Theatre Etiquette

If you come to New York, you’re more than likely going to end up in a theatre eventually. As a working theatre professional, one of the things that really irks me is when people show up with no idea of how to behave in a theatre, especially given the price of tickets on Broadway. Phones ringing. Loud conversations. Late seating. It drives me insane! Don’t be that person! Below are a few pointers that can help you and your fellow patrons enjoy the show.

Checking Your Ticket

A rookie mistake for the theatre patron is not knowing what time the show starts. When purchasing your ticket, make sure you check what time curtain (or start time) is. Also, make sure you are aware of the location of the theatre that you are going to. Where is it? How do I get there? What time of day is it? Will there be a lot of commuters out and about? Look all of this information up either the day before or the afternoon of the show (unless you have a matinee in which case you’re already late!). This will ensure that you get to where you need to go and not find yourself stressed out about how to get there.

Making Dinner Plans

A lot of the restaurants in and around the theatre district in New York are assuming that you are going to be seeing a show that night. Many of them offer dinner prixe fixe menus, which is usually a $30 deal that includes an appetizer, main course and desert. There is a pretty decent list of participating restaurants available here on Open Table. These are pretty good deals too, as far as price go. Make sure that when you sit down you inform your server that you are seeing a show and what time it starts. Allow yourself at least an hour and a half to two hours before curtain to dine. You want to relax and not worry about if you have enough time for dessert.  I would also recommend using the restroom at the restaurant before heading to the theatre as it will be less crowded. Lastly, if your server was able to get you in and out in the time you needed, make sure you leave a nice tip.  For more, check out our handy post Everything You Need to Know About Dining in NYC (Except Where to Go)

Showing Up

Most theatres open the house a half an hour before curtain. This means that you will be able to be seated a whopping 30 minutes before the show starts! Amazing! A good rule of thumb is to get there 10 to 15 minutes before curtain. Now, this assumes that you are not looking to get a drink, buy a souvenir or use the restroom. If you ARE planning on any of that, get there 20 minutes earlier or more. These houses are huge, usually seating around 1,100 people. That crush of humanity will also want drinks and restrooms. Plan ahead. Getting there 15 minutes early also allows you to read the program that you have been handed. Playbills are amazing. They list the entire cast and creative team that worked on the show, plus have other interesting theatre related information. So make sure you let yourself have time to come into the theatre, relax and prepare yourself for the performance.

Using Cell Phones

Turn them off. Not on silent or vibrate. Completely off. How many of us have thought that we hit the vibrate button only to realize to our horror in the middle of Act I that the cell phone ringing is ours? What a horrible thing! Do not be that person! If you still need to be reachable during the show, make sure that you leave the number for the theatre with the babysitter (or whomever) and your seat assignments. Let an usher come get you – you spare the people around you a major distraction and will leave them all thinking you are some big shot who has to go deal with some important pressing matter of international magnitude.

Also- a very important note here- if you have turned your phone back on at intermission to check it, MAKE SURE YOU TURN IT BACK OFF. This happens all the time- so when the lights in the lobby flash to let you know to head back in, turn it off.

Something else to note about cell phones and the theatre in NYC- new phones have such large bright screens, it is a serious distraction when someone pulls them out in a dark theatre- for any reason.  The other thing is, if I can see it, that means the ushers can too, and they will be more than happy to tell you to turn it off or leave. They mean it too – I have seen this happen and they are happy to kick you out of the theatre. Don’t be that person.

Talking In the Theatre

There is nothing more distracting than sitting in a theatre, trying to enjoy the show with a full blown conversation happening in your vicinity. Nothing is so important that it has to be discussed at full volume in a crowded theatre. This is distracting to both the audience and the performers alike. If you find you need to chat to your companion, remove yourself from the theatre and have the conversation in the lobby. Please do not discuss the show as you are watching it- save commentary for after show drinks. Let everyone watch and absorb what is going on.


Theatre is amazing. Nothing makes me happier then when the lights dim and the orchestra tunes. I know I am going to be transported somewhere amazing. So make sure that you are letting yourself and others around you have that experience. Theatre is supposed to be an escape and a chance to hear and see a story. Let yourself enjoy it- be the perfect patron and the audience AND performers will thank you.

Source: BecomeANewYorker