Meanwhile in the audience…

  January 17, 2020  

By Erin Frey | 2 MIN READ

Erin Frey writer balances a tescup on her head   Erin’s time at Mirvish Productions has been eclectic. From interviewing Elton John, Associate Editing Programme, designing countless brochures and posters to standing in for a Dorothy photoshoot, she has loved every second of it. Now she is putting her experience, theatre degree and journalism diploma to work as the voice of Meanwhile. When not at the theatre she can be found with her (very dramatic) children.

Meanwhile in the audience…

Theatre is an awe-inspiring, communal experience. Something about sharing the experience with an audience full of people heightens the pleasure, increases the importance, validates our feelings, makes the catharsis more… cathartic!

Except sometimes.

On occasion the other audience members can impede our appreciation. It’s never us – of course not. We are all perfectly behaved at all times and we should give ourselves a hearty pat on the back for our efforts. Well done.

Well… there was that one time… but that doesn’t count.

Our world is becoming more individualistic. In some ways this is great: we can personalize experiences and advocate for our own needs. I am all-in for tailoring experiences to find deeper meaning in our lives.

The flip side is that it makes it difficult to decide how communal activities, like the theatre, can fit into this dynamic.

Add new technology to the equation – such as those devices that the majority of us are now tethered to; you know, the kind that have screens that light up, that can connect you to the internet so you can watch videos and movies and listen to music, and that ping when a text or email comes in – and the conversations become even more complex.

It’s important to look at how we interact with each other and how our actions impact the people around us in the microcosm of the theatre and how that translates to the larger world.

So let’s take a look at what’s hot and what’s not in theatre etiquette.

Hot: Going out for a drink or meal after the show to discuss all the thought-provoking, fascinating stories and what they reveal about culture and our existence.

Not hot: Discussing your thoughts and theories during the performance. To the person who sat behind me at The Illusionists, your theories may have been brilliant but hearing them out loud did not enrich my experience. And keep in mind, anytime you ask “what just happened?” you miss the next line which leads to further confusion and more questions. It is a vicious cycle that you don’t want to be caught in.

Hot: The trained and talented cast members who astonish us with their vocal acrobatics and dance skill.

Not hot: Unless you are at a specific “sing-along” performance, save your beautiful voice and sing along to your playlist on the way home. Same goes for dancing. I’m sure you are talented, but the performers on stage have trained for years and have rehearsed and perfected the show. (I know I have been guilty of this one and I’m sorry! But it was only that one time. I’ve never done it again.)

Hot: Being present in the moment. Being mindful during the performance.

Not Hot: Photography and videography. First of all, you will never capture the magic of a show on a phone screen. Believe us. We have filmed productions for archival footage and for promotional use. Even with a pro crew you never capture the elusive beauty that you will experience, so don’t try. On top of that, you may be inadvertently creating a very dangerous situation for the performers. Blocking and choreography are complex; unanticipated sources of light can be disorienting. Then there are legal concerns about artistic property. It is easy to forget with something intangible like a performance, but the performers, the writers, the composers, all the designers and everyone else involved in the performance have worked incredibly hard to create what you are seeing. It is their work and it deserves to be respected as such.

Hot: Enjoying a glass of wine or a Häagen Dasz bar in your seat. Even a large lobby space can’t accommodate the entire audience all at once. Also, not having to pound back your beverage of choice at the end of the interval is lovely.

Not hot: Crinkly cups, water bottles, wrappers and loud chomping. It’s really just distracting. Open your snacks, unwrap your candies, break the seal on your water bottle etc. before the lights go down.

Hot: Social media. We want you to post about our shows and share your experiences, just not during the show.

Not hot: Let’s be honest, phones are distracting! And don’t tell me your phone is on silent – I call BS on that. A vibrating phone makes just as much noise – sometimes more – than a ring. If your screen lights up or you ring or ping during the show, you make yourself a beacon of shame.

Hot: Inclusive spaces. We love to have new audience members in our theatres. We strive to be an inclusive space, we welcome people of all different abilities, ages (except babies under 2; they really can’t enjoy the show) and hairstyles! Theatre is for everyone. It is expensive and isn’t necessarily attainable for everyone which is unfortunate. But everyone who pays for a ticket is welcome. So, as Ellen would advise, let’s be kind to one another.

Not Hot: Behaviour that is threatening, discriminatory, or violent toward the staff, the performers or to fellow audience members. This behaviour will not be tolerated.

Your ticket is a legal contract. Try to think of it as a social contract as well. When it comes to a performance we are all in it together.