Landmark Theater Etiquette (Richmond.com)

Landmark Theater Etiquette (Richmond.com)

Posted:  02/23/2012 12:00 AM

 A recent trip to see ‘The Lion King’ inspired Richmond.com’s theater reviewer to offer theater-goers a refresher course on manners.

Perhaps it’s the size of the Landmark Theater or the fact that concessions sell popcorn and beer, but this historic theater has started to take on the feel of a sporting arena during live shows.

It seems that Richmond may be in a need of a refresher course on manners and in light of the fact that Broadway’s “The Lion King” is currently in town, that need seems urgent. Hence, a rundown of the worst etiquette breaches (i.e. the things you should not do at the Landmark Theater or any theater in town for that matter).

Do not take out your phone during the show. A vast number of people still think it is perfectly acceptable to text/tweet/gchat/BBM/skype/pay online bills during a live performance. For the record, it is not. Lean in  close and I’ll let you in on a little secret.

That phone in your pocket comes with an amazing feature. It’s called a backlight. And when you whip out your phone in the middle of a musical number because you just can’t wait to text your BFF, Sally, about dinner plans for next week, everyone around you is a) distracted and b) blinded. And I mean everyone.

Those people in the upper balcony way to the side—they just got distracted by your phone. Unless you are on the verge of brokering peace in the Middle East and that text you’re sending is to Ban Ki-moon, it can wait. If you just have to tweet your 21 followers about what an amazing show you’re seeing instead of actually watching the show, if you honestly believe your opinions are so critical to the world that the world can’t wait until intermission to hear them, take a long, hard look at your life. You may have some difficult choices to make.

Once the show has started, do not get out of your seat. Seriously, what is wrong with your bladder that you can’t wait until intermission? Is it a symptom of our instant-gratification, ADD culture that no one can hold it anymore? Here’s a quick tip for anyone going to “The Lion King”: Several times throughout the show actors dressed as animals sprint down the aisles; if you are in their way and you trip and injure an elephant in front of an entire theater because you’re a slave to the tiniest urge from your bladder, you will make small children cry.

There really is no hurry. Whether it’s when the theater doors open before the show or when they open after the show ends, you do not need to sprint out of there like you’re trying to get on the last helicopter out of Saigon. Nothing is on fire. No one is chasing you. Wait your turn. You have two options. You can flatten a group of kindly grandmothers because you have to be the person who gets out of the parking garage first. Or you can act like a decent human being.

Age-appropriateness. “The Lion King” is a beloved Disney film that is appropriate for very small children to watch in the privacy of their homes. “The Lion King” the musical is a loud, sometimes scary three-hour live-theater production that ends after 10 p.m. The official recommendation is that it not be viewed by children under the age of 6. However, as we’ve established, not everyone in this city is a rule follower.

But really, if you bring a child less than 6 years old to an evening performance of “The Lion King,” you are inconsiderate and oblivious at best, a questionable parent at worst. The screams of a tired toddler are not what people paid good money to listen to all night. It’s not cute. It’s not a funny anecdote to tell your other parent friends. You paid for the tickets. You can afford a babysitter.

End captains. If you find your seats at the end of the row, there is a certain moral obligation that goes along with it. It’s like being seated near the emergency exit on an airplane. If you are the type of person who will jump onto the inflatable slide at the first opportunity and help no one else, you probably should request to be moved. The same goes for end of the row seats.

If you are not of the moral fiber needed to stand up every time someone needs to get in and out of your row (and remember, this is a city of small bladders and tiny children out past bedtime), then you shouldn’t be sitting there. If you make people climb over your lap, because you just can’t be bothered to stand up for 5 seconds, you win the award for the Worst Person in the Theater. Congratulations. There was stiff competition.

Let’s bring consideration back to the Landmark Theater, Richmond. After all, when a touring production like “The Lion King” is in town, it is our guest. Do we really want to behave like wild animals in front of a cast full of wild animals?

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