I don't mean the lack of civility in public discourse. Enough has been written about whether people are too easily offended by others' words and whether Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air or just one more loud-mouthed kook. No, I'm talking about the simple civility of knowing how to behave in public, more specifically at public events such as plays and concerts.
As the play started last night, I actually had a hard time hearing the actor onstage over the conversations that continued for a good minute or two after the curtain went up. It was also quite evident that no special lighting was really needed since the entire audience was lit up by the cell phones that people had just been told to silence and put away. Speaking of which I counted three separate phones going off during the show.
Let me say at this point that this particular play sort of lent itself to audience participation in that it was quite raucous and zany, with the actors often breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to us, but the sad fact is it wouldn't have mattered if that had been true or not--the audience would still have behaved boorishly. I know this from years of attending plays and concerts in the area. Just go to the PHS Acappella Chistmas concert if you don't believe me. And I don't mean the student performance. No, I mean the evening concert, where the audience, at least ostensibly, knows how to behave. People like me, who look forward to the emotionally transporting nature of this event, walk away frustrated and angry every single time because of the crying babies, lit and often ringing cell phones, people wandering in and out doors and up and down aisles in the middle of songs, talking, laughing, constant coughing--I could go on.
I fear I may be preaching to the choir here, if you'll pardon the cliché, but I just feel like it needs to be said. There are, or at least there used to be and still should be, rules for civilized behavior at a performance:
- If you're at a concert or play and it's the middle of a song or scene, you just DON'T GET UP AND WALK AROUND, barring a medical emergency. Getting up and moving around disturbs the experience of everyone around you.
|If you feel the need to take a walk,|
consider a setting such as this
rather than in a theater mid-song.
- Keep your CELL PHONE SILENT AND IN YOUR POCKET. That includes you parents who feel it's necessary to video record every living second of your child's life. Here's a novel idea: actually experience those moments live rather than busying yourself recording them and blinding all the people around you with the dazzling light of your television-sized phone screen.
|My view at about a bazillion|
concerts over the years.
- Again barring emergency, JUST DON'T TALK. Your running commentary may be just flippin' hilarious to your seatmate, but it makes the people around you wish they knew how to actually perform the Vulcan neck pinch.
|An actual person at the play I |
attended last night.
- NO BABIES. I love babies, I really do. Just ask anyone. But there is simply no excuse for bringing an infant to a concert or play. Get a sitter or just don't go.
|Unlike a concert or play, this is a|
wonderful place to take a child.
- NO DISEASE SPREADERS. Again, I'm sympathetic to the fact that your child or friend or husband or whoever may be in that choir, band, or play up there, but what are you doing disturbing everyone and spreading germs? If you know there's a good chance you'll start coughing, don't go to the concert or at least sit right next to a door so you can minimize the damage. And if there's even the slightest chance you could be contagious, DO NOT GO!
- Finally, and this one will cause all the previous five bullets to be pretty much unnecessary: THE RULES APPLY TO YOU. You aren't above them. You aren't special. It's not about you. I'm not sure how many other ways I can think of to say it, but I'm pretty sure those cover it.
|If you're sick, stay home and do this|
rather than go to a play and share your
germs with everyone else.