Be A Good Audience Member (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

How to help the rest of us enjoy the show.


It's the time of year when lots of us get tickets to lots of different performances.  We all have a responsibility to be good audience members.


I was at the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Concert over the weekend. It was a great show.  A couple of times though, I actually heard someone in the audience humming....loudly, to a familiar Christmas favorite!  No one paid a single penny to hear you hum Mister!

I've been to hundreds of football games and baseball games and hockey games and basketball games, even lots of soccer games overseas.  I love them all and I tend to yell and scream like everyone else. I can remember anchoring a few Sunday newscasts with a bit of a rough voice after a Saturday football game. I tell you that so you'll know I've got no problem with crowd noise..but not for every crowd.

Concert halls, auditoriums and theaters are often populated this time of year by first-timers, or few-timers and that's great.  What's not so great is the way some audience members act in front of the actors, or musicians.  Sadly, this applies to newbies and venue veterans.

I'm not talking about movies. Those on the screen can't hear you, so you can't distract them..and other patrons probably won't hesitate to ask you to be quiet if you deserve it.  I'm also not talking about rock concerts where everyone yells, and screams, and stomps, and claps, and sings, and shouts, just about any time they want, and most of the time that's ok.

I'm talking about a play or a musical or a symphony concert or maybe the ballet or the opera.  I'm not to big on either of the last two, but lots of us find ourselves in a seat at the "Nutcracker" this time of year.  Any time you get to see talented people performing live it can be a wonderful experience. 

It all starts way before the show starts - Get there on time. The start time is on your ticket.  All the performers, and hundreds or even thousands of other audience members will all be ready when that hour arrives.  If you haven't arrived on time, do expect to wait to be seated.  The ushers will take you to your seat during an appropriate moment, If you're embarrassed to walk in front of everyone with an usher leading should have been on time.

Coach the kids- A live show can be an amazing experience for children could well be something they'll remember for the rest of their lives.  Let them know ahead of time that it's not like watching a DVD with Mom and Dad in the living room.  They need to know that there's no talking during the performance unless it's urgent. Most kids can handle this if they're told how it works ahead of time. It's a good reminder for Mom and Dad too.

No play-by-play please - If you don't understand what's happening just wait a few minutes.  You may just figure it out by context as the story unfolds. If that doesn't happen you can always ask at intermission. Maybe do some research before the show.  A quick google search can give you a plot synopsis before you go.  I was at a show in London last year and someone behind me was explaining everything to a neighbor. Everyone was annoyed, several of us finally asked him to be quiet.

Phone, really? - Once a performance starts, there is nothing you can do either to or with your phone, that is appropriate, except for turning it off!  Every time you push a button just to see if you have any messages, your little phone light comes on and everyone around you is distracted...everyone! Turn it off and leave it alone! Most shows go no more than 90 before there's an intermission.  If you're so staggeringly important that you can't be out of touch for 90 minutes you should probably just stay home......Mr President.

If it Rings - it happens. In spite of all the reminders, sometimes someone just's the thing.  If it rings you don't get to answer it!  Just shut it down. I interviewed a performer once from a national tour of "Les Miserables " who was on stage, during a performance and he heard the following:

phone rings

Muffled, as though trying to be as quiet as possible "Hello?"  (the quiet as possible part didn't work)


"Yeah, I'm at Les Miz"


"Yeah it's really good!"


"I should prob'ly go."


I once saw a guy in New York who spent half a show texting.  He was in the front row! Performers see and hear all of that, it's not a movie!  It's not fair to those trained and talented performers who are giving 100 percent of their the other 99.9 percent of the audience.

Back to that Youth Symphony concert and others like it.  Unless those on stage specifically invite the audience to sing is NOT a sing-a-long, or a hum-a-long, or a whistle-a-long or an anything-a-long! Please let the performers do the performing.. That's who the rest of us paid to see and hear. 

There are other live show no no's but I'll stop here. I know all this makes me sound like a grumpy old man. I can only respond by saying I'm really not that old!

Go to live performances.  There are so many opportunities to do so right here in Southern Colorado and up in Denver too.  Enjoy the show...just let everyone else enjoy it too!

We'll talk again soon. (just not during the show)

 Don Ward


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