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Don’t Be a Dick or How to Be a Good Audience Member

The audience.  You guys are the lifeblood of the theatre.  Without the audience, there would be no reason for me to go to work, my paychecks wouldn’t come, and I would be stuck sitting at home watching Real Housewives marathons and trying to paint the cats’ claws.  95% of the time, you guys are awesome, and I love you.  (Please keep buying tickets!)

But then there’s that small group of dicks that mess it up.  You know who I’m talking about.  They’re the kind of people who take loud phone calls in quiet restaurants.  They’re the kind of people who let their dog shit on your lawn and quietly scurry away without picking up the doo.  They’re the kind of people that sneezes into their hand and then reaches into the bowl of jelly beans.  We all know them, and we hate them.  And those people?  They go to the theatre.  They go see shows.  And their asshole behavior doesn’t stop just because they’re at the theatre.

Now, I know you don’t want to be that person.  No one wants to be that person.  We hate that person.  Luckily, I’m here to help.  I’ve sat through a lot of shows.  And I’ve seen a lot of those people.  Here’s how to not be one of them.


*When you scream for the show to start, that won’t make it start any faster.

I know you’re excited.  I know you’re eager.  I know that you’re practically pissing yourself to see your favorite musician perform.  But seriously guys, show some dignity.  Screaming and hollering will not make the show start any faster.  If it’s not time for the show to start yet then it’s not time for the show to start yet, so buy a damn watch.  And if we’re starting late, there’s a reason we’re starting late.  There are so many components that go into getting a show off the ground, and any one of them can hold things up.  Maybe the guitar tech is finishing up.  Maybe the A2 is having trouble with the monitors.  Or maybe the lighting designer is still desperately programming the light board because she just realized that she has no house lights in the board.  Who knows?  There is exactly one person who can make the show start faster, and that’s the promoter, so unless you’re him, keep your panties on.

*Don’t show up absurdly late.

Okay guys, let’s be real here.  I get that you’re here to see the headliner, and the thought of sitting through an opener or three may not sound particularly appealing to you.  Especially if one of the openers is, say, the headliner’s guitar tech who’s been drinking and toking since 10am.  So showing up 20 minutes late to a concert may not be the worst offense a person can make.  But showing up 45 minutes late to the ballet?  It’s rude, guys, it’s rude.  Just having to be seated by the usher with their fucking little flashlights is distracting enough.  And god forbid your seats are in the center of a section.  I guarantee that each and every single person that has to stand up in the middle of the show so you can scoot past to your seat is thinking of an individual horrific method of ending your life.

I know life can be chaotic, guys.  Sometimes I get in the car and have to do a conscious check to make sure I’m wearing all my undergarments because I’m not totally sure.  But showing up stupid late to a show is super rude.  Make the effort, make it happen.  Your fellow audience members will thank you.

*Kids don’t belong at most shows, but if you do insist on taking a kid to a show and they start crying, for fuck’s sake, take them outside when they start crying, not 20 minutes later.

There are plenty of shows for small children.  My space actually does a whole series of shows especially for kids.  Show after show of bright colors, funny hats, puppets, and songs about the importance of brushing your teeth.  I will want to throw myself in traffic, but I promise your little tots will fucking love it.  There are also plenty of shows that are NOT for small children.  Classical violinist.  Folk guitar trio.  Modern dance group.  The ballet.  Shit, I know some grown adults (hi, Kyle) who can’t sit quietly through a full length ballet.  But maybe there’s a reason you decided to bring Jr along.  Maybe the babysitter canceled last minute.  Maybe you can’t bare the thought of leaving the little one.  Or maybe you truly believe that your child is different and they will enjoy the performance.  (My mom took me to a ballet at 5 and I adored it, so I know there have to be a few budding freakazoids out there.)  Whatever the reason, the kid is here.  But for fuck’s sake, when they start crying, take them the fuck outside.  Theatre tickets are expensive.  Some people only get to go a few times.  So imagine how pissed they must be when, after shelling out $30 for a ticket, they have to listen to your little angel scream his head off.  You know your kid, and you know the warning signs.  No excuses.

*Don’t ask us to turn the volume down, we won’t listen to you.

Look, I know that the customer is always right.  But we’ve also done a lot of these shows.  A lot.  In my almost two years in this gig, I’ve done around 450 shows.  Our audio guy has been here for 8 years.  You do the math.  So we’ve got a pretty good idea of what most people like in a show.  We’re out to create an enjoyable experience for our audience, so we’re going to execute our portion of the show in a way that we feel most of the audience will find pleasing.

So when you come up to us and ask us to turn the volume down, we’re not going to do it.  For one, I’m lights, not audio, so you’re barking up the wrong tree to start with.  But ask our audio guy, and he still won’t do it.  Why would he do something that he feels will ruin everyone else’s experience just because you think it’s too loud?

