Do you love to go to plays at our wonderful community theatres?
Do you enjoy listening to live music in a variety of venues?
Do you appreciate the style and grace of dancers in a showcase performance or the ballet?
My artist husband and I are avid and frequent supporters of all of the above arts – and then some. We frequently attend art gallery openings and performances of all kinds, presented by a range of volunteers and professionals from middle school students to retirees to professionals.
How lucky we are in this community!
I have a great deal of respect for performers. I admire their dedication to their craft, whether it is acting, singing, dancing or playing an instrument. I enjoy and appreciate the connection of the performers with their audience.
I hope (and expect) that other members of the audience feel these same connections, the same respect.
There are, however, some people who don’t get it.
We recently went to see a play at a community theatre. It was obvious that a lot of effort had gone into the production and we enjoyed everything about it – except for the two people seated behind us who talked throughout the entire show.
These two apparently didn’t understand that attention was supposed to be directed toward the actors onstage – those whom everyone in the house had come to watch perform.
No, the yakkers were not children. Nor were they teenagers. They were old enough to know better – at least in their early 70s.
The next week, at a ribbon-cutting reception, leaders of the company asked for attention – with a microphone! – welcomed their guests and started talking about their new international enterprise.
Behind me in two directions were two pairs of those guests carrying on their own conversations! Again, they were old enough to know better.
To my mind, this is simply rude behavior. It shows lack respect for the speakers and for others in the audience.
It happens also in movie theaters, classrooms, churches, board rooms – anywhere, it seems, people gather for an event that includes commentary.
Regarding the theatre talkers, my friend Russ Treyz, who has directed many shows at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, speculates that “They are used to TV. People are losing the awareness of being in a theatre, losing the idea of sitting passively and letting the show come to them.”
That could be, but how has that happened?
I wonder, didn’t these chatterers ever go to school or to church? Didn’t they ever attend a business meeting, or a lecture? A town council meeting? A graduation ceremony? A wedding?
Didn’t their parents ever teach them “If someone is talking, don’t interrupt,” and “When someone has a microphone, that’s the person you probably should listen to.”
In some places, of course, it is expected that the audience will participate loudly even if others choose to remain fairly quiet. I think of sports outings, nightclubs, music festivals and concerts (especially outdoors), pep rallies, political stump meetings.
But if you’re in an audience where most people have come to watch or listen to the activity at the front of the room, shut up!
At a theatre, expect that most attendees came to listen to the actors, dialog and music, not you. Keep quiet. Applaud when appropriate.
If you’re in a listening room, like the Roasting Room, or at a house concert, like those at the Unitarian congregation, stifle yourself. Applaud when appropriate.
If there’s music playing and there’s a dance floor, it’s expected that folks will dance and laugh with others. But if you’re watching students or professionals dancing on a stage, watch them silently. Applaud when appropriate.
Let’s use our brains and teach our children, and even remind our elders: There are just some times when we need to shut up and pay attention!