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The Downfall of Theatre Etiquette: Concert Venues, Live Theatre, and Cinema

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

Live performances have been seen for centuries, including plays, live music, dancing, and movies. To provide a better experience for everyone, attendees usually remain quiet and respectful of those around them and the performers. By purchasing a ticket, you are basically agreeing to abide by theatre etiquette, which is the mode of behavior that is expected from the audience. When someone abuses those expectations, the experience becomes less enjoyable for everyone involved. Watching live performances has always been a favorite pastime of mine – especially concerts and musicals – but nearly every time I go to a theater, there is always someone who can’t keep their phone away from their eyes and/or ears. Why has the behavior towards these forms of entertainment changed so much? 

For a long time, live performances like plays were seen as events that involved dressing up nicely with makeup on and hair done, and now, you will see most people in casual clothing like jeans and t-shirts, as if this is just something to do on a weekend night. Just a couple of nights ago, I went to the Pine Knob outdoor venue to see the Arctic Monkeys, and I noticed that people have really forgotten how to act when seeing a performance. 

When it comes to seeing your favorite artist or band play, everyone is excited. They wear previous concert tour shirts if they’ve seen the band perform before, venue bars are selling alcohol, and everyone is waiting in anticipation for the main act to start. But what many people don’t realize is that they are not the only ones there to see whoever’s performing. With many artists touring right now, like Taylor Swift and P!NK, many videos have been shared on social media of objects being thrown at them, sometimes even resulting in injuries. In June, artist Bebe Rexha had a phone thrown at her, hitting her eye, and causing her to get stitches. She now wears protective eyewear during her concerts. Those people want to be noticed so badly that they will literally throw things just for a glance or acknowledgement. It is as if they have forgotten that their favorite celebrities are human beings too and still deserve respect. 

Attending musicals live has become extremely popular in recent years, with shows like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Hamilton,” and “Wicked.” At the beginning of every show, the theatre will politely ask the audience to silence and put away their phones in order to prevent distractions. However, there is always someone who refuses to comply and continues using their phone while the actors are on stage, knowing that it is against the rules and causing problems for everyone. Is it so hard to put away a phone for a few hours? The same goes for seeing movies. For years, I’ve been going to my hometown’s movie theater and was always faced with people constantly talking to each other throughout the movie and going on their phones from time to time. Once I started to earn enough money to afford tickets at Celebration Cinema, it was like a whiplash of how almost everyone respected the people around them, and I hardly ever hear a phone go off while I’m there. 

The last time I was at my hometown’s theater, I was watching “Coraline” with my sister and throughout the whole movie, we heard people reciting nearly every line, chatting with friends, and taking pictures. It got us wondering: why is it that people are more respectful at Celebration than here? We came to the conclusion that the majority of the people who go to the smaller one are middle school and high school students who most likely can’t afford a Celebration ticket whenever they want to see a movie, so they go to the nearest one that still sells tickets for less than $10. It makes sense that the younger crowd chooses the cheaper option, but that still doesn’t mean that they have to be disrespectful. 

I would do anything to be able to see a performance back in the days when it really was an event and be able to sit through it without hearing the constant ding of a phone going off.

Jacqueline Bell is a chapter member for Her Campus at MSU. She is a junior studying Digital Storytelling with a concentration in fiction filmmaking and hopes to use their degree to tell queer stories in film and television. She enjoys reading, crocheting, music, and live theatre.