Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Annoying Theatre Experiences

Here's an old blog entry that I accidentaly deleted...I thought I'd share it again because this is one of those issues that has seems to always rear it's ugly head when I go to a show.

I did not grow up in a household that participated in cultural or performing arts. We didn't go to the Opera, Theater, Symphony and it was very rare that we went to concerts or even the movies. Having not done any of these things doesn't exclude a person from exhibiting common courtesy and others that attend these events. Call me cheap, or an asshole, but if you spend $150, $75 or even just a buck for a ticket to see something, why should it not be enjoyed thoroughly without interruptions? I remember going on two field trips during the time I was in elementary school which prompted the same speeches from our teachers before we left school and before we got off the bus. One of the field trips was to see one of the old film versions of A Christmas Carol at the Cinemas at Cordova Mall during the third grade. The other field trip was during my 5th Grade year which involved a trip to see the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra at the Saenger Theatre. Essentially we were told to sit with our hands in our laps, feet on the floor and no talking. I could follow that direction and I did. Seeing the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra was most likely something many of my fellow fifth graders may have not enjoyed but I did and the fact that every one of us followed directions kept for no distractions.
Pensacola's Saenger Theatre
Fast forward to 1992...New York City...I see shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats, Miss Saigon and The Will Rogers Follies...I am always on my best behavior, as I learned in elementary school. This very same year, I find myself in the Virginia Theatre in New York City after paying $15 for a ticket to see a new show called Jelly's Last Jam. I knew nothing of the show but realized very quickly that the audience members were NOT exactly the normal "Broadway" crowd. With the first few minutes of the show, I'd witnessed so much atrocious behavior that I didn't know what was going on during the first few minutes of the show and decided to abandon my $15 seat and head back down to the village for the night. There was no way the ushers could have controlled the Jelly's Last Jam audience. A woman in a nearby seat, obviously not knowing the meaning of BABYSITTER, had sandwiched her three kids between her and her husband and they passed a bag of pork rinds between the five of them. A lady on the other side of the theatre with a strong Queens accent kept saying the man next to her "Come ooowan" which in plain English I believe was roughly translated to come on I want to leave??? A child in front of me with so many pony beads in her hair that you'd assume it was an arts and crafts project rather than a hairstyle...this was OK until the music started and the child started bobbing her head to the music and the pony beads became percussion instruments that could only be described as a gaggle of clackers. It all reminded me of being in a community room of a mental institution during visitation hours with a radio at full blast in the background. I had to go.
Since I moved back to Atlanta in 1997, I have enjoyed shows at the Fox Theatre. Little by little, the peace that one used to be able to enjoy a show in has converted to anger and annoyance. The Fox Theatre's Encore Magazine, their version of a Playbill, always features the following article entitled THEATRE ETIQUETTE.

1. Arrive early. If you are late, you may be held out or reseated until an appropriate time for you to get to your assigned seat. People who arrive late disturb the performers on stage and audience members. It is best to arrive about 30 minutes early so that you have time to purchase concessions, find your seat, and read the program before the show starts.

2. Take care of personal needs (drinks of water or restroom) because you should not leave your seat until the intermission or until the performance ends.

3. Please sit in the seat you are assigned so you do not cause confusion for other audience members.

4. Please silence or turn off all electronic devices, including cell phones, beepers, and watch alarms. You’ll be embarrassed if it goes off in the middle of a tense moment of the show and it will break the mood for everyone. We encourage you to share your experience at the Fox via social media, but please refrain from doing so or texting during performances; the glow from your device is distracting.

5. Most shows do not allow photography of any kind. Flash photography inside the theatre is never allowed as it is a distraction to those around you and a danger to the performers.

6. The overture is part of the performance. Please cease talking at this point.

7. The sound system for each show is provided by the touring production. Unfortunately, many variables exist that may occasionally hinder sound quality. Please let an usher know if you are having trouble hearing. Adjustments may be able to be made or an assisted listening device can be provided.

8. Dear Lovebirds, when you lean your heads together, you block the view of the people behind you. Please consider the people that will be seated behind you when choosing whether or not to wear a hat or what hair style you choose.

