In a column dated December 15, Lea Salonga wrote about an unpleasant experience she had while watching Little Women by the Repertory Philippines. I’m quoting parts of it here, because I share her view.
Her words: “There was audible ‘white noise’ from start to finish: more than just a few plastic wrappers crinkling; conversations and commentary that drowned out the volume of the onstage action; kids going up and down the aisles during the more quiet monologues; and that annoying “Uyyyyyy!” whenever one of the male actors approached/embraced/kissed his partner.”
At least it’s not like the time I watched a musical and every now and then somebody’s mobile would erupt with a loud and very MIDI-esque rendition of the William Tell Overture. (As an aside, if you call it The Lone Ranger Theme, you’re not an intellectual.)
Or the time I watched a movie with several friends, and one of them kept poking me and asking what just happened. Considering that a) we both entered the movie house at the same time and, b) I saw exactly what he saw up to that point, his continued badgering question was ludicrous. Or maybe he was a late-blooming teenager.
Further: “There was actually a group of uniformed colegialas at a previous performance that let out a blood-curdling ‘Nooo!’ when Laurie and Amy announced their engagement. Halata bang hindi ninyo binasa yung libro, o pinanood yung pelikula man lang?” What can I say? Teenagers are idiots.
I’m not much of a theater-goer (to my own shame) but I can empathize with Ms. Salonga. It’s almost like watching movies (which I no longer do) but never really concentrating because of all the wacky things people do. Now heaven forbid that I would compare theater with the cinema. Theater is almost sacred–Lea says, “[In the theater] there are live flesh-and-blood people up there on stage giving a piece of themselves, their very souls for you–but the problem is the same. Lack of respect for the people who are intent on watching.
Below are guidelines regarding theater etiquette from Ms. Salonga, for those who will be watching theater soon. The guidelines are applicable to movie-goers as well, with a few minor tweaks.
- Turn off your cell phone. Not only could your “Forget You” ring tone be distracting to the actors, it could also be annoying to your fellow patrons.
- Unwrap your candy before the show begins. If you insist on bringing a lozenge or some candy to a show, please take it out of the noisy plastic wrapper already.
- Please be quiet, to allow those around you to hear what’s going on. Trust me, sharing the news of your classmate’s sister’s cousin’s breakup with the school hunk/basketball team captain/student body president can wait.
- No cameras. Any kind of photography—with or without a flash—is distracting, as well as a violation of copyright laws (not to mention, some shows contain nudity … taking photos then would be just plain rude). Please put your cameras away. The actors would be more than happy to pose for a pic after the performance, once they’re in street clothes. You’ll do yourself a favor by just focusing on the show.
- Unless you really have to leave, stay put. You can get up and go if you: have the most urgent need to use the potty; are an on-call doctor whose patient needs you; or are feeling very poorly and need immediate medical attention. If you don’t fall in any of those categories, please remain seated.
I think one further rule should be added. To the teachers who force their imbecilic students to watch great plays/musicals on stage: Please train/lecture/warn/remind/reprimand your students before, immediately before, and after the performance to behave. If you have done your part and they still will not listen, I feel for you (being a teacher myself). Find some way to get back at them. Maybe give them a very hard quiz regarding the plot or major characters of the play. Worst thing that could happen is it will turn them off to the theater experience that they will never darken the theater again. (The last three sentences are meant as a joke, for those who can’t read between the lines and recognize humor.)