17th May 2021
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Let’s Talk About Theatre Etiquette: A Reminder

Lets Talk about Theatre Etiquette
By Brittany Zimber

I went to see one of my very good friends in a show last night. We have a cute theatre near where I live, The Palace Theatre. I’ve seen a few shows there. As a professional dancer myself, of course it wouldn’t be human if I didn’t watch it as such. For the most part I have enjoyed the shows there. But the show I saw last night, “Piano Men”, was by far the best show I have seen there.

That isn’t me being biased because my friend was in it either. Unfortunately he was injured and was at the doctor’s during the second half, not on stage. So I know that I wasn’t being biased. It was fun, entertaining, enjoyable. I mean, yea and my friend Corey blew it out of the water.

I fully enjoyed myself, that is once the girls sitting next to me went somewhere else. Yes, I told you very nicely to please quiet down. Also, I want to thank you for giving me this glorious idea for my next blog post.

Theatre etiquette

Why isn’t this something we speak about more? Probably because you don’t want to offend anyone. I’m sure half of you are thinking, “Everyone should be allowed to do what they want, when they want, in the way they want, cause freedom of speech and stuff.” And the other half are going, “Finally someone is saying what we are all thinking.”

This is honestly a pet peeve of mine. Just like dining etiquette. Use your knife and fork, like a well mannered adult. And put said knife and fork together at the end of your meal. Thank you. Bows head.

I get it, you don’t know if no one tells you. So here I am, to tell you.

Let me just set the scene.

This girl sits down, next to me. Her friend then comes in late, after the show already began. Pretty sure she was hammered, or on drugs. I wish I were lying. This girl walked in like she owned the place. Literally as if it was just her and her friend in this entire theatre. She used the aisle as a damn runway in fashion week. Let me remind you, the show had already begun. Let’s call this girl Bethany. Which is funny, cause I love all the Bethanys I know. But, here is Bethany… And let’s say the other girl is Reba. Okay, so, Reba is sitting there. Bethany comes nearly stumbling down the aisle, climbing over people in the row, while waving her phone around. (I’m thinking all Wolf of Wall Street. When he thinks he gets home safe. Then they show what really happens and he dragged himself into the car and the car is smashed up. Haha. She thinks it’s Miami Fashion Week, but really she’s a baby deer walking for the first time. I know, been there done that.)

She sits down and immediately starts belting her lungs out. At this point.. I’m okay with it.. Girl is having the time of her life. Fine. I would like to hear the singer singing instead of Bethany. But sing girl, sing. Now.. Reba kept “face in palming” it. She knew Bethany was being obnoxious, and she her damn self kept telling Bethany to quiet down. Then there was a moment she just gave in and started singing too. Again, great! Sing it girl! I love when people are watching us perform and they are having the time of their life.

Then out comes the iPhone.

While I want to scream “GET OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE!” I don’t. Those damn blue messages are popping up. Bethany is all yelling at the top of her lungs to overcompensate for the music… “OMG Reba, I’m totally leaving. OMG he’s going to meet us. OMG he should be coming here. OMG Reba girl LOOK at this message.” Reba at first was all.. “Shh girl..” Then Reba’s bottle of wine must have kicked in and she’s all talking at full voice now too.. And then opens up her blue message bubbles on HER phone. Not only her phone but now she is talking into her Apple Watch like freakin’ 007. But not 007, because she was not sly at all.. It was like Rebel Wilson in any movie really, “trying” to be quiet but quite literally screaming. I love Rebel Wilson, I did not love this girl.

So now, they are screaming the songs at the top of their lungs. And Rebel Wilsoning into the Apple Watch and blue bubbles popping up on their phones. And, HELLO, yes of COURSE they just have to read every damn message out loud to each other. Obviously. I wish I was being dramatic here. But I’m not. Now the actual singers, on the actual stage, in the actual theatre start singing one of my favorite songs.

“She’s got a way about her, I don’t know what it is. But I know that I can’t live without her. She’s got a way of pleasin’.. Mmm… I don’t know why it is, but there doesn’t have to be a reason anyway.”

Here I am, singing softly to myself.. Thoroughly enjoying the singer who was incredible and sounded exactly like Billy Joel.

OMG REBA.. Look at this TEXT Message!!! Girl what do I do. OMG he is here! Girl we got to go find him!! Let’s do it. OMG I love this song. “BUT I HAVE TO LAUGH WHEN SHE REVEALS MEEEEEEEE.“

I don’t know what came over me but I just turned and really calmly said, “Sorry, could you quiet down a bit please.. Thank you so much.” Not sure why I said sorry for asking them to quiet down. But I did. I started my quest with “Sorry.”

Reba tells her friend.. (Which wasn’t the first time she had said it to her.. But of course now it’s MY fault. L O L. ) “Bethany girl we have to quiet down, I was just asked, (points at me) by her.” Bethany was all no pucks were given. “Well I DON’T CARE, I WILL DO WHAT I WANT AND SING.. OMG Look another TEXT just came through!” Now Reba is all, YEA whatever I don’t care either!

Scrrrchh.. Come in Reba. Come in.. I am in a theatre.. Shhrrchh Over.

Okay to be fair. I think Reba was torn. She wanted to not care like Bethany over there, but she cared. Every few minutes she would remind her friend to quiet down. She knew how loud and rude she was being.

Here’s my favorite part. End of act one and Bethany is all “THAT’S IT! I’m moving! I want to get up and dance and sing as loud as I WANT. With NO ONE telling me any different.”

