Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Theater Etiquette

Now that so many of us have big theater-sized TV screens and can stream first run movies in the comfort of our homes, I think people are forgetting how to attend theater.

We went to see Finding Neverland last night.  It's a show I've been looking forward to.  Jeri and Phil treated us to a production of it when it was in previews in Cambridge, MA and I fell in love with the show.  I was sure it was going to sweep the Tonys--and then it didn't even receive a nomination when it got to Broadway.  It ran for 17 months and had 9 nominations for 3 different awards, but no awards itself.

Now it's on a US tour and the production was excellent, though they seem to have changed a lot from what I remember from Cambridge (and comparing the list of Act 1 songs between Cambridge and Broadway, it seems that they threw out most of the songs and substituted new ones! Act 2 songs remain the same.)

The show was at the Sacramento Community Center, the big theater across the street from the state capitol.  On-street parking is impossible and the parking lot a block from the theater is so expensive that Walt has tended to park several blocks away in a different parking lot where the cost is more affordable.

However, I can't really walk that far, so he lets me off at the theater when we get there, and then I sit and wait for him outside the theater after the show, which works well for us....or maybe more for me.
Anyway, last night I was sitting with a friend, who was also waiting for her husband to pick her up.  She also has back problems which make longer walking painful, though I have to say that last night I put on my special magical cream and took two Advil before we left for the theater, and then sat down half way between where Walt lets me off an the theater itself, and I had no pain at all.  Must remember to do that from now on.

Anyway, my friend came out of the theater and said it was the oddest evening she can remember.  The theater allows drinks to be brought in, but no food (I've always wondered about the whole "food in the theater" thing.  I am not a tiny person, but believe it or not, I can actually sit for two hours without needing food to keep me going!). But I guess for some people food is part of the whole theater experience.

Apparently the woman behind my friend didn't know she should not have food in the theater because she had something that contained a jalapeno pepper, which my friend decided she must have thought was a pickle or something.  She bit into the pepper and then spit it out--onto my friend's back!  Just spit it into the air without thought about where it was going.  She didn't apologize or anything.
Then on her other side my friend said was a father and a daughter and the daughter had a bag of food, including Twizzlers and crackers.  At the end of the show, there were so many cracker crumbs on the floor that my friend slipped and almost fell (which I'm sure did wonders for her back).

The food experience is unusual, though not exceptional.  People do sneak food in, though they are told that no food is allowed in theater.

But the worst thing is talking.  People used to talking in normal voice to the people sitting beside them in their home, think nothing of talking to each other in normal voice to the people sitting next to them in the theater, disturbing everyone around them.  They just aren't aware that they are doing it and pointed glares from other patrons don't seem to faze them.

Sadly, boorishness is not a new thing.  I remember years ago, back in the 1970s, when D'Oyly Carte, the mother company of Gilbert & Sullivan, was making its last tour through the United States.  They were doing three shows in San Francisco and a bunch of us from The Lamplighters bought tickets.

It was a performance of HMS Pinafore and a woman sitting behind us with her young daughter talked to the little girl throughout the entire first act.  When one of our group, a man not noted for patience....or tact...took her to task at intermission for her talking and how it disturbed everyone around her, she said "Well, how else is she going to know what is going on if I don't explain it to her?" and seemed irritated that we would even think of scolding her.  Though she either moved for Act 2 or quieted down.

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