by Wolfgang von Zaftig
     and Patrique vaan Straade


Wolfgang: My first memories of the inconsideracies (is that a word?) of an audience come from an experience I had when I was 14. A close family friend had taken me to the St. James to see Two Gentlemen of Verona. That show will always have a special place in my heart because it was where I first met the lovely Stockard Channing. But that, Sweeties, is another story. What bothered me during the show were the people coughing, talking and constantly fidgeting. At intermission I turned and said, "Uncle Steve, wouldn't it be marvelous if, at the beginning of each show, the actors could come on stage and give the audience instructions on how to behave?" He turned to me and laughed. What caught my attention, was the gleam in his eye. It was a few years later, when I went to see The Frogs, that I discovered the gleam I saw that December evening was the birth of a new song. And Darlings, over the years Patrique and I have been the inspiration for many great men.

But let us get back to our teachings.

Patrique: "But first . . . Some do's and don'ts, mostly don'ts."

Wolfgang: Mon petit Chou, please, I had enough of your singing when we were living together.

Patrique: Rule # 1 - Leave all electronic devices in the car.

If you must bring them in, turn off all pagers, cellular phones and (does anybody still wear these things?) alarm watches. Trust me: there is nobody important enough that you need to accept their call during The Beauty Queen of Leenane. When a mood is broken in a show, I have been known to break kneecaps. So be warned.

Wolfgang: If there is a true emergency, they can call the theatre. Surely the staff knows who you are, and will be able to judge if the "emergency" merits disrupting your enjoyment of the performance.

Rule # 2 - Know when to applaud.

I love Betty, Chita, Julie et al, but do they truly open a door and walk onto stage better than the standard chorus girl? I've never understood the fascination of stopping a performance with applause because somebody walks on stage. I could understand it if they were shot from a cannon from the rear of the auditorium, and landed on stage. That, my Dears, would be worthy of applause.

Patrique: Rule # 3 - Do not use the theatre as a lunchroom.

Please keep in mind that the Theatre is a temple; you wouldn't eat a pastrami on rye during Mass or Synagogue, so please refrain from eating during a show. This especially goes for anything wrapped in cellophane. There is nothing more annoying than hearing the 'crinkle, crinkle, crinkle' of mints filched from Sardi's during a show. I have literally flung myself onto elderly women with a stern "do you MIND!" to get them to stop. If you need something to soothe that cough (which is also très annoying) I have one word: Riccola. Wax paper, after all, does not crinkle.

Wolfgang: Darlings, although the wax paper does not crinkle, one must still take cautions. The purpose of the candy is to soothe your cough; it is not gum or any other object, which is to be chewed. Few things are more annoying than someone crunching a hard candy while you attempt to hear Audra sing "Your Daddy's Son." And please do not get me started on chewing gum, Sweeties. Personally, I do not understand the fascination on sticking a small bit of tree sap in one's mouth and then chewing on it until it reaches the consistency and taste of wet corrugated cardboard. But if this is one of your vices, remember, upon entering the Auditorium, the gum should be placed in a small piece of paper, and immediately deposited in a trash receptacle.

Rule # 4 - Do not talk during the performance.

Nothing that happens on stage will be so monumental that it cannot wait until intermission or the end of the show to discuss. By trying to tell someone else what you are thinking, you are only distracting them, and all those around you, from the performance. And those "whispers" generally project better than your speaking voice.

Patrique: Which leads us directly to Rule # 5 - Do not sing, recite, etc. along.

I did not pay over $70 for a ticket, plus an obscene amount on dinner, outfits and limos to hear you warble your way through "Cabaret." If you could sing better than Alan, Brian, Audra, et al, you would be on that stage, not them. You are not, so zip it!

Wolfgang: And even if you do sing better than they do, remember they were cast in the show and not you. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat next to friends from the stage, who cannot help themselves but to sing along. It's particularly difficult when they originated the role. But we shan't name names, shall we, Joel?

Rule # 6 - Be Courteous to all around you.

Patrique: Or to quote one of my favorite musicals, "Knowing when to leave."

Last week we mentioned the importance of knowing your limits, or more specifically, the stresses that your bladder can accommodate, and to gauge your consumption accordingly. If you have ignored all common sense and consumed the equivalent of a Big Gulp before the show, please show a little respect and courtesy and find a suitable moment in which to leave your seat to visit the facilities.

Wolfgang: Also be courteous of the people behind you while watching the show. I know of no reason why one would feel the need to shift every few minutes in one's seat. You are not on a roller coaster. Nothing in the auditorium is forcing you to the left, right, forward and back. And again we insist that one does not wear a hat to the theatre.

Rule # 7 - Remember, you are in the theatre, not at home on your couch.

Regardless of how little sleep you had the night before, this is not the place for you to take a nap. Even if you do not find the show entertaining, we do not need you snoring and drooling all over yourself. Encompassed in this Rule is to refrain from scratching yourself. I have yet to find a time when I enjoy seeing a man scratch himself in public or private. We shall refrain from becoming too explicit in other acts you should not perform while watching a show.

Patrique: But let's just say that this is a theatre, not a drive-in! (I must admit I have seen some shows where the audience was more entertaining than what was being presented on-stage . . . )

Now, this may be an extension to a previous Rule , or it may be a rule unto itself . . .

