How to Be a Courteous Audience Member

Words cannot express how much I endorse this article, especially the bit about... well, you'll know when you run across it.

Attending a Broadway show is a unique experience, but it's important to remember that it's not just about the actors and the production—it's also about being a courteous audience member. Your behavior can significantly impact the enjoyment of the show for both yourself and those around you.

Below, check out some tips to ensure you are the best possible audience member when attending a Broadway show.

Arrive early

One of the most basic yet crucial tips for being a courteous audience member is arriving at the theater on time. Most Broadway shows will begin about five minutes after their scheduled time, but you don't want to risk getting there at the last moment and missing the start of the show. Some productions do not even allow late seating, meaning if you arrive after the show begins, you won't be allowed in.

Instead, aim to arrive about 20 minutes before the start of the show, giving you time to get into the theatre, hit the restroom and/or bar if you need it, and situate yourself in your seat. If you require extra time, note that most shows will open their doors to the audience around 45 minutes before showtime.

Allow other guest to their seats

If your seat is on the aisle and you arrive to the theatre early, expect that other guests will need to enter your row before the start of the show. When this happens, simply rise and step back into your folded seat to allow them to pass in front of you, or step into the aisle if room is available and that is more convenient to you. This is bound to happen more than once during your trip to the theatre, so try your best to be respectful of your neighbors as they arrive.

That said- if you are sitting in the middle of a row, do your best to be courteous of the people who accomodated you to get to your seat, ie: limit your activity in and out of your row to what is absolutely necessary.

Handle latecomers gracefully

If you find yourself seated next to latecomers, be courteous and make room for them to pass. Avoid making disapproving comments or giving them dirty looks. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and it's best to handle such situations with grace and understanding.

Be mindful of personal space

A sold-out show can be quite crowded and some theatre seats can be quite small. It's essential to be aware of your personal space and respect the personal space of others. Avoid spreading out your arms and legs beyond your assigned area and do not kick the seat of the person in front of you.

You should generally avoid bringing large bags to the theatre. Be sure that your personal belongings are few/small enough to be tucked under your legs or chair. Do not hang your coat off of the chair infront of you nor behind your own chair as both interfere with the limited space of those around you. If you are uncomfortable leaving your coat on or resting it on your lap, consider taking advantage of coat check when available.

Additionally do not place any parts of your body or personal items in the aisle, on a ledge (if you are near one), or on the front of the stage, as all can be dangerous for the actors and theatre personnel.

Silence Your Devices

...or better yet, just turn them off altogther. If you can't do that, absolutely set your device to Silent or Do Not Disturb. You don't want to be the person who ruins an important moment for everyone else. Furthermore...

Do not take calls during a Broadway show.

Do not text during a Broadway show.

Do not check your email during a Broadway show.

Do not scroll through Instagram during a Broadway show.

Do not photograph or record a Broadway show.

Anytime your phone screen lights up in a dark theatre, it disturbs the viewing experience of the people around you and affects the concentration of the actors onstage.

After a show has begun, DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE. After intermission concludes, DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE.

Stay quiet

Whispering, talking, or commenting during the performance is not okay.

Any noise outside of the action of the show is incredibly distracting to those around you and disrespectful to the actors on stage. Save your discussions and comments for intermission or after the show.

Broadway shows are not sing-alongs. Unlike concert experiences, audiences are not welcome to sing with the actors, however temping it may be. Instead, sing along to cast recording on your way home.

If you purchased snacks or candies at the consession stand before the show or during intermission, do your best to unwrap them before the show begins to avoid disrupting the experience of those around you.

Remain in your seat

Barring emergencies, do you best to remain in your seat until intermission or the end of the show. Make sure to visit the restroom before the show starts. Planning ahead ensures you won't miss any crucial moments and neither will the people around you.

Respond appropriately

Applause is a way to show appreciation for the performers, but it's essential to do so at the right moments. In most cases, applause is appropriate at the end of a song, scene, or act, and at the conclusion of the entire show. Avoid clapping or cheering during quiet or dramatic moments that require the audience and actors' full attention.

Also, encourage your children to do the same and help to educate the next generation of courteous theatre-goers.

At the end of the performance, go wild and cheer as loudly as you please. If you truly enjoyed the show, consider standing ovations to express your admiration for the cast and crew's hard work.

No you're a pro! Go off and be the best Broadway audience member you can be!

UID_Zero, avatar

It’s pretty sad that people need an article like this to know how to behave in public.

Though I’ve seen pretty raucous groups at my kids school events, and I definitely wonder what the hell is wrong with parents letting their kids run wild. We shouldn’t need these kinds of articles, but parents should be teaching their kids proper etiquette, too.

Prouvaire avatar

Ironically in my experience it's often the oldies who are the worst behaved.


Best case scenario, you're an adult taking a young child to their first stage performance. Although you know proper theatre etiquette, you can't remember all the "do"s and "don'ts" off the top of your head, you just know, so you use an article like this for a refresher on what to tell the kid before you get there. After all, you would much prefer telling them beforehand to having to constantly correct bad behavior when you are at the theatre. We are not all born knowing proper manners, someone has to teach it to us, and once we know we just do it automatically. We don't remember all the rules consciously until someone violates them.

UID_Zero, avatar

That is an entirely fair and valid point.

We did teach our kids the basic etiquette, but we also talk to them afterwards whenever we see things we haven’t told them.

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