Tonight is the closing performance of Gaslight's first show of 2010, Accomplice by Rupert Holmes. It's a fun show and one of the best productions we've done, with a crackerjack cast well-directed by my friend Richard Bostwick. Even I, knowing the script, gasped aloud at some of the surprises and effects.
Community theater is one of the best entertainment values going. Gaslight charges $12 for an adult ticket, or $10 for seniors and students, and you don't waste extra money on junk food. Last night we had close to a full house, which was great, and I hope we don't have to turn people away tonight.
It's especially gratifying to hear people in the audience say they've never been to a play, or at least not since they left school. But coming to the theater is not the same as going to the movies, or going to see a band, and I offer these five etiquette tips for the inexperienced theatergoer. Several regular visitors to this blog are more experienced in the theater than I am, so I invite them to leave additional comments.
1. Remember that the actors on the stage are live human beings. All other rules follow from this first one. If you can see and hear them, they can see and hear you. Actors on the stage are focused on what they're doing, but they can see it when you yawn, fall asleep, send text messages, whisper to your friends, etc. Please show them the courtesy you'd show any other professional at their place of business.
2. Arrive on time. If the curtain time is 8:00, the play will probably have started by 8:10, even with a house-manager's speech. Walking into a performance after it's started is disruptive to the audience and distracting to the actors, which is why the house manager or usher will often ask latecomers to wait until the first scene break before taking a seat, or even until intermission. Some plays are so intense, and some theaters so small, that latecomers won't be seated at all.
3. Turn off everything that makes a noise or emits light. It used to be enough to say "please silence all cell phones and pagers," but now that everyone has an iPhone or Droid or Razor, things light up when calls or text messages come in. In a dark room, people's eyes seek out light; your device is brighter than you think. Unless you're a doctor on call or the parent of a sick child, turn it off.
4. If you think you will need cough drops during the performance, unwrap them before the show begins. I once saw people nearly come to blows at the opera because a man's wife chose to unwrap a cough drop in the middle of a solo.
5. Standing ovations are not routine. It's a funny thing, but I have noticed a sort of grade inflation in the matter of ovations. People seem to think that enthusiastic applause is the minimum required response for even half-hearted performances, and that anything that's actually good demands a standing ovation. Not so. Live theater is interactive, and as an audience member, you're not obligated to be any more enthusiastic than you feel like being. Didn't like the show? A golf clap is fine. Actors know when shows don't go well. Save standing ovations for the truly excellent — unless it's your kid on the stage.