Lights, Curtain, Shhh… 10 Tips For Attending a Performance at The Smith Center

Inside the Theater

Patron on phone in theater


Broadway is known throughout the world as “the Great White Way” for its illuminating signage and dazzling lights. But recently, Broadway audiences have come under fire for their not-so-great, rude ways.

Last week, a rogue theater-goer snuck up on the stage of Hand to God in an attempt to charge his cell phone in a fake electrical outlet. This week, Hamilton actor Jonathan Groff called out pop star Madonna for being on her phone for most of the show. Broadway legend and Smith Center alum Patti LuPone took it a step further by snatching a cell phone out of the hands of an audience member who was texting during a performance of Shows for Days.

Unfortunately, inexperience with theater etiquette can ruin the show for everyone. Our Facebook fans offered up tips on how to get the most out of your Smith Center experience and ensure that those around you also enjoy the show!


1. Arrive on time.
You got stuck at work or something unexpected came up: we’ve all been there. To cause the least possible distraction to performers and other guests, watch the performance on the screens in the lobby until an usher can seat you during an appropriate break, generally a moment of applause. Some performers have strict rules about latecomer seating.


2. Listen to the ticket-taker and the usher.
They will help you get exactly where you need to go – and might save you a trip up the wrong staircase. Also, we ask that you please reserve the elevators for those who need them.


3. Turn off your cell phone.
Sometimes people try to send a quick text during a performance, but even texting from your seat is distracting to the patrons around you.


4. Save the snacking for intermission.
The good news: our acoustics are spectacular! The bad news: candy wrappers, loud snacking and purse zippers create a major disruption to those around you. Eating in your seat at the theater presents all kinds of smells, sights and sounds that your fellow patrons did not purchase with the price of admission.


5. Resist the urge to whisper comments (yes, even the brilliant ones) to your seatmate.
Your comments keep other patrons from hearing, and leaning in so your friend can hear you keeps the people behind you from seeing. Make a mental note and wait for intermission or the end of the show.


6. Know when to return to your seat.
When you see the lobby lights dimming or hear chimes ringing, that’s your signal that the show is about to start. If you begin making your way to your seat then, you’ll be right on time for the raising of the curtain or that first note of the performance.


7. Know when to clap.
Some easy rules to demystify the experience:

a. Orchestral performances and ballets: applause is strictly reserved for the end of a work (not just at the end of the movement). If you’re not sure, just wait for the rest of the audience to begin clapping.
b. Jazz performances: applause is appropriate at the completion of every solo.
c. For most other shows: simply applaud when you like it!


8. Unwrap cough drops before the show begins.
While lozenges are soothing for the throat, their wrappers aren’t so soothing on the ears. If you are fighting a cough, excuse yourself to the lobby or ask an usher if you can sit in the crying room.


9. Stay till the end rather than leaving early to beat the crowd.
We hate traffic, too, but only slightly less than we hate staring at the back of another patron climbing down the row to flee during the final moments of a show.


10. Pass it on. Spread the word: let’s build a culture of courtesy.


In summary, the name of the game in theater etiquette is courtesy. Make sure whatever you do takes into consideration your fellow theater-goer’s ability to see and hear the performance. Don’t use your cell, text, talk or photograph during a performance. Help the people around you have a good experience, and they’ll do the same for you!