Nowadays we're used to being at the movies with the crunch of popcorn everywhere, the kid kicking the back of your seat and the ever present anticipation of someone's cell phone going off. I'm not sure when that became the acceptable norm, but it's starting to spill over into live theatre as well. So I thought we were a little over due for a refresher in theatre etiquette. And who better to turn to than some of our country's leading artistic directors.
I asked Max Reimer from The Vancouver Playhouse, George Pothitos from The Neptune Theatre in Halifax and Anne Allan from the Charlottetown Festival in PEI, for their top 3 Theatre Rules plus their Number 1 Pet Peeve.
George, being a quintessential Canadian, points out that his are not really rules, just suggestions.
Says Anne "Do not leave it on vibrate!!!" Surprisingly people don't realise how annoying that can be. And George adds that you should "remember to turn it back off after intermission as well."
George's number 2 rule (or suggestion): No Talking Please. Says George: "Discuss the play at intermission. It's better than during the performance. If you can hear the actors, they can hear you, not to mention the audience around you."
And Max's is a common complaint: The candy wrapper crinkle. "Interestingly, I think this annoyance actually comes from the patron trying to NOT be disruptive with a cough as they feel a tickle in the throat."
Max's 3rd rule is directed more towards the people on stage, but it does affect the audience. "Curtain speeches. It's not that I don't want people to be thanked or that the theatre company shouldn't put a face to their work. It's that I want to hear the work of Arthur Miller or Michelle Riml from Donna Belleville or Jerry Frankin and not the musings of Max Reimer pulling me further away from the theatrical world in which I've come to be immersed."
Anne's 3rd rule is also interesting one, and one that arises for many of us (pun intended). "Please only stand, in applause, if it is really good, but don't wait for approval from your neighbour if it is!"
George's 3rd is neither a rule nor a suggestion, but rather a request: "Audience, please use moderate, if any, amounts of perfumed products. More and more audiences suffer from allergies. It's not a judgement on the quality of perfume. Auditoriums get hot with so many people in them and this makes it worse."
And their number 1 pet peeve?
George: "Texting during the performance!" (Ahem, tweeters...)
Anne: "Petty conversation, or the need to eat, during the performance." (You'd hope the audience would have had dinner before the show, or finished the candy at intermission. Then again, maybe they couldn't because they were waiting in the women's washroom line for so long...)
As Anne so eloquently puts it: "The theatre is one of the last bastions where we can come together in silence and collectively feel inspired. There should always be respect and integrity for the art."