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Broadway Is Back: Theater Etiquette Never Should Have Left

I, like many other New Yorkers, am so incredibly thrilled about Broadway shows opening back up to the public. It’s thrilling seeing the lights of the “Great White Way” turn on once again after about a year and a half in the dark. Broadway isn’t just about tourists being able to go see a show; people’s lives depend on it. From performers to stage managers, there is a massive amount of people who are finally able to go back to work after the pandemic. 

I was lucky enough to make my return to a Broadway show last month. And not just any show — I got to go to Hamilton! It was my very first time seeing the musical in-person. I became a huge fan over the past four years, I knew almost all the words, and I was feeling extremely thankful to be sitting in the Richard Rogers theater that day. It was by chance, no less; two of my best friends from my hometown were generous enough to give me a spare ticket. From the moment I walked into the theater, I knew that I would not be taking the moment for granted. 

We found our seats in the theater, in the upper orchestral section. They were fabulous seats, and as we were sitting there in excitement I thought that nothing could ruin that moment. I mean, after not seeing any live theater for almost two years, I was in “The Room Where It Happens” for crying out loud! But a few minutes after the show had begun, I noticed that something in the theater was off. It had nothing to do with the show itself or the performers, but the audience.

I was sitting in one of the hottest, most expensive seats on Broadway, and yet I was sat amongst the rudest audience of a Broadway show I had ever sat in. We weren’t even two numbers into the show when these women sitting behind us started singing and rapping lyrics to the entire show…out loud! 

I’ve heard many people joke around, saying that when they finally see Hamilton live it’s gonna be hard to resist singing and rapping the words out loud during the show. But you never expect them to actually do it! Well, they did it the entire time. There were moments where they were even off and would shout something before an actor onstage could complete the line!

Aside from that, there was the infamous symphony of crinkling wrappers. Now, this symphony of distracting noise is typically expected to begin after intermission when everyone usually gets up to buy their snacks. However during this performance, the crinkle symphony was playing throughout the show. I could’ve sworn there was even someone behind us with a meal packed in Tupperware and wrapped in aluminum foil. I don’t know why I wasn’t brave enough to turn around and ask, “Are you enjoying your picnic?!”

Then of course, talking. Ah yes, the talking. I never in a million years expected there to be talking during a live performance of Hamilton. I was in utter disbelief. There was talking within the audience sprinkled throughout the entire show, but the worst instance was during my favorite number “Satisfied,” which was performed by the outstanding Mandy Gonzales. Three women sitting a couple of rows ahead of us were having a full blown conversation out loud. Full volume, throughout almost the entire song. It was ridiculous.

I was appalled at the behavior of these people. It felt like I was sitting in the audience of a middle school talent show. I’m sure that many of these audience members felt that because they were such big fans, who presumably spent a lot of money on their tickets, they were entitled to act however they wanted in that theater. Like they were still at home on their couch, watching the show on Disney+. I feel so bad for the polite audience members who had their experience squandered by these rude people.

Performers all over Broadway have been waiting to do their jobs again, after a time of great darkness. They’re doing their job, pouring their hearts out on stage eight days a week. As someone who has performed in various kinds of productions for various kinds of audiences, I know firsthand how distracting the smallest things can be. Heck, even a cough from the audience can be enough to totally throw you out of focus. It is so incredibly disrespectful to not only the performers but to every single human being that worked on that show, onstage or off. They studied for years to finally get a job on Broadway, where some people in the audience don’t even have the decency to stop talking during their performance.

Now that my rant is over, here is a reiteration of some basic theater etiquette tips to keep in mind as Broadway shows, and all kinds of theatrical productions in general, keep on opening back up. It’s never a bad idea to keep these things in mind before seeing your next show! Broadway has made its return. Having manners in the theater should never cease to exist. Live theater is a sacred thing, and it must be treated as such!

Brush Up on Your Theater Etiquette: 

1) Turn off your cellphone.

In this day and age, it’s like the golden rule. Don’t only turn off your ringer, but put your phone on Airplane Mode and turn the brightness down at the very least! If you are expecting an important call in the middle of the show, then you shouldn’t be at the show. 

2) DO NOT talk or sing!

It’s basic human decency. 

3) Eat BEFORE the show.

This way, you won’t have to worry about getting a snack in the middle of the show. Snacks at Broadway shows are overpriced anyway. Grab a quick bite or treat your self to a nice lunch or dinner before the show — and avoid being a part of the crinkle symphony.

4) Avoid getting up from your seat.

Make sure you use the bathroom before the show. If you’ve gotta go, wait until intermission. Not only is the movement distracting, but the movement usually gets followed by whispers of “excuse me” throughout the theater as you make your way down your row. 

5) Do not leave the theater until the actors have bowed and left the stage.

It is extremely disrespectful to the actors and everyone who worked on the show to leave during the curtain call. These people deserve their applause! Put your hands together!

Now go forth and show the world just how good of a theatergoer you are — your friends and community members that are a part of the theater world will thank you!

Abby is a student at the New School double majoring in Theater + Journalism & Design. Abby was born and raised in New Jersey but also has some New Orleans roots and is currently loving being a New Yorker. When she isn't writing or performing, you can catch Abby snuggling with her dogs Otis & Thibodaux, or hanging out with her friends!
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