Part 1 ~
It has been somewhat perplexing over the last few seasons while viewing live theater to not only observe “traditions behind” theater begin to fade but also to witness one of its predecessors, “theater etiquette,” dangling off the coattails as if riding into the sunset – a sunset I couldn’t help but wonder if the rose-colored backdrop was but a frame for yet another legends in the making – after all, every classic original worth its salt will be categorized eventually, including film classics like the 1939 “Gone with the Wind.”
While such classics have always been reminiscent of eras filled with style, sophistication and a traditional romance that today’s generation couldn’t touch – at least not without first sifting through a series of heart-to-hearts – or in the least a few viewings of films like the 1946 holiday classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The almost-sad reality is that although these classics are legends (with most taken to the stage in one rendition or another) – most are also but subtle reminders of when traditions behind and etiquette were once treasured; when the customs were adapted to rather than endured – when history was equally essential to values, and when issues were dealt with straight up without excuses because demureness was time-honored and rarely skipped a generation line.
Why is it that such classics are the only basis for a tried and true testament? A testament to a period of time when person’s word was contract; when courtships were not just a bridge to lifelong romance but a romance built on love that lasted a lifetime – or to an era when the makeup of a family’s core was a derivation of more than just a heart and soul bound by a strength that could withstand just about anything; family did anything for each other – including extended family – with tradition and etiquette merely the glue that held everyone, everything and anything together forever.
So you see, for me to witness such classic traditions fading with any type of etiquette riding its coattails was no minor thing; add to that being a critic, writer, parent and grandparent with old-fashioned beliefs and, well, instant heartbreak – and whether or not the recent inappropriate behavior by the couple at Ballet San Jose’s “The Nutcracker” (San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, through December 23, 2012) very well may just have been fate’s way of saying it was time for a new generation to meet up with a generation of “old-fashioned” with an added reminder to all that it was evident that some further digging was needed with a 360 view. So from patron to performer to the theater’s opinion to the etiquette’s core – this tale goes a bit further than behind traditional P.K. fashion and “perspective” so if you will, please do join me in a non-theatrical venture into a much needed aide memoire of “Where did all the traditions behind theater and theater etiquette go?”
Beginning with character, it is indeed no secret that people are coming to realize that they are in control of how they feel and that no one can make anyone feel a certain way, be it positive or negative; point being that situations and experiences can be altered, true – but with any hope – enhanced rather than rendered unpleasant. Choices are, thankfully, by default already a part of all traditions – making “the experience” itself an automatic enhancement regardless of one’s choice to remain indifferent. So, the first rule with theater etiquette from a patron’s view would have to be that one should strive to have a good time, regardless of outcome. Period. (And this, folks, should apply to every part of life.)
And, since there will always be an occasion where someone may still try to disrupt such experiences, such as this mysterious couple who gave it their best shot – even though they themselves appeared of mature age and sound mind (about 45 or 50) – it could very well be that they were more the arena-type or more familiar with tailgate etiquette; or, perhaps they were from out of town seeking an on-a-whim live performance, unable to contain their excitement; and, is entirely possible they were being introduced to theater – and theater etiquette – for the first time, ever. So, for the sake of this article let’s go with all of the above, most particularly the latter.
According to Director of Marketing and Press of A.C.T., American Community Theater, in San Francisco, Randy Taradash, he stated that he has not only noticed more out-of-town visitors seeking a new, great live performance at the last-minute, he’s also noticed a new generation being introduced to live performances – which would explain the lateness, or confusion with etiquette altogether. “There appears to be a whole new generation more familiar with arena, movie theater or home atmospheres,” said Taradash, adding that it can sometimes come with financial constraints, or with the increase in so many arena or stadium events, by default it can make for a simple lack of awareness.
Team San Jose’s Director of Communications Meghan Horrigan was also in agreement with the theory of a new generation being introduced to live theater, offering several other suggestions to ease the adjustment, such as early arrival times of at least 15 minutes prior to curtain call as most folks may not realize that latecomers could end up being seated in the balcony until intermission (if at all, depending on the production and theater).
In fact, Taradash stated that it became more noticeable after a recent trip to New York where he attended a number of shows (and where theater etiquette is much stricter) where things like cell phones and cameras were taken away with photos deleted if someone tried to take photos inside the theater – “People don’t realize the copyright issues with everything from costumes to set design, even before the curtain rises,” said Taradash, adding that some folks may not be seated at all if late, sometimes until Intermission – regardless of whether or not they have row eight seats; such as what happened at a recent Broadway San Jose musical where quite a few folks were late – many were seated in the balcony until Intermission. The Bay Area is extremely fortunate to have the array of theaters they do, with many outstanding theaters be them historic, elegant or state of the art fitted for any event from San Francisco (such as at Warfield or Curran Theater) to Sunnyvale or Mt. View (such as at the Sunnyvale Theater or Mt. View Center for the Performing Arts) to San Jose (such as the HP Pavilion or the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts).
Stay tuned for Part 2
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