Learn Your Lessons Well: The Golden Rules of Etiquette for Broadway Audiences

By Carey Purcell
April 18, 2014

Playbill.com offers a guide to proper etiquette for theatregoing audience members.



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With the spring season in full swing and the Tony Awards approaching, theatre lovers are finding themselves in the audience several nights a week. As much as everyone loves seeing live performances, there are times when audience members prove to be more than a little distracting. Loud cell phones, texting during the show, crinkling candy wrappers and people commenting on the performance — while it's still taking place — can easily distract from the magic that is live theatre.

Misbehaving audience members have led to actors stopping the performance or audience members taking things into their own hands. Patti LuPone famously stopped mid-song during "Rose's Turn" to scold someone who was taking photos during a performance of Gypsy, and Kevin Williamson threw an audience member's cell phone across the room during a performance of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, claiming his fellow theatregoer was Googling and distracting him from the performance. 

Playbill.com recently polled our readers, asking about their pet peeves from theatre audiences, and they shared a few of their own experiences

To help audience members enjoy every performance to its fullest, Playbill.com put together a list of guidelines for theatregoers to ensure that everyone — onstage and off — enjoys the performance. This list of Golden Rules was originally published in Stagebill Magazine; Playbill.com has added a few additions that were not in the original piece to bring it up to speed for 2014.

1. Go easy with the atomizer; many people are highly allergic to perfume, aftershave and cologne.

2. If you bring a child, make sure etiquette is part of the experience. Children love learning new things.

3. Unwrap all candies and cough drops before the curtain goes up or the concert begins.

4. Make sure beepers, cellphones, watch alarms and other electronic devices are OFF. And don't jangle the bangles. Don't text during a performance. Even if your phone is on silent, the light from the screen is very distracting. 

5. The overture is part of the performance. Please cease talking, e-mailing and texting at this point.

6. Note to lovebirds: When you lean your heads together, you block the view of the person behind you. Leaning forward also blocks the view.

7. THOU SHALT NOT TALK, or hum, or sing along, or beat time with a body part.

8. Force yourself to wait for a pause or intermission before rifling through a purse, backpack or shopping bag.

9. Yes, the parking lot gets busy and public transportation is tricky, but leaving while the show is in progress is discourteous. By leaving early, you may miss something special.

10. The old standby: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.