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Audience Etiquette 101

From pungent perfume to noisy neighbors, the Van Wezel gives us its “Rules of the Rows.”

Presented by Van Wezel By Olivia Savage February 13, 2020

Let’s say you’re at a performing arts venue to see a band play a live concert. You look around and see fellow audience members with their phones out, taking photos and video. You pull yours out to snap a picture and an usher comes over, sternly telling you to put your phone away. You feel frustrated and indignant, wondering why you were singled out.

Sound familiar?

Between the dawn of the movie theater and the age of the smartphone, a lot of live theater traditions have gone out the window…but some remain! Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate your next experience as a live audience member.

To put it simply, don’t be that person. When we remind you to turn your phone and other electronics off before the show, please actually do it. We’ve all been in a movie or lecture where someone’s phone goes off and it completely ruins the moment. 

Same goes for texting, calling, taking pictures, or filming—please take your photos before or after the show, or during intermission. The Van Wezel even has a selfie wall now! The hall LOVES seeing your pictures on social media. Remember to tag us in your posts and follow their  channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to stay in the know.

Honestly, do yourself a favor and don’t put a small phone screen between your face and what’s going on live on stage. Not only is recording illegal, but we guarantee your eyes and ears are higher definition than anything you can capture with your phone.

This one requires some common sense and self-awareness. The rules for rock concerts are going to be very different from what’s expected at the symphony. For instance, clapping between songs and scenes at Broadway shows is absolutely welcome, whereas it is customary during classical music performances to not clap between movements of a single piece.

In general, remember that you’re not the only person in the room—you’re enjoying a shared experience with hundreds of other folks who spent their hard-earned money to enjoy the theater. Don’t talk or sing along loudly if the whole crowd isn’t doing it. Don’t unwrap cough drops during a quiet violin solo. Basically, make the least amount of noise possible while still enjoying yourself and participating in the experience.

Aside from the occasional gala, the days where theatergoers are expected to wear tuxedos and gowns are long gone. Therefore, there’s no official dress code—but if you want some guidance, here are some recommendations:

  • Wear layers, as parts of the hall can be drafty while others run warm
  • Wear closed-toe shoes to prevent injuries while wading through crowds
  • Pack light—don’t bring large purses or bags with you to the theater
  • Jeans are common—you don’t have to wear slacks or a dress, although many people like to dress up for their night out. It’s up to you!

Another note on attire: Please do not wear strong perfumes, aftershaves, or deodorants. Some people are extremely sensitive to these products which can cause migraines, asthma attacks and even allergic reactions. We want to make sure everyone can fully enjoy the performance and thank you in advance for your consideration.

Food and Drink
For many of our performances, you’re welcome to bring beverages into the hall with you to enjoy during the show. However, food is generally not allowed because it is messy and noisy. Also, please be respectful and bring your trash with you when you exit the theater.

Going to see an orchestra, classical music recital, or opera? The ushers will probably request that you finish your beverage before you enter the hall. This is because classical music is generally unamplified; The instruments themselves fill the auditorium with sound without needing microphones. This means that you’re much more likely to hear a cup fall than you would in a Broadway show, and even that tiny bit of noise can be extremely distracting.

We strongly encourage you to budget enough time to park or utilize valet services, go through security, have your tickets scanned, and get comfortable in your seat well before the show begins. But we try to be flexible and allow latecomers to enter the theater, even if the show has already begun. 

Why? Stuff happens! For family friendly shows, a kiddo might cause an unexpected delay. The roundabout construction on Tamiami Trail is causing unprecedented traffic jams. Folks with disabilities might need an accommodation to enter the theater a bit late. Generally, we want to provide access to as many people as possible, even if you might be distracted for a moment as they move toward their seat.

During the high season, we often have performances every single night for weeks at a time. We rely on hundreds of ushers to scan your tickets, help you to your seats, and monitor the crowds for safety purposes. They are all volunteers—they make time to be here simply because they love the theater and their community. Please treat them with kindness and respect. If you experience an issue, ask to speak to a “team captain” or “head usher.” These individuals supervise the usher teams and can help you with any specific issues you have while you’re here at the hall.

Have other questions or concerns? You can reach us via our website, Facebook Messenger, or by calling (941) 263-6799. We love your feedback!

View the Van Wezel’s show schedule here!