9. Please refrain from talking, humming, or singing along with the show, except when encouraged to do so by the artist or show.

10. Please wait for an appropriate moment to dig something out of your pocket or bag.

11. Go easy with the perfume and cologne, many people are highly allergic.

12. If you need assistance during the show, please go to your nearest volunteer usher. If additional assistance is needed the usher will get the appropriate person to further help you.

13. Yes, the parking lot gets busy and public transportation is tricky, but leaving while the show is in progress or before the actors have taken their final bows is discourteous. Wait until it is over and then exit with the rest of the audience.

14. Outside food and beverage is not allowed in the Fox Theatre. Special exceptions will be made on a case by case basis.

15. Just be courteous and everyone will enjoy the show.

Atlanta's Fox Theatre
I agree with it all and being the opinionated asshole that I am...Here's my thoughts on some of these annoyances plus more. Early arrival will ensure you don't piss off the people around you plus someone could be in your seat because you weren't there and they decided to move up or get a better view. Cell phones, pagers, alarms and electronics of any type that beep or light up are annoying. I'm also not paying for audience members to talk, whisper, sing or hum and if I eventually tell you to SHUT UP...It's not that I'M being rude, I'm correcting YOUR rude behavior. You're Welcome! Food...are you seriously that hungry that you have to eat during act one? Unwrapping that candy can be done between musical numbers when everyone is applauding. Also, slowly opening the candy doesn't make it quiet, it prolongs the sound at the same volume. Keep your feet on the floor and in your shoes, this isn't your living room. Applaud appropriately, no one wanted to hear you stomping your feet or beating on the armrests...That would be understandable (and funny) only if you are choking on that candy that took you forever to unwrap. During the curtain call, don't run for the exits. Unruly children should be left at home with a babysitter...YES a BABYSITTER!!! Big hair and hats are best left for church, street hookers and drag queens, unless you are in a performance of La Cage Aux Folles and even then, it's only acceptable if you are one of the actors on the stage. PERFUME should be sprayed once on your body, if you don't smell it a few minutes later...DON'T reapply system has just gotten used to the odor and fumes...Believe me, everyone else knows it's there.
Do you mind if I sit in front of you?
Atlanta audiences feel they are immune to common courtesy and somehow the Fox seems to unwittingly encourage some infractions. FOOD is a serious issue in Atlanta. Rule 14 states Outside food and beverage is not allowed in the Fox Theatre...This doesn't mean that you can't eat, you just can't bring your own food in. The Fox sells stadium food, you spent a whole $200 (or $20 if you're super cheap) on that evening gown and you're washing a hot dog down with a glass of champagne...SO CLASSY. The fact that the nice people at the Fox rolls carts down the aisles to the front of the theatre near the stage with boxes of Crunch N Munch kills me. People buy that shit and eat it by the handful during act two. Did you not to to Steak and Ale before you came to see tonight's performance of CATS?

A few years ago, while Wicked was here, I was all like "We snuck in for this???" It was like a zoo of uncontrollable animals. Kids everywhere, humming and singing...teenagers with iPhones either texting or recording their favorite scene...Defying Gravity could've been lit completely by the glow of the cell phones. I'd actually rather hear a ringing cell phone than feel the brat behind me singing his own version of the show and kicking my seat to the beat of the music. While Phantom was here, I witnessed super queeny boys with their prissy hags stating things like "OMG Sarah Brightman did the show in New York AND London and she's SO much better, this lady isn't the same and shouldn't even try, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote this for Sarah, she's the original so no one else could sing it..." Of course me being a bitch, I bust their bubble and state that if they have rude comments regarding the performers, please keep it to themselves because I'm friends with several actresses that have indeed sang the role and much better than what the prissy queen and their hag had only heard on a cast album recorded over 20 years ago. The thing that really killed me was the fact that their eyes seemed to have glazed over and they seem interested in which actresses I am friends with...Wow, you're now interested in Christines that weren't Sarah? No other words were spoken.

It could be that I'm either anti-social or just easily annoyed but the really I don't ask much other than everyone to sit down, shut up and enjoy the show. Is that a bad thing? ;-)

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