You're sitting in your seat. The house (where the audience sits) lights fade to a blackout. You're eager with excitement in anticipation of the show. Then just as the curtain is about to open, like being slapped in the eye with a bright blue sunbeam, the light from several rows away shines through the hands of another audience member breaking the magic of the theatrical moment. We've all been there, perhaps we were even the perpetrator? Just one more tweet. One more text. One more post. One more selfie. One more.... When did technology take over our lives and invade our reality? Now that's a whole different topic, for a different time.
Going to see live theater is a special experience, one that you'll hopefully remember for a long time! Did you know that as an audience member you play an important role in any given performance? That's right! You, the AUDIENCE, can make or break a show. “But I didn't audition!” you say. “I'm not on stage!” you think...“I'm just here to watch the show!” I beg to differ. Just as you can see and hear the actors on stage, they can see and hear what goes on in the audience. Here are a few tips to help enhance your theatrical experience.
Be on time. I recently heard a radio announcer talking about how late arrival to the theater is one of his pet peeves and when someone sitting in his row is the culprit, while everyone else is turning their bodies sideways or squishing their legs further into the already tiny space, he gives the appearance of doing the same when in reality he is pushing his legs out further to watch them squeeze through. Now, I would not recommend this – please be nice to your neighbors – but also try to be on time. Not only is it annoying to those in your row, but unexpected movement in the house is also a distraction to the actors. Understand that if arriving late, you may need to wait until after a song or scene to be permitted in the theater.
Silence your cell phones or better yet, turn them off – they can interfere with the sound system. Like you, my phone is never very far from my side. I'm a Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/SnapChat junkie...errrr, Queen. But, unless you are expecting an emergency, just shut it off. It's alright. You can turn it on to check again at intermission. It's only for a few hours. And yes, that blue glow can also be easily seen through the darkness by the actors!
Don't talk … or sing – unless it's part of the show. Sound carries, even a whisper. I know, I KNOW... it's really hard to not sing along when a familiar tune is being performed! I am really horrible with this – just ask my daughter, who made me promise I wouldn't sing when we went to a musical movie before she would go with me. The urge is real, folks. Those seated around you will certainly appreciate hearing only from those whom they paid to see. A Broadway actress once shared a story about a distracting audience member who sat front row, dead-center, wearing a bright purple shirt, and mouthed the entire show. So I wouldn't advise doing this either!
DO be involved! Don't just watch the show, but be an active participant! What does this mean? The audience is the fuel to the actors' fire, the water to their thirst, the....well, you get the picture. As a performer, nothing is worse than an audience who sits there and is non-reactive or laughs silently. Is it funny? Laugh out loud! Is it really funny? Laugh even louder! Applause. Applause. Applause!! Don't be timid, clap until your hands hurt! Alright, maybe not that hard. But, do show your enjoyment with a hearty round of applause! Your positive reactions can shoot waves of adrenaline through an actor and alter their performance to that response. A good audience, one that focuses on the performers, is a major element of a great performance!
A word about Snacks - If the theater you're attending allows food and drinks in the house – unwrapping your food slowly DOES NOT mask the sound, it only prolongs it! Open noisy wrappers before the show or during applause, just not during quiet dramatic moments. And don't bring a bucket of KFC to pass down the row to all your friends. Yes, for real.
But most of all, ENJOY the Show! Have fun. Escape from reality for a few hours. And if you liked or even loved it, turn that phone back on at the end of the show and tweet, text, or send by carrier pigeon to SHARE your experience so others will be able to enjoy it as well!