Live theatre newcomers may not be sure what the proper behaviour and theatre etiquette is when attending a play or musical.
First-timers often wonder:
“What is the appropriate attire for the theatre? Are refreshments available? Are babies allowed? When do I applaud during the performance?”
While these are excellent questions, many visitors to the theatre forget to ask questions in advance regarding theatre etiquette and policies. Etiquette and policies are an important consideration that ensures all audience members will enjoy the show.
Unlike attending a movie, a live performance in a theatre is usually not as loud and the actors on stage rely on the audience to keep noise levels down so that the show is not interrupted by distractions.
While it may seem like common sense, many first-time theatre attendees (and some veteran theatregoers who should probably know better) are not familiar with proper theatre etiquette and behaviour. To help our patrons enjoy every show while remaining courteous to each other and the performers on stage, we have created the following the Do’s and Dont’s (mostly the latter) of theatre etiquette when attending a live performance.
SOURCE: Based on Broadway’s “Theatre Etiquette Tips and advice on how to practice good etiquette and appropriate manners when attending a show”.
One of the most obvious rules of good etiquette is still the most often disregarded in public spaces.
Turn phones and devices off, putting your phone on vibrate isn’t good enough – the people next to you can hear that weird buzzing sound, too.
A display screen is always going to draw attention in a darkened theatre.
Even if you are tempted to check or play games with your phone during the show, please remember how distracting your cell phone screen will be to other audience members.
Live theatre can be magical and memorable for everyone, including young children. Introducing your children to theatre at a young age will plant the seeds of appreciation that may lead to a life-long love for the stage. However, if a child is too young or not feeling well, the theatre experience may not go very well for you, your child, or the people seated next to you.
Every patron, regardless of age, requires a ticket to attend.
The Capitol Theatre has a no “babes in arms” policy, which means that a child must be able to sit in their own seat for the duration of the show in order to attend. Children under the age of 4 are strongly discouraged from attending. Yes, we welcome guests of all ages, but we also acknowledge that very young children can be disruptive to the performance and to other patrons.
Children should be able to sit quietly throughout the entire performance. Children who are unable to do so, along with their accompanying adult will be asked by an usher to leave the auditorium or may be asked not to attend the performance. Please use discretion in choosing to bring a child to a performance. First, take time to select the proper show for your child to see. It would be unfair to ask your child to behave if you have selected a show that would bore them or that they do not understand. In some cases it might be cheaper to hire a babysitter and make it a date night instead. Infants should always be left at home, as there’s no distraction quite like a crying baby.
We have “Children’s Theatre” for small children!!!
The Capitol presents live theatre, concerts and more for very small children! These are productions specifically tailored for a noisy fun time at the Capitol and created taking the noises and certain disruptions of very small children into account. In the case of Live Theatre, the shows are significantly shorter, (typically under an hour) versions of large musicals performed entirely by children. Look for the word “JUNIOR” in the tiles such as “Beauty and the Beast JR”. All attendees of these shows should expect noises and enjoy hearing children laughing and clapping along. Crying children are also expected as long as the child is not causing a major disruption to the performance.
General Guidelines For Kids:
Prepare your child for the behaviour everyone will be expecting from him or her:
– They will be expected to be quiet, sit still in their own chair, and not disturb others around them by talking or fidgeting.
– They will need to keep their feet on the floor, not on the seats around them. They should not kick the chair in front of them or stand during the performance.
– They should not leave the theatre except during intermission and only with their parent(s) or guardian.
– They should use the restroom before the performance or during intermission and only with their parent(s) or guardian.
– Please encourage them to applaud when appropriate.
– Mention to your children that the theatre will be dark at times and sudden bursts of sounds may happen.
If your child becomes restless, frightened, or very loud, please take them to the lobby. Please remember that our lobby is not sound proof and loud noise will travel into the theatre. You may always ask an usher to re-seat you towards the back of the theatre.
We are all here to enjoy the show so let’s do our best to make each show enjoyable for everyone – big or small!
Use common sense, for example – if you anticipate a coughing fit during the show, be sure to unwrap some lozenges before the performance starts and have them ready. Eat concession treats before you enter the auditorium. Crinkling wrappers can be like nails on a chalkboard during a quiet performance.
We know a live show can seem like a really long time for someone in need of a smoke break, but would be remiss if we did not remind our patrons that the theatre is 100% smoke and vapour free. If you anticipate that you will not be able to make it to intermission without nicotine, please bring nicotine gum or any other alternative that does not create smoke or a scent.
A quick whisper to your neighbor, or an audible reaction to something interesting that happens on stage is fine, but we do ask that you please keep conversations to the intermission and after the show. Please refrain from asking your companion to explain to you what was just said onstage as by the time he or she explains it to you, you’ll have both missed something else important. We do offer hearing assistance for those who require it so if hearing is a concern please speak to us.
Familiar songs are tempting to sing – we know! Aspiring performers who want to sing on stage will have to audition like everyone else! Theatre fans paid to hear our performers flex their vocal muscles – not you. Please save your singing for post-performance karaoke or the car ride home.
(Of course, there will always be a few exceptions to this rule, such as when the performers onstage actually prompt the audience to join in!)
Although opening night audiences usually dress up a bit, there is no dress code for the Capitol Theatre. Technically you can come in shorts and flip flops, but we advise against this because we try to keep our auditorium cool. Even if it is blistering outside, remember that most theatres will crank up the air conditioning – so bring a sweater at the very least.
If the show is not engaging you, that is ok – variety is the spice of life and not all shows are for everyone. Please try to remain alert for the performance regardless of your interest level, if you truly cannot make it to the end try to make a quick exit at intermission – maybe the next show will be for you.
Standing Ovations and Entrance Applause Can Be Overdone
Traditionally, applause for an actor when he or she first takes the stage and standing ovations at the end of a show are signs of an audience full of appreciation and respect that they cannot help themselves. However, it sometimes seems as if these reactions have become obligatory, and unfortunately when standing ovations and entrance applause are done out of mere habit, they essentially become meaningless. Let your true feelings guide you.
The average theater seat makes Economy Class on a commercial airliner look luxurious, so sometimes a little elbow bumping can’t be helped. But you can practice good Theatre etiquette by taking care to not lean into your neighbour, hog armrests, intrude on other people’s already limited leg room, or let your big heavy coat (or long hair) hang far off the back of your seat so that it ends up in someone else’s lap. Try to bring an economical handbag that will fit in your lap, while we do keep our theatre clean, we do not recommend placing your valuables on the floor.
A day of busy sightseeing in the summer or workout session at the gym can leave you sweaty and cause undesirable body odors. For the sake of those sitting next to you, try to make time for a shower before arriving at the theatre.
As we strive to be a comfortable place for all, please be mindful of allergies and sensitivities of other patrons – please do not wear too much perfume, aftershave or cologne.
We have all heard about SARS and swine flu – illness can spread quickly if we are not careful. Coughing may be inevitable in some cases, but failure to cover your mouth is unforgivable, so please try to keep tissue or a handkerchief on hand. If you have a cold, be sure to bring some lozenges with you. If you are truly too ill to attend the show, call our box office to discuss before coming in just because you don’t want to “waste” the tickets or hard-earned dollars that purchased them.