OK, Seattle. I love you and all, but there are some things about you which confuse the hell out of me. At present, it's "Why don't patrons of the arts here have the common decorum to wait at least until the house lights come up before leaving a theatre?" It's bad enough you have your mobile phones out as you walk up the aisles, oblivious to the people around you- and especially the little old lady whom you almost pushed over in your rush to check your voicemail, but didn't anyone ever tell you that it's just downright rude to get up and start heading for the exits at what you percieve might be the end of a performance.

You show disrespect for the cast of whatever show it is you've just paid to see, you show disrespect to the venue, the other patrons, and the art itself. And, to top it all off, it's just rude. What, pray tell, do you gain from it? You get your car out of the parking garage five minutes earlier and jump the line for the post-performance Starbucks?

Don't even start trying to tell me that you've spent a few hundred dollars on an evening out and you're in such a rush for it to end you can't spare the few minutes to show some appreciation for the performers or even some common courtesy. Spending all of intermission on your mobile phone is bad enough. Our parents managed to get away from us for a few hours at a time when we were kids, and for the most part, we're all none the worse for wear because of it. If you're that concerned about little Daphne and little Niles with their babysitter, maybe you need to hire different sitter for the precious brats.

Some of us remember the days when patrons of the arts were requested to check their pagers and the like with the venue staff. If something came up which was life-threatening, they had your seat location and could come alert you to the nature of the emergency, but face it- unless you're a trauma doctor or your kid has just gone into anaphylactic shock or the like, it can wait until after the performance. More emphatically, it should wait until after the performance.

Are there West Coast or Seattle-specific etiquette guides which show this to be acceptable? I'm sure there must be something out there which says that it's acceptable to dress super-casually for such events- which would be anathema elsewhere. [Try going to a Broadway show or the Kennedy Centre in D.C. in ripped jeans. You're not likely to be outright refused entrance, but you'll stand out like a sore thumb.] Besides, it's a special occasion, it's appropriate to treat it as such. We're not talking white-tie and tails and formal gowns, necessarily, but dressing up a bit won't hurt. Besides, there are damn few occasions in this town for which one can dress- it's a shame to pass one up.

But I've wandered far enough down this rabbit-trail. Why do you think that it's acceptable to get up and leave before the lights come up. This isn't the eighth inning of a Mariners' game when they're on the wrong end of a 8-1 score, it's not the Sonics trailing 132-74 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter; it's a live artistic performance. The curtain will fall and rise again, the cast will come onstage, and it's both acceptable and polite to applaud them for their work. We're not talking junior-high drama troupes here, either- and none of you who've gotten shanghai'd into attending one of these things would dare traumatize your child, cousin, nephew or niece by walking out before it was done- but some reputable performers- most recently, the National Theatre of Great Britain touring withMy Fair Lady at the Paramount and the Seattle Opera presenting I Puritani at McCaw Hall.

You're already experiencing culture by attending such events. Is it too much to ask for you to show some class as well?
[A hat-tip to the audiences at Pacific Northwest Ballet performances- I've not seen such behaviour in 3+ years of attending the PNB, just somewhat relaxed dress, which isn't overwhelmingly surprising for Sunday matinees.]

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Vanya Y Tucherov

December 2016

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