Using Your Theater/Concert Etiquette

“The concert is a polite form of self-induced torture’ – Henry Miller

“I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences otherwise I would be in concert music.” – Stephen Sondheim

Perhaps you are a fan of going to the theatre and concert performances. Or, attending performances may be a rarity for you and you’re simply being invited to join someone as a guest at the theatre. In either case, here are some etiquette rules that important to enhance your own enjoyment, as well as the experience of those around you.

  • Follow the dress code if the event has a special attire requirement. Your ticket will typically say this; call ahead if in doubt. If there is no dress code, we recommend wearing something that will make your experience special for you. Avoid sneakers, shorts, and dirty jeans.
  • Know what you are going to see – do a little research before you go so that you’re prepared for a discussion with your host or others seated next to you. It is a good idea to at least know the name of the composer, the music to be performed, if the singer is a soprano or a tenor, which piece of the opera, etc.
  • Eat light before you go, and avoid drinking alcohol before the performance. Too much food and drink make many attendees fall asleep.
  • Make sure your guests know how long the program is scheduled to last, and ensure that each guest in your party has a program so they can follow along and not disrupt others by borrowing other programs.
  • Always try to arrive 30 minutes before the program is scheduled to start.

An important reminder: Only applaud when the piece is over. A piece may include many movements, and between the movements, the audience does not clap. If you are not sure, watch others around you, but don’t be the first to clap.

Behaviors to avoid during a performance, and in any theatre setting:

  • Talking, humming, or whispering
  • Chewing gum or making noise (looking for something in your bag, etc.,)
  • Falling asleep
  • Texting or checking social media/emails on your mobile
  • Arriving late and leaving early
  • Limit your trips to the restroom; go before or after the performance, or wait until intermission
  • Booing or hissing is never appropriate
  • It’s insulting to a host when a guest is overly critical; if you greatly disliked the performance, wait until you’ve exited the theatre to express your feelings.


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