheless refrain from applauding at her every pirouette. Applaud at the end of piece (not the end of a movement) and at the end of acts, not while the performance is going on. And, of course, applaud all you want at the end of the performance. You may even applaud at the end of a film, although the actors and directors are generally not present, so it is sort of stupid--but that is up to you. Generally speaking, you should not applaud after musical performances in church since it is God, and not the performers, who are the object of adoration at a worship service. EXCEPTION: It is appropriate to applaud briefly after solo performances in a jazz recital.

6. IF YOUR CHILD IS DISTRACTING, REMOVE HIM OR HER IMMEDIATELY. Remember, please, only you think your children are all that cute and adorable. Unless your child is actually on stage, performing, he or she should not be doing anything that will divert attention from the people who actually are performing. No matter how cute you think he is you are simply wrong and people are probably fantasizing about tossing the both of you off the balcony. Neither you nor your child have a right to ruin the performance for others, even if an immediate family member is performing.

7. REMEMBER THAT A PUBLIC PERFORMANCE IS DIFFERENT THAN A SPORTING EVENT. In fact, if you have trouble mastering the six points above, try to remember that everything you'd be likely to do at a basketball or football game you should NOT do at a public performance.

FOLLOW THESE RULES and people will perceive you as bright, urbane, and educated. You will be appreciated by other patrons of the arts. Doubtless you will live longer and more prosperously.

FAIL TO FOLLOW THESE RULES and people will treat you as the ignorant, crude, brutish Philistine that you have demonstrated yourself to be. You will be lucky to get through life without someone braining you as a way of safeguarding the gene pool.

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