Nowadays we’re used to being at the movies with the crunch of popcorn everywhere, the kid kicking the back of your seat and the ever present anticipation of someone’s cell phone going off.  I’m not sure when that became the acceptable norm, but it’s starting to spill over into live theatre as well.  So I thought we were a little over due for a refresher in theatre etiquette.  And who better to turn to than some of our country’s leading artistic directors.

I asked Max Reimer from The Vancouver Playhouse,

George Pothitos from The Neptune Theatre in Halifax and
Anne Allan
from the Charlottetown Festival in PEI, for their top 3 Theatre Rules plus their Number 1 Pet Peeve.

George, being a quintessential Canadian, points out that his are not really rules, just suggestions.

no cell phone.jpgRegardless, the number 1 rule, suggestion or request from all of them is TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES.

Says Anne “Do not leave it on vibrate!!!”  Surprisingly people don’t realise how annoying that can be.  And George adds that you should “remember to turn it back off after intermission as well.”

George’s number 2 rule (or suggestion): No Talking Please.  Says George: “Discuss the play at intermission.  It’s better than during the performance.  If you can hear the actors, they can hear you, not to mention the audience around you.”

Anne’s number 2 (no pun intended) Your bladder can wait if there is a quiet poignant moment in the performance that the majority of audience are enjoying!!”max_reimer_1112.jpg

And Max’s is a common complaint: The candy wrapper crinkle.  “Interestingly, I think this annoyance actually comes from the patron trying to NOT be disruptive with a cough as they feel a tickle in the throat.”

Max’s 3rd rule is directed more towards the people on stage, but it does affect the audience.  Curtain speeches. It’s not that I don’t want people to be thanked or that the theatre company shouldn’t put a face to their work. It’s that I want to hear the work of Arthur Miller or Michelle Riml from Donna Belleville or Jerry Frankin and not the musings of Max Reimer pulling me further away from the theatrical world in which I’ve come to be immersed.”

Anne’s 3rd rule is also interesting one, and one that arises for many of us (pun intended).  Please only stand, in applause, if it is really good, but don’t wait for approval from your neighbour if it is!”

George-Pothitos-Picture.jpgGeorge’s 3rd is neither a rule nor a suggestion, but rather a request: “Audience, please use moderate, if any, amounts of perfumed products.  More and more audiences suffer from allergies.  It’s not a judgement on the quality of perfume.   Auditoriums get hot with so many people in them and this makes it worse.”

And their number 1 pet peeve?

George: Texting during the performance!” (Ahem, tweeters…)

Max: “Women’s washroom lineups.”  (I blame the men who built the theatres for this one)          

Anne: “Petty conversation, or the need to eat, during the performance.”                 (YouAllan_Anne.jpg‘d hope the audience would have had dinner before the show, or finished the candy at intermission.  Then again, maybe they couldn’t because they were waiting in the women’s washroom line for so long…)

As Anne so eloquently puts it:The theatre is one of the last bastions where we can come together in silence and collectively feel inspired. There should always be respect and integrity for the art.”


  • Leslie

    What about being squeezed between strangers at the opera and a woman beside you decides to undo the top button on her enormous bear fur coat then sit in it hot tub style – I was sweltering with it all over me!
    Or canoodlers who put their heads together and bill and coo throughout the performance? Those knowing looks exchanged – wait was that a Cialis ad?
    Early runner – outers? Applause is for losers!
    Ipod gamers? High pitched whistlers? Burger sneaker – inners? Seat changers – who often have to change back? Secret filmers – well actually not so secret…one could go on and on…

  • Alice

    so, so true. Unless you are a surgeon on call with a transplant team or the only neurosurgeon in town, you really can wait for an hour to take that call. And why do people need to eat EVERYWHERE now? I think we encourage it by selling food everywhere, too, but people seem to see the world as their living room, and it makes me crazy. (rant rant rant)

  • Linda

    Yes, could people please not wear their gardening duds to the theatre? And leave the peanuts in their shells at home—or at the circus! The other night, as I left the theatre, I walked by the last row of the orchestra. Peanut shell debris mashed all over the floor (not under the seats!), empty cups, etc. An elephant would have been an appropriate occupier of the seat.
    The glasses of wine and coffee and any other liquid should be left in the lobby. I don’t want it spilled over me when the middle-of-the-row people show up and shuffle over me (who got there ON TIME)–and hey, this ain’t the cafeteria.
    Theatre owners–please get the food out of the theatres, and enjoyed in the lobby.
    And do what you say–don’t seat people after the lights are down.
    People have to learn there is correct behaviour when you go to the theatre. It’s special–don’t ruin it for me and my friends.
    Ah, Racheal, you’ve got me ranting…!!!!

  • Erin Little

    It is an event. I can’t even believe that someone would text…really? That happens? We don’t get much theatre up here, but, we do have the Cobalt Classic theatre, so we get some. A fair number of kids shows where we can teach our little ones theatre etiquette.

  • Racheal

    Thank You! And you’re right -I miss dressing up too. The idea that it’s an “event” rather than another night on the couch…

  • Tracey

    Oh, BRAVO!! I love the quiet, and hanging on every word… not the crunching of someone’s nachos and melty cheese (can you imagine?) or phones ringing. Oh my god. People can be so disrespectful, it’s scandalous. And don’t get me started on the attire of the attendees… these kinds of shenanigans make me want to punch people. Ack.
    Good list – great post, Racheal!!

More Posts From The Category

Is The $500 Dyson Supersonic Hairdryer Worth The Hefty…

Earlier this year Dyson unveiled the Supersonic hair dryer. With stars in our eyes, we collectively swooned  over what…

Creepy Crawly Halloween Cupcakes

I'm always up for a challenge to whip up something that is unforgettable for Halloween. I know it's easy to just order…

The Blue Jays Broke My Son's Heart, And I'm Glad

My son Ari is a huge baseball fan. He was throwing a ball before he could walk. He used to practice off a tee in my…

Don’t Be The Mom That’s Never In The Photos

Over the past several years, I have tried to book a family photo shoot at least once, sometimes twice a year. Getting…