Twelve Simple Ways to Ruin a Night at the Theater

AudienceWe all have our secret hopes and dreams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us share the same dream – to be screamed at from Patti LuPone on a Broadway stage. LuPone, who is known for her dramatic off-stage personality as well as her equally dramatic onstage persona, became famous for more than just her two Tony Awards when she stopped singing in the middle of “Rose’s Turn” during the latest Broadway revival of Gypsy to berate an audience member for taking photographs of her.

“Stop taking pictures! I will not go on! Who do you think you are?” LuPone demanded in a rant that was recorded and immediately went viral.

Even though LuPone is not performing on Broadway at the moment, don’t worry. You, too, can be as obnoxious as that audience member. You, too, can disrupt both the actors onstage and your fellow audience members, making the hundreds of dollars they probably spent on their night out a waste. You also have the ability to ignore the well-being of everyone around you and only think of yourself – even though you are in a small, crowded building with hundreds of other people. All you have to do is follow these simple steps, which were inspired by my experiences as an audience member over the years.

1. Do not show up on time.

You only paid anywhere between $25 – $200 for your ticket to the show. Why would you be on time? Even though a live theatrical experience is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience, don’t bother arriving before the performance begins. And if your seat is in the middle of the row, definitely don’t be concerned about climbing over dozens of people who did arrive at the theater on time. Don’t apologize for having to climb over them. In fact, act like they are inconsiderate to be in your way. Their well-being doesn’t matter. Only yours. Just show up whenever you feel like it.

2. When an actor walks onstage, yell his/her name.

Given the star casting of late on Broadway, which probably contributed to you buying the tickets, and the fact that everyone in the audience was given a Playbill when they sat down, they probably don’t know who these actors are. So please shout the actors’ names when they walk onstage. It’s actually very thoughtful of you to help your fellow audience members out like that.

3. Never, ever turn your phone off. In fact, don’t even put it on silent.

Why bother? You’re more important than everyone else in the theater, both onstage and off. If people need to reach you, they need to reach you. Everyone else should understand that.

4. If your phone rings, please let it ring for a while. Or even answer it.

Never mind that announcements were made, reminding you to turn off your phone, before the performance began. You were probably too busy sending a text or posting something on Facebook to pay attention to the announcement. Don’t worry. Everyone else will understand, especially if this happens during the final scene of an intense drama like Angels in America. Just let your phone ring and ring. If the person is calling you back after you didn’t answer, it must be important.

5.Send text messages, tweet and post on Facebook throughout the entire show.

Who cares if lighting technicians spent months working on that show? Who cares if people in the audience who are sitting in the row behind you can see the light? Your text is WAY more important. LOL!

6. Unwrap candy and or/cough drops during the performance.

And take as long as you need to, no matter how loud the crinkling wrapping is. If people can hear you, that’s their problem, not yours.

7. And while you’re at it, eat a snack, like potato chips, or even lunch or dinner.

It’s understandable that watching sexy song and dance man Hugh Jackman parading around the stage (and some of the audience member’s laps) could make you crave a piece of chocolate or something a little more savory to munch on. So go ahead and satisfy that craving, in the audience. Chomp away on those potato chips. Or bring some Chinese take out or a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken with you and enjoy it right in the audience. It doesn’t matter that the smells and sounds of you enjoying dinner and a show are incredibly distracting to everyone around you.

8. If you are coughing, stay put.

Don’t leave. No matter what.

9. Don’t bother to stay awake. And when you fall asleep, snore.


10. Get busy.

If having sex in public turns you on, a Broadway theater is the perfect place to do that! Kiss, hug, snuggle, and even give a hand job. Bonus points if you’re at a family-friendly show like Elf and parents will have to explain to their children later why the man sitting next to them kept making that funny noise.

11. Talk the entire time.

Your commentary is that important to everyone around you. They really do want to hear what you have to say.

12. Sing along.

Who cares if the woman onstage is the five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald and the people around you paid hundreds of dollars to sit in the first few rows? Who cares if you’re at one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the season? If the spirit moves you, sing along – loudly – from the audience. It doesn’t matter if the person sitting in front of you is inspired to turn around and say, “You is an asshole now.”

7 Responses to Twelve Simple Ways to Ruin a Night at the Theater

  1. Bill Hubert says:

    I would love to re post this entry on my own website will that be okay

    • Carey says:

      Hi Bill,

      Thank you for reading! Yes, you can re-post this article. Please link it back to here.

      All the best,

  2. Preston Smith says:

    This type of annoyance pertains to a relatively small group: my brethren to whom I have belonged for over 30 years–professional actors. Whether we pay our way into a show or are fortunate to have been granted free tickets through our craft unions or friends in/contacts related to the show, there is a professional courtesy we grant to our working colleagues: come, sit and enjoy. Audience members (including, and sometimes especially other actors) don’t need verbal reviews of the performers, your own experience with a cast member and (especially!) your audition for that show and how you would have done it. (Is there jealousy here? Perhaps.) If it is not an enjoyable show (see Moose Murders, etc), we owe it to the working people onstage battling, at times, shockingly inadequate cast members, insane directors or playwrights related to someone with actual talent to sit and endure and not share one’s post theater plans with the rest of us (again, perhaps that old green-eyed monster?). Hey, we all love to work, and God knows actual paid jobs compose the smallest time element of an actor’s life, but please, let the folks who are onstage actually HAVE the stage.

  3. Pingback: Audience « The Theatrefolk Weblog

  4. Jan Christensen says:

    As a folk musician, I’m one of those who welcomes audience participation in performances, especially when it comes to singing along. There have been times over the years, though, when an someone’s “participation” has crossed the line and created a sour situation for both fellow audience members and the performer(s). I’ll never forget one helpful soul who couldn’t wait until the end of our set to inform my friends and I that we’d just sung the “wrong” version of a traditional song. To relieve us, and the rest of the audience, of the burden posed by our gross ignorance, he promptly launched into his “correct” rendition – minus, of course, the refinements of proper key and tempo – until we and the rest of the listeners told him to wait until later and let the show go on. Thus rejected in his moment of glory, he made an equallly big show of getting up and walking out in a huff. As the great comedian Jimmy Durante used to say in exasperation, “EVERYbody wants to get into the act!”

  5. Great stuff! I too have experienced many of these things on Broadway, except maybe #10…now that would go viral! Keep up the entertainment ;))

  6. Jane Waldman says:

    Carey-Great piece.
    I totally agree with all of the points you made above and have experienced them all during the more than 10 years I covered Broadway for Ap Radio. Hope all is well with you and congrats on your website!!