14 Rules All Theatergoers MUST Follow When At a Show

14 Rules All Theatergoers MUST Follow When At a Show

Don't be THAT person in the theater.

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Ah, theater. A wonderful, beautiful showcase of talent, creativity, and escapism. Whether you're attending a local community show or seeing a production on good ol' Broadway, there's certain rules you as an audience member are expected to follow.

These rules exist for several reasons. One, to ensure that the show runs smoothly without any disruptions from the audience. Two, to give everyone in the audience a great, uninterrupted experience. And three, to show respect to the actors, production crew, tech crew, and everyone else who put time, effort, energy and money into creating the show you've all come out to see.

Some rules may seem like they're simply common sense things everyone should know...but you'd be surprised.

(And yes, this article was 100% inspired by personal experiences, especially after doing a show this summer.)

So for your learning pleasure (or relating pleasure, if you're a fellow theater person), here are the biggest theater etiquette rules EVERYONE (and I do mean everyone) should follow when seeing a show:

1. Be quiet throughout the show

This is so obvious, yet many people still struggle with this one. If you start speaking or making lots of loud noises during the show, you're being a major distraction and quite rude. If you need to say something, whisper -- those low murmers are still audible.

2. BE ON TIME

You're clearly coming to the show because you care in some way about the production: you like the show, you know people in the production, etc. In a time where it's very, very hard to miss when something starts thanks to Facebook reminders, calendar reminders, etc., there's really no reason you should be late.

3. If you do come late, sit in the back

Unless there's absolutely no seats left back there, sit in the rear if you show up late. It's rude and disruptive when you walk up to the front aisles and make people already immersed in the show be broken from the spell. You're not just interrupting those in the row you're entering, but everyone behind that row as well.

4. Don't bring food or drinks into the theater unless it's allowed.

Most theaters do not allow theatergoers to bring food and drink into the main theater. And if you do it anyways, or the theater does allow it, keep things clean and don't leave your trash around.

5. Speaking of food, open anything BEFORE the show starts.

No one wants to hear you loudly open up a candy bar or crack open a can of soda.

6. Take your child out if they start to get loud

Live theater has the same common sense rule as movie theaters: if your child starts to get loud during the movie and won't listen to you when you try to shush them, take them out. If your kid starts to even remotely resemble this GIF, it's time to step out of the theater with them until they're calm. DO NOT be that person who just sits there while the kid you're with is talking during the show or getting whiny. It's disrespectful to the actors and disrupting the experience of everyone else in the theater who came to escape and enjoy a show, not listen to your loud child.

7. There is such a thing as too young for theater

If your child still uses a pacifier and/or can't sit still for longer than 10 minutes, DO NOT BRING THEM TO THE SHOW. I've been in shows and attended shows where people brought their young kids who clearly weren't interested or couldn't stay quiet/still for prolonged periods of time. Such behavior ruined the viewing experience of everyone around them, especially since the parents didn't bother to a) make them stop, and b) didn't take their kids out of the theater until they could be quiet and behave.

This is especially relevant when it's say, a Disney show. Yes it's Disney and yes it's technically for kids, but that doesn't mean your kid will automatically be entranced and actually be quiet or stay still. If they can't do that on a regular basis, what on earth makes you think they'd be able to do it for 2 and a half hours in a theater where they have to be quiet and still? This is also incredibly rude behavior to display towards the actors, who have worked their asses off to put on this show -- your loud kid is a potential distraction and pulls the focus away from the talent and hard work onstage.

8. Do your research if you're not familiar with the show

I had a theater professor who saw the original Spring Awakening on Broadway several times, and each time he saw families leave at intermission because they got a shock at the Act 1 finale that they hadn't known about. Same for performances of Heathers or Avenue Q. Long story short, if you're going to see a show and you don't check what it's about -- and more importantly, what the theater producing the show is putting up as content warnings -- you have no one to blame for yourself when you end up bringing your young kids to a show that's not kid-friendly.

9. This is a live show, not a sing-along

I know, the songs are catchy and wonderful and a big reason you're here! But your fellow audience members paid to hear the actors sing. Singing along and quoting lines is irritating and disruptive, and if you're in a smaller theater, it's possible the actors will hear you as well. Unless the actors are specifically asking you to say or sing something (which doesn't happen often), please stay quiet. And if you bring a kid who's singing along, remind them that they can sing as much as they want in the car, but in the theater, only the people onstage should be singing.

10. Please don't take pictures or videos

We all know that flash photography is a MAJOR no-no, for the obvious reason that it can be a big distraction for the actors. However, even if you're just taking a simple pic of video on your phone, that's still not allowed. The people behind you don't want to watch the show through your phone. There's also the part where it's illegal for you to do that. Licensing rights only allow for a certain amount of professional photographers who can take production pictures or film the production.