Audience Participation.

Thanks to shows like Nunsense, Tony and Tina, et al, audiences have become conditioned to react to shows as if they were a part of them. While there are moments where such outbursts are appropriate, such as when the Divine Ms. Holliday is belting out "I'm not going" (where a well placed "you go, girl" or "yes" is appropriate, and even expected) overall, this is behavior to be reserved for Rocky Horror.

Now we come to a very difficult rule, but one that is very important.

Rule # 8 - Watch the performance as if you had no prior knowledge of the show.

Wolfgang: We definitely advise you (in fact require you) to have all recordings of a show and read all the reviews, but once you take your seat, clear all thoughts and open your mind. The great part of theatre is that every experience is unique. While watching Jennifer Jason Leigh, you may be thinking, "That's not how Natasha did it," remember she is not playing Natasha, she is playing Sally Bowles, enjoy her performance. Trust me, Darlings, we've been doing this long enough to know of what we are speaking. Nobody says the original interpretation was correct, nor are critics, other than ourselves, always correct.

Patrique: Also, please remember that stage productions cannot be compared to their movie equivalents. If I hear one more person whisper "that's not the way it happens in the film" while I am trying to enjoy my 59th production of West Side Story or Fiddler, I swear I am going to go Postal; remember kiddies, I have a Baretta in my bag and I know how to use it.

Wolfgang: Or better yet, "That's not how Liza sang it. Let's just go home and rent the movie." Which brings us to . . .

Rule # 9 - Leaving a performance.

I subscribe to the rule that it is never appropriate to leave a performance, no matter how poor it is. I've always felt it is disrespectful to the actors who are laboring to put on the show, and you paid good money to be at the theatre. First, one never knows what treasures could be missed in Act II. Second, I've always found that horrible theatrical experiences make much more interesting stories to tell. Darlings, do stay for the entire show, if for no other reason than to remind the actors of their performance once they are in a successful show.

Patrique: Ah, but do I have a wonderful story about someone who did leave a theatre during a show . . .

I wish I had been there, but a friend of mine went to see an Off-broadway show that was simply terrible. It was one of those 'written by/directed by/starring" the same individual shows. Anyway, it was dreadful, and from the balcony was heard this voice which uttered "Boo . . . oh BOO! How can you do such a thing to us? This is dreadful. Shame on you! Now, stop this right now and don't start until you hear that door slam behind me."

While I pity the poor actors who had to carry on after this, it was definitely more memorable than the show!

But what of that time between Act I and Act II? How does one conduct oneself properly during intermission?

Rules for decorum and tranquility.

You have just sat through an entire act, and you have behaved yourself admirably; it's Stoli Gibson time.

Intermission Rule # 1 - Exit the Auditorium with as much grace as you entered it.

Of course, you are continuing to display perfect DQ manners by not stampeding into the lobby, mowing down the blue hairs along the way. You are being smart and single-minded in your pursuit, not stopping to chat with friends or contacts (as they are as single-minded as yourself, and will probably beat you to the bar if you don't get a move on it). And now you are enjoying the fruits of your labors, an ice cold (and overpriced) beverage of your choice.

Wolfgang: Before heading to the bar for your drink, there will be one stop, which must be made.

Intermission Rule # 2 - Visit the Restroom.

Darlings, perhaps you are thinking that you have no need to do this, but I assure you it is an absolute necessity (or perhaps an Absolut necessity.) A true DQ would not pass an opportunity to pass through the crowd and be seen. One would think that the location of the restroom would be of little importance here, but you would be wrong. It is necessary that you use the restrooms on the Mezzanine level, to relieve yourself if required, but also to make sure you are looking your best. Once you have freshened up, it is now time to make your next grand entrance. Any theatre of quality will have a grand staircase leading to the lobby, and here is way you should enter in all your glory. Allow all the less fortunates to gaze upon you with adoration. Also use this time to seek out those with whom you wish to speak.

Intermission Rule # 3 - Have limited discussions of Act 1.

Patrique: Now you can start schmoozing. Find your friends. Chat about the show (but do be careful about negative comments, especially about cast members; you never know who's mother is standing next to you. My advice is to save the mudslinging until you have reached the safety of your after-show bar.)

Intermission Rule # 4 - Respect the privacy of people more famous than yourself.

When you see those people whose work you admire, it is definitely acceptable to express your feelings to them. Before rushing over to Chita/Rita/Liza, take a moment to collect yourself and gauge the situation; if the celeb is chatting with his or her family or partner, don't burst in and interrupt. Celebs have a right to a night on the town as well, so please respect their privacy.

Intermission Rule # 5 - Never re-enter the theatre late.

Wolfgang: Always keep the chitchat to a minimum, and return to your seat. Make arrangements for people to meet you after the show, so that it may be properly discussed. But those would be rules for our next column.

Now Sweeties, although what we have told you is all common sense, many of you ignore these rules when attending the theatre. I shall not single out any of you, but instead shall remind you to simply follow them as rules and not to improvise. Charlton Heston said it best, "Improvisation is like masturbation, it may be a lot fun, but in the end it doesn't get you anywhere."

If you have question or comments, email Wolfgang or Patrique.

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