Column: Show etiquette

The scene was set: I had press tickets to the L.A. Dance Project in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center. I was dressed up. I was with my gay best friend. I was prepared to be blown away by a dance group created by the man who choreographed Black Swan. I was already live-tweeting my experience, excited to gawk at 90-pound ballerinas prance across the stage.

Yeah, I was more wrong than I was right. The entire show was experimental, modern and not what anyone was expecting. Three separate performances with two 15-minute intermissions baffled everyone in the audience; even the rare young attendees were shocked at the weirdness of it all.

But this column isn’t going to be me whining about how I didn’t attend an actual ballet this weekend. It will be me whining about the ridiculous people in the audience.

First of all, during the second dance — mind you, each performance was about 25 minutes long — audience members actually left their seats to exit the theater. Sure, the “music” was unbearable (it was screeching noises for 30 minutes) and the dancing was smothered by the darkness that took over the stage, but to get up out of a $40 seat mid-performance? This wasn’t a community-theater holiday performance, people.

Second, every single intermission, some students would rush over to the girls sitting next to me, eager to dissect every movement, noise and element of the show thus far. It wasn’t until about two minutes into the first intermission that I realized that these were drama students. They were probably forced to attend the show for a theatre class, but because they were in fact drama majors, they thought they had some sort of legitimate opinion on the show.

Little did they know, they were sitting next to the biggest deal on campus: me. My guest and I remained silent, taking mental notes of all the ridiculous comments we were hearing.

“Oh my god, do you think that the lighting was influenced by the same lighting designer our professor mentioned that time in class? I should email her and impress her. What are you writing for the assignment?”

“Yeah, I did a show like this back in high school. Did you know that I was in 30 musicals? I was a big deal. I’ve always been the lead in every show I’ve been in. This stuff that we’re watching? Not even a big deal.”

I was seconds away from turning toward them and laughing my ass off. I went into the show ready to write a review of the actual performance and ended up changing my mind due to the people I sat next to.

The second dance was purely silent for the first 10 minutes, it seemed. And of course everyone in the effing theater had to cough during it. The girl next to me, completely healthy during each intermission, had no problem hacking up a lung during the silent parts of the show. Oh, and the snacks she HAD to unwrap DURING the show? Everyone could hear you, sweetie.

And one last thing, in a pitch-black theater, let alone the Mondavi Center, a cell phone has no reason to be out during a performance. But no. The girl next to me suddenly decided that she was the lighting director and had to light up the audience with her Nokia brick of a phone with a pop-out keyboard.

Do people not understand respect? How to pay attention for freaking 90 minutes? The people on stage have more talent than you probably have or will ever have. If you’re so cultured in the world of drama, shouldn’t you understand how an audience should be acting? Who do you think you are?

You know what? At least share the snacks.

ELIZABETH ORPINA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

5 Comments

  • ucdlovr0623
    February 1, 2013

    I called you neither sad nor dumb. I’m sorry you and your friends dislike this article. My friends and I do like it. Agree to disagree, I suppose. And agree to understand that it’s impossible to please everyone.

    • Locke
      February 2, 2013

      Agreed to agree to disagree. It also is quite impossible to please everyone.

  • ucdlovr0623
    February 1, 2013

    In response to Locke: I find this article funny. I am a drama major here at UC Davis and I find this article to be hilarious in its satire and in its truth. I have attended many shows at the Mondavi Center, at our Wright Hall theater, and many other theaters in the area, and I completely understand where Elizabeth is coming from. Getting up during the show? Pulling out your cell phone? Opening loud snack bags? Coughing without any attempt to stifle it? In fact, those who should’ve left the theater are the ones who couldn’t stifle that cough. All these things would annoy me, as a fellow audience member, and as a performer. When I’m up on that stage, I want to give the best show possible, and I couldn’t so with such distractions and disrespectfulness. Anyone with any theater experience, actually anyone with any common sense, knows the basic rules of behavior in a dark theater. Keep your phone in your pocket and keep your mouth shut.

    Her comment at the end, also, if one couldn’t determine such from the rest of the article, lets it be known that this article is meant to be a funny, satirical take on a night in a theater.

    So Locke, it is actually you who is whining. And complaining. Instead of just having a sense of humor.

    • Locke
      February 1, 2013

      Yes, none of my friends, nor friends of those friends that didn’t like the article have senses of humor either. I guess we’re just a bunch of sad, dull people.

      What this article was supposed to be and what it is are, to a great deal of people, completely different things. Obviously, you think differently. I won’t attempt to convince you to my viewpoint, just as I do not expect you to convince me to yours. However, one thing is indisputable: there are a significant number of people who dislike this article. Perhaps you think their opinions are invalid. That’s up to you.

  • Locke
    January 31, 2013

    It’s possible that you intended this to be sardonic to show us the grating nature of ill or ignorant intent projected upon the unwilling recipient, in which case few will suspect it, and the few who do so, fewer will be willing to believe it. If, on the other hand, you wrote each word with sincerity, how do you maintain both that “the ‘music’ was unbearable” and that “The people on stage have more talent than you probably have or will ever have”? Of course, this does not justify, nor does it disqualify any judgements you have on these people. Still, inconsistencies like this throughout your rant (and for once, this truly is an online rant) reduce the quality and the quality of your authority, regardless of how accurate your perceptions of people at the event were.

    Let me continue with the rest of your column:

    “It wasn’t until about two minutes into the first intermission that I realized that these were drama students. They were probably forced to attend the show for a theatre class, but because they were in fact drama majors, they thought they had some sort of legitimate opinion on the show.” Did it matter whether they were drama students or not? Furthermore, you delve into what you thought were their opinions of themselves, and in that, you delve into pure speculation, and that has nothing to do with etiquette, nor does it promise any truths.

    Your mindset is perhaps most obvious here: “I went into the show ready to write a review of the actual performance and ended up changing my mind due to the people I sat next to.” Here, you reveal your readiness to attack, and since the show had qualifications you could not bring yourself to question, you decided for something easier instead: peers of your age, to whom you felt superior. Superior in any way or not, you immediately surrender that superiority when you descend to attack them in the brash and poisonously indirect, discrete manner of an opinion article, poisonous in its intent to shame and in its presumably authoritative position.

    Is coughing a crime? No. It is very annoying, and done improperly, it becomes a health risk. Yet, you don’t know the circumstances under which it occurred. You may extrapolate all you wish, but there is an extent to how far logic can take you.

    Yet, the greatest crime that has been done to this publication is that in the end, the article only whines, it only complains, and it attacks these people, saying, “You are bad people for doing such things, and you should feel bad.” I see no education, no pointers and advice as to how to avoid these mistakes in the future, and so all I can see resulting from this is the division of people into those who will find themselves angry at you, thinking themselves not in the wrong for doing such things, and those who will find themselves angry and superior because they agree with you, and find themselves all the more upset at people like those you described. Yet, neither you nor those who agree with you have been inclined to become more apt to help these people in their ways, and so nothing changes.

    My advice is that guidance, advice, and a perspective into the harms these people do upon others will be able to make those with any empathy into better people, while attacks without empathy, but rather voiced with superiority and disdain, will only serve to worsen the society we live in.

    If perhaps I am wrong on your intent, if all of this was indeed just satire, then perhaps my efforts are not only wasted, but my words become mere tangent. If I am right, I only hope my words stir in you a kinder approach to all others.

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