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Desert Companion

Missing Manners

As theater season gets underway, timely reminders for a casual city

Autumn approaches, and with it, another theater season — one well worth your time. But be advised: Attending a play is no trip to the movies. The theater requires its own code of conduct.

Dress Well: News flash: Flip-flops and shorts do not belong at the theater. Imagine how ridiculous you look ascending the marble steps of The Smith Center in cutoffs and sneakers. Dressing well not only shows respect for the cast and crew, it inspires you to sit at attention and mind your manners. Granted, not all venues are The Smith Center. Local theaters hold that they’d rather you arrive in casual attire than stay home over fashion concerns. So be comfortable, not sloppy. The usual tip would be to choose an outfit that matches your ticket price — but with many superb performances offered in local theaters for as low as $25, try to aim a little higher.

Be Punctual: Arrive early enough to grab drinks, study the program, and visit the restroom before you sit. On-time arrivers deserve to watch without flares of outside light or your silhouette blocking the stage. If circumstances prevent punctual arrival, wait until a scene break and let ushers assist you.

Stay Quiet: The cast will appreciate your timely laugh, but save the witty commentary for later. Search your purse or bag during intermission — you’re noisier than you think. If you know the words to the musical, don’t sing along. And refrain from predicting outcomes; it’s distracting and may spoil the story for first-timers. This is not a movie theater. Do not sneak in snacks. Crunchy foods don’t belong at an indoor performance. When your drink gets low, don’t even think about shaking the ice in your cup while Hamlet broods over life or death. Unwrap cough drops before performances begin. The only audible sound should come from the stage or orchestra pit.

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Turn Off Your Phone: Period. Tweet, Snapchat, and text only when the stage is not in use. If you post to Facebook during Alice Through the Looking-Glass, the Red Queen will demand your head. And, thanks to the irritating light from your phone, she’ll find you. Unless you’re a surgeon, your messages can wait until after the finale.

Inevitably, someone will break these “rules.” Although the behavior may be inappropriate, don’t assume the role of manners police. Leave that to me.

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