11. Touch nothing and no one

If you're in a smaller or more immersive theater, touch nothing. Not a prop, not a set piece, not a person. Just because the setting is more up close and personal does not mean you can touch. If you have a child with you, please be extra sure that their hands aren't roaming!

12. Pick up your program when you leave

Once you take that pamphlet, it's your responsibility. Even if you're just going to throw it out once you leave the theater, do it yourself rather than leave the program lying on the theater floor.

13. TURN. OFF. THE. PHONES.

That announcement you heard about phones disrupting mics? Yeah, it can actually happen. And if you're not going to turn it all the way off, make sure it's at least on silent so there's no ringtones going off mid-show. You will be universally hated by everyone around you, onstage and off, if you don't silence your phone and it goes off during the show.

14. Once the show starts, put the phone away

You're in the theater to see a live show, not be on your phone. Once the show starts, keep that phone tucked away. You can wait until intermission and the end of the show to check Snapchat.

These are just a few of the biggest rules regarding theater etiquette. Follow these rules, be sure to cheer and clap loudly after the numbers, and your onstage entertainment will love you for being a good audience!

And ultimately, HAVE FUN. Enjoy the show!

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The Differences Between Live Theatre And Film

Film actors and stage actors aren't really that different... are they?
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Everyone has seen a movie and knows how amazing they can be. Theatre can also be amazing, just in different ways. Live theatre and film are similar in some respects but they are very different art forms. Theatre is familiar, larger than life, and lacking in special effects, whereas film has new material, less dramatic and obvious acting, and can be edited to show anything that is needed. Theatre and film are both visual art forms containing actors portraying characters, have scripts, and are widely appreciated, but they are not meant for the same place or people.

The biggest difference between live theatre and film is the location of the audience. On stage, the audience is far off and as they must be able to see and hear a performance to enjoy it, performers must act for the back row. This creates a larger than life performance which only works onstage. Whereas in films, the camera can always see you and the microphone can always hear you. Therefore, you do not have to act so over-the-top. Instead, doing less than you would in real life would be better. In fact, David Patrick Green states in his article, "The 3 Major Differences Between Stage and Screen Acting," that “reality is less enhanced when a camera and microphone become involved. In fact, due to camera-work, score, lighting, and other effects, it is sometimes better to do less than you would in real life because so many things are augmenting your performance.” In theatre, projection of your voice is a constant need, whereas in film you could whisper and the microphone would pick it up. Lloyd Kremer states in his article, "Theatre for the Film Actor," “Theatre is also much more demanding of the various vocal disciplines: volume, projection, and enunciation. In film work, many of these concerns are relegated to the Sound Man.”

Theatre is familiar in that the roles being portrayed have most likely been portrayed several times before, and the characters are very well known by the audience and the actors. Whereas in film, the characters with rare exceptions are being created for the first time. This makes portraying a movie character much easier than portraying a character in a play or musical. Green also states in his article, “the audience and critics will compare you to past versions of the same show. Because many stage characters have been played over and over, there is only so much leeway an audience will accept before they start to complain.” For instance, if Hamlet came onstage and said “To be, or to not be,” the audience would be enraged that you dared mess up a famous line of Shakespeare. Whereas in film, if you mess up a line the only people who will know are you and the people on set with you. Theatre is also familiar in that it gives actors plenty of time to get acquainted with their characters with rehearsal, but with film, that is not the case. As Eugene states in his article, "Stage vs. Screen: What's the Big Difference?" “...you will receive very little, if any, rehearsal time. Depending on the size of the role, you may not receive any direction. Films hire actors under the assumption that they will come to set performance-ready.”

Theatre and film are also very different in writing. Plays are written and then directors get ahold of the play script and adapt it to fit their stage and actors and sometimes even give it a bit of a modernized twist, whereas the screenplay for a film can be in revision as the acting is happening. For television shows, the scripts are written as the show is happening and the actors can get the script revisions while they are filming, whereas in theatre, the script is already written and no major revisions can really be made. In plays, every character has a description and it is the director’s job to decide how they want to interpret that onstage, whereas, in film, the director more or less makes up the character’s description. Lenore DeKoven says in the chapter “Directing: The Similarities and Differences between Film and Theatre” of her book, "Changing Direction: A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre", that “...the director’s work calls for an overview of the material and an awareness of the throughline and outlines for each character…”

Live theatre is very unpredictable. Anything can happen when you are onstage and it is an actor’s job to just roll with whatever happens and keep going. After all, “the show must go on.” Julia Kelso shows in her article, "Theatre vs Film: What’s the Difference?" many different things that could go wrong, such as “...an actor completely forgetting a line, a prop being misplaced, or that one stubborn section of the set breaking in the middle of a monologue.” On camera, you can redo the same scene as many times as you like, so you never have to worry about forgetting a line or tripping over something on the set.

