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

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