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Broadway Theater Etiquette: Guidelines for Proper Decorum

Broadway Theater Etiquette


Another exciting season is beginning on Broadway! Many new plays are opening this spring, including “An American in Paris,”  ”The Audience,” “Gigi,” “Reverberation,” “Abundance,” “The Light Princess,” and many more. For all the details and reviews of the new plays, I recommend “The New York Times.”

Going to see a live performance on a stage is not like going to see a film at a movie theater. Of course, there are certain dos and don’ts for movie goers as well, but going to see a play requires even more mindfulness of your fellow theater-goers and actors on the stage to ensure that the experience is  an enjoyable and memorable one for all.

As an avid theater-goer for many years, I have seen quite a change in the dress and behavior of persons attending Broadway shows since I attended my first one. As a society, we have become much more casual in our attire and behavior, and that is fine; but, in my opinion, casual attire should not mean wearing sneakers and shorts to the theater, or eating potato chips while watching the show.’Dressing up’ and being on one’s best behavior will also change one’s attitude, making us want to sit up straighter and mind our theater manners.


Following are guidelines for proper decorum at the theater:

1. Dress for the occasion. Think of going to the theater as a special occasion, because it is a special occasion. Casual attire is perfectly acceptable now, but casual attire does not mean sloppy attire. Be comfortable, but polished.

2. Be on time. It shows respect for the actors on the stage and your fellow theater-goers.

3. Go to the restroom before you sit down, or at the intermission, not during the performance. It will not only be disruptive to persons seated in your row and the rows around you, but also to the actors on the stage.

4. Unwrap any cough drops or candy before the show begins. The only sounds one should hear at a performance should be coming from the stage.

5. Do not fidget. It can be very distracting to persons sitting around you.

6. Keep your shoes on. Wherever you are in public, unless you are in the park perhaps, your shoes should be kept on.

7. Do not eat potato chips, pretzels, or any other crunchy snack during a live performance.

8. Do not talk during a live performance once it has begun.

9. Take your hat off if you are wearing one that might block another person’s view

10. Avoid wearing too much perfume or aftershave; and deodorant, as well as breath mints, help when sitting close to others.

11. Respect the space of the persons on either side of you. Try to stay within the boundaries of your own chair; do not take both arm rests; and do not take multiple shopping bags with you to the theater, unless you check them before you sit down.

12. Stay awake. Snoring, or leaning your head on a neighbor’s shoulder when you fall asleep is absolutely unacceptable.  

13. Turn off your cell phone. As soon as you sit down, turn of your cell phone and put it away.

14. Do not sing along. Unless asked to sing along by the actors on the stage, refrain from singing, humming, or whistling the tunes you hear.

15. Do not be a prissy Miss Manners. Although a person’s behavior may be inappropriate or disruptive, do not take it upon yourself to be the manners police.

16. Be appreciative. Do show your appreciation by clapping at the appropriate times; and standing at the end of the show when all others around you are standing.



Note: These guidelines also apply to any live performance, such as the ballet, opera, and a classical music concert.


By: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

March 2015


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