Live theatre and film are very different art forms, meant for different audiences, yet both are essential to an actor and having experience in both often helps better your acting. Theatre is familiar to people, while film is brand new. Plays are written and then adapted, while screenplays are adapted while they are being written, and theatre is unpredictable and actors have to be flexible and willing to work through whatever happens, whereas with film, you get as many chances as you need for things to be perfect.
Cover Image Credit: henry edwards 2, now here this respectively

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My Top 10 Musical Songs For Boosting Any Mood

Break a leg!

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I was exposed to the world of theater early in life as one of my older cousins was very active in the musical theater community. I grew up watching her perform in a multitude of different roles such as Annie in "Annie," Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde," and the kangaroo in "Seussical the Musical." This exposure to show tunes at such a young age sparked my love of the genre. Now, when I'm studying or working, I like to put on the soundtrack of one of the musicals I've watched a million times (such as "Les Mis" or "Mamma Mia") so I can focus on my work while still listening to music.

My years of obsessing over musicals have to lead me to find some pretty awesome songs, these are some of my favorites.

"Take A Chance On Me" from Mamma Mia.

"Mamma Mia" is one of my all-time favorite musicals and this song is one of the reasons why. The song is sung by my favorite character, Rosie, while she tries to seduce one of Sophie's potential fathers, Bill after Donna and Sam get married. It is a fun loving song which leaves the audience in tears from laughing so hard.

"Dead Girl Walking (Reprise)" from Heathers.

This song is one of the final songs in "Heathers the Musical." The premise of the song is a bit more hard-hitting than "Take a Chance On Me." In this song, the main character, Veronica, has faked her own suicide and has come back to school to confront her psychotic ex-boyfriend, J.D. to stop him from blowing up the entire school. It's a pretty intense song but has amazing lyrics and rhythm.

"Ireland" from Legally Blonde The Musical.

This song confronts the subject of broken dreams. It is sung by my favorite character, Paulette, as she recounts her dreams of finding someone to love. She is trying to comfort the main character, Elle after she tries to dye her hair brown to impress her ex-boyfriend. I think the song is super important because it establishes the relationship between Paulette and Elle. It also shows the caring nature of Paulette.

"Everything I Know" from In The Heights.

"In The Heights" is a super cool musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about a group of Hispanic-Americans living in Washington Heights in NYC. "Everything I Know" is sung by the character, Nina, after her Abuela dies. It's a very emotional song that made me cry the first time I listened to it, but it's beautifully written.

"Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" from Les Misérables.

Speaking of emotional, "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" is another song that made me cry the first time I listened to it. The song is sung by Marius a few days after the battle where he's the only one of his friends to survive. He goes back to the cafe where they would meet before to grieve and reminisce the loss of his friends. The song is a haunting reminder of the real-life cost of war.

"It Takes Two" from Hairspray.

"It Takes Two" is a song from the musical, "Hairspray." Link is the character who sings it and it's just a fun song about how a man needs a woman to complete him. While the premise is a little sexist, it's a fun song that is super catchy and fun to sing along to.

"There! Right! There!" from Legally Blonde The Musical.

This song is another fun one to sing along to. It takes place in the courtroom while the group of lawyers and law students examine a witness who they aren't sure is straight or gay. The lyrics of the song are hilarious and it's fun to sing a long to with a couple of friends as different parts. If you're looking for a fun chorus song to sing with a couple of friends, this is the song for you.

"When He Sees Me" from Waitress.

"When He Sees Me" is a song from the musical "Waitress." It's sung by the character, Dawn, while she expresses her insecurity with regards to going on a blind date. The way the character sings the song is super fun, however, there are serious tones of insecurity in the chorus when she sings, "Is what if when he sees me, what if he doesn't like it? What if he runs the other way and I can't hide from it? What happens then? If when he knows me, he's only disappointed? What if I give myself away, to only get it given back? I couldn't live with that."

"One Day More" from Les Misérables.

"One Day More" may well be my favorite song out of this list. It's sung by the entire cast of Les Mis at the end of the first act and foreshadows the tragedy of the second act. Each of the members of the main cast has some type of solo where they express their hopes for the next day. However, it's clear that not all characters will get their happy ending which adds to the intensity of this astonishing song.

"She Used To Be Mine" from Waitress.

This is another emotional song for my list. This is a song is sung by Jenna, a young waitress, as she looks back at her life before she was in an abusive relationship with her husband and before she found out she was pregnant. She feels as though she has lost all hope in life and how she thought her life would turn out so much different than how it did.

These are just ten of my favorite songs from musicals. To be honest, I usually have two to three songs from each musical that I'll listen to on repeat, so it was difficult to narrow down my list. Whether you enjoy show tunes or you hate them, I'm sure they'll be one song from this list you'll enjoy!

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