There are numerous people who can change the volume of the show: our boss, our boss’s boss, the road’s production manager, the promoter, to name a few.  You do not make that list.  If we’re feeling nice, we’ll feed you a line with an apologetic smile about how the volume level is set by the promoter and we don’t have the power to change it.  If we’re not feeling nice, we’ll lower an empty submaster on our boards and pretend we’re changing the volume.  And if it’s been a shitty day and we’re feeling abused, we’ll likely just glower at your and go back to whatever we’re doing.

*If in a drunken state you manage to accidentally stumble your way into the production area I am in no way required to be nice to you.

I have to put up with a lot of stupid at work.  Most of it is stupid that I have to put up with because it’s part of the gig.  But your drunk ass is a form of stupid that I am by no means required to deal with.  Nowhere in my theoretical contract does it say that I have to be nice to drunk people who wonder their way into the booth.  I don’t care if you’re lost.  I don’t care if you think this is the bathroom.  And I really don’t care how cute you think you are.  If you drunkenly stumble into my portion of the production area, you will hear one thing from me: “What the hell are you doing in here?  Get the fuck out of my booth!”

*Don’t take flash pictures.

Don’t even bother.  Not only because it’s super distracting to both the performers and those sitting around you, but because your pictures will. not. come. out.  They won’t.  You will get a lovely picture of backs of heads belonging to those sitting directly in front of you, but you will not get good pictures of the stage.  You want good pictures of the stage? Turn off your flash, set your shutter speed as slow as it will go and turn your aperture as wide as it will go.  Or better yet, don’t take any pictures and just enjoy the show.  We promise we’ll all believe you were at the show without photographic evidence.

*Don’t puke.

Seriously, guys.  Not cool.  When you puke it hurts so many, many more people than just the people on either side of you.  When you blow your cookies on the floor, it will inevitably get stepped in a half-dozen times as people exit the theatre.  So now there’s trails of puke in addition to your lovely puddle.  And some poor asshole is going to have to clean it up.  Do you know what else our cleaners have to clean up in that space?  (And that’s assuming the cleaners won’t put their feet down and refuse to clean up the puke, forcing our buildings manager to do it.)  Abandoned programs.  Candy wrappers carelessly thrown on the floor.  Spilled beer.  The gum some jackass keeps insisting on sticking to the bottom of the seats, even though that is by far the most disgusting and inconsiderate thing a person can do.  They once even found a tooth on the floor under some seats.  What I’m trying to say is that these guys already have a shit job.  And when you make it even shittier by being unable to hold your shit together, you might as well be lining them up and puking on their faces.

*Don’t step over rope and stanchion.

The rope and stanchion traditionally means that you’re not to cross or enter the designated area.  That means everyone.  Not everyone but you.  Not everyone but you’re just going to hop across real quick.  Not everyone but just in this special once.  It means don’t fucking cross.  Look, we’re not trying to be assholes.  We don’t hate you.  But there’s a lot of very expensive equipment with potential hazards if you don’t know where you’re stepping.  So don’t fucking cross.

*When the show’s over don’t demand that I give you set lists.

I work for the house, which means that set lists, (which are property of the road show,) are not mine to give away.  It’s not uncommon for road crews to hang on to set lists because they include notes, changes, or adaptations for the band members.  But even if they were mine to give away, I wouldn’t give them to you when you throw yourself at the front of the stage and start screeching, “HEY!  HEY, YOU!  THROW ME THAT SET LIST!”  It’s kind-of like me hurling myself at the boards at a hockey game and yelling, “THROW ME THAT MOUTH GUARD!” or the stage after a ballet and screaming, “THROW ME THOSE POINTE SHOES!”  There is nothing in the audience/performer engagement that endows you do anything other than a performance.  If someone tosses you a set list or guitar picks or drum sticks, then Merry fucking Christmas to you, but it’s a gift, not a right.


Moral of the story, guys?  Don’t be a dick.  Be thoughtful and considerate to your fellow theatre-goers, enjoy the show in a way that doesn’t endanger your health or your dignity, and we will be a-okay.

And if you think of it?  Next time you go to see a show, look at the back wall or the front to the stage and see if you see someone wearing all black that looks tired and scruffy and a little abused.  Give ’em a little wave and a “Great show, guys!”  That moment of kindness will mean more to them than you can ever imagine.

And then get the fuck out, ’cause we want to go home.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Christine August 16, 2011, 10:28 am

    I’m stealing you last paragraph.

  • Karen August 16, 2011, 2:04 pm

    good advice; hate having those things going on when I’ve paid good & sometimes outrageous $$$ for a ticket. These rules also can apply to most any situation where space is shared by folks, either at a restaurant, baseball game, in line at the grocery store, in line for the rest room, at a red light, etc. Perhaps this blog should be printed in the front of all flyers handed out to ticket holders.

  • Camels & Chocolate August 16, 2011, 8:08 pm

    Oh man, I wish every person who has ever gone to a show (or plans to) would read this guide before doing so. It should be required pre-theatre reading if you ask me!

  • doahleigh August 19, 2011, 9:06 am

    You’re so badass!

  • Jeff August 25, 2011, 7:21 am

    Re: Sound – I usually just tell them that I can’t hear what they are saying cause it’s too loud and let them stew for a while. Much more fun to see their reactions that way…

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