Should promoting audience etiquette be part of our jobs?
I'm thinking about this because of a Guardian UK blog post about theater etiquette.
I'm also thinking about it because in the town where I grew up (which I believe Terry Teachout calls something like a "second-tier" city, in no doubt much more elegant terms), the classical music critic for the daily paper wrote about audience etiquette. I'd say "often" or "a few times," but the truth is that just because I have strong memories of the few times doesn't mean it was, or wasn't, often.
That critic, whose work I remember reading in high school and perhaps college, was Scott Cantrell, now of the Dallas Morning News. (I emailed him to see if I was making this up; I'll update when I get a reply.)
UPDATE: Here is what Scott Cantrell told me (and I know I'm a bit old for this, but I just get so excited when I meet/email journos I read as a youth -- thanks, Scott!):
I don't think I ever wrote a stand-alone piece about etiquette. But I did sometimes complain -- and still do in the Morning News -- about audibly unnecessary coughing (and even foot-tapping). A couple of years ago I began a Dallas Symphony review describing how a woman's cell phone went off in the magically hushed orchestral epilogue of the Strauss Four Last Songs. And I gave the woman holy hell in person at intermission! "Ma'am," I said to her, "in the entire canon of Western music, you couldn't have picked a worse time for your cell phone to go off."
Yow! Lady, you got PWNED!
Although I tend to want a wider, more diverse in age and background audience at almost all the classical events and theater I attend, I also want people to know what's expected at those performances. (Not that elderly white folks can't be annoying; the snoring and coughing during several Eugene Symphony and Oregon Bach Festival events have driven me 'round the bend.)
I don't write reviews of concerts, but I often write previews. Should I be reminding people what generally accepted audience etiquette is?
• It's OK to text before the concert, but once that curtain speech starts, turn off your dang phone.
• Though this practice hasn't always held during classical concerts and might yet end, it's generally accepted that applause comes at the end of an entire work. Most orchestras and conductors would prefer that you not clap between movements. And you can (usually) tell how many movements there are by reading your program and paying attention to the longer pauses at the podium.
• At the theater or movies, please do not narrate the action to your companion or the rest of the theater. Feel free to watch movies on DVD if this seems too arduous.
• If you have a bad cold and cough, consider staying home. If you have a bit of a cough, bring cough drops, but unwrap them before the show begins.
Whoa, I'm getting a little bit too into the list. Somebody stop me before the Snob-O-Meter goes off the charts.
Is there a way to do this with lightness and humor? Does this fit the arts journalist's brief at all? What do you who write reviews do about these topics? (And related topics -- tiny kids at the movies or symphony; the Wagnerian conceit of audience response compared to, say, the 18th century idea; new symphonies that incorporate cell phones, etc.)
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