Theater Etiquette Revisited

Six years ago this month, theater etiquette made headlines. Patti LuPone confiscated a cell phone from an audience member who was texting during her performance of “Show for Days,” then ranted: “We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones.” 

Also in July of 2015, the attempt by 19-year-old Long Island college student Nick Silvestri to charge his cell phone in a fake electrical outlet on the set of “Hand to God” before a performance drew so much indignation on social media and attention in the regular press that he held a well-attended press conference to apologize. His action most memorably prompted “Hand to God” set designer Beowulf Boritt to remark: “It’ll keep me from ever putting a toilet on stage.”

With physical theaters reopening after more than a year of watching theater alone by your computer, will New York theater people go back to complaining about smart phone use and snoring and profligate standing ovations? Will they feel the need for etiquette re-education — for themselves or (more likely) for other people? At a time when there is much talk of making theater more accessible when it returns, will that temper the rage at newbies who don’t know “the rules?”  Or will there be more of the kind of theater etiquette debates we had in the links below, which go back as far as a decade?

Is It OK To Walk Out At Intermission?

Is it Rude To Leave During the Curtain Call?

Is Opening Applause for Celebrities Bad Etiquette?

Should Ill Theatergoers Stay Home? What About The Disabled?

Has cell phone use in the theater really gotten worse, or are audiences and artists simply complaining more?

Bonus article:

Lin-Manuel Miranda Bests a Snob at My Fair Lady: A Mini-Play About True Theater Etiquette

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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