My face though at this next bit. Reba then gets on her 007 smart watch. “OMG, this girl next to me asked us to be quiet. We are totally moving to somewhere else.” I looked over and just laughed a little. I didn’t tell you to be quiet Reba. I asked very nicely if you could quiet down a bit. And that was when you were rudely talking full volume during songs that you quite obviously didn’t know.

So, they moved up to the balcony. To be with, what I can assume, the guy Bethany was texting during the entire first act. Also, I overheard the poor guy who was sitting next to Bethany complain to the people behind us about her. “Well, I don’t know where they went but I might even say something when they get back. They are being way too loud.” This was at the end of it all, after I had already asked them to quiet down. He was still annoyed and wanted to still ask her to quiet down. Again, sing those songs girl. Everyone was singing along. It’s not about you enjoying the show. It’s about you talking full volume and texting throughout the rest of it.

Hope you enjoyed reliving that with me.

Something you do know, put away your phone. The MC actually said at the top of this specific show, “Please turn your phones off and put them away, no one wants to see your phone waving around.” Correct. I would have absolutely loved to be recording my friend performing, but I respected what the MC asked. Respect. Seems like where this all actually stems from.

As a professional dancer, I don’t actually mind if you are recording or taking photos. But learn how to work your flash. It isn’t that difficult. And that light really is THAT distracting. You may not think so, but when it is pretty dark in the audience and you see this burning flame of a light, it’s well, annoying to say the least. Then we start thinking, “why does that person not know how to use the flash.” “When am I going to have a chance to ask the stage staff to go tell them to turn it off.” “Do they even realize?” “What are they recording, I wonder what I look like.” “Okay, why is no one near them telling them to turn it off.” “Okay, really, a black out and the damn light is still on!” “Well, now everyone saw me starting to do my quick change on stage.” As you can see, distracting. So, if you ARE allowed to record or take photos, please for the love of God make sure your flash is OFF. And stays OFF.

But. Get. Off. Your. Phone.

There are so many things wrong with this. First off, as a performer on the stage. We can see you. We can see you staring at your phone. We can see you getting those text messages and texting back. We can see your kid watching Paw Patrol or playing Candy Crush. We can see the scroll, the index finger just continuously swiping the screen up. Is Facebook going anywhere? Is that text message that important? Is your child learning anything by sitting on their phone instead of watching a live performance? No, of course not. But it is just that phone obsession. So let’s turn back time a bit, shall we. And really enjoy a live performance. Be present.

Stop talking. On stage, we can hear you. We can hear you and we can see you.

I’ve hosted many a Backstage Tour in my years as a professional dancer. Since, 1975. Kidding.. I always tell this joke. Some very gullible people believe me. Let me tell you, people truly think they can’t be seen. I give it to them straight. “No, we can see you. And we will talk about it backstage during the show. So yes, sleeping, on your phone, talking, dirty looks, we see it all.” And the good guys too. We see you. I’ll never forget this man who came to every one of our shows and full enjoyed them. Always stood at the end. Was completely present. So I asked the stage staff to ask him if he wanted a photo with the cast at the end of the show. “Deliver the Wow”, AMIRIGHT. He came back, took a photo with us. Find out later he’s actually a professional drummer in a European Band. He gave me a card thanking me for such a special moment. See, we see you guys too. I do anyway.

Okay, so stop talking. Not only is it rude as an audience member but also it is rude to the performers. Let’s say you were at work and had a big meeting pitching some big idea. I wanted to come watch. I come in late, like a drunken baby deer, flailing my phone around. Then, during your pitch I sit there having a full volume conversation with someone next to me. Texting and talking, talking and texting, chewing gum for the visual effect. I can imagine, not only would it annoy the people around me, but it would annoy you as well. Because it’s a lack of respect and just plain rude. Correct? Correct.

Also, another thing I used to say. “You may not want to listen or even care what is being said, but there is definitely someone around you that wants to know what’s going on.” So.. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to, everyone. Literally, everyone. You aren’t at a concert. Concerts are different. Everyone knows at concerts you sing, you dance, you make 20 minute long Snapchats that no one actually watches.

If you think about it. That really isn’t much to ask. Be respectful of the performers and the audience members who also paid money for these tickets, just like you did. Stop talking, get off your phone, maybe sing along at a normal indoor volume level. “Indoor Voices Kids” Applaud. Stand up at the end. You know? Look, I have gone to shows that I have truly not enjoyed. But I was still respectful. I will even stand at the end. Yes, of course, part of that is because I am a performer myself. I know and understand the hard work that goes into being up there. But, part of it is just because I have respect for other human beings’ work and for other audience members.

So again, for the love of all that is holy. Be present. Stop your obsession with your phone for 2 hours and get off your phone. Stop trying to talk louder than the singers and musicians, and keep your head up to watch the dancers. These people have put in hours upon hours of blood, sweat and tears to do this one show. Not to mention the hard work that goes on literally behind the scenes. Also, the person next to you doesn’t want to listen to you. This may be the only show they can afford to go to this year. This may be their dream. The last show they will ever see. Their birthday gift. Their friend or daughter or student may be up there in that show. You don’t need to know their story. But respect it.

Respect the theatre and the arts. And while we’re at it, respect your fellow humans.

Over and out.

Also by Brittany Zimber:

The World Mourns Kobe Bryant: The Loss of a Legend

Show Creation on Cruise Ships: Another Opening, Another Show

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