Children are not always a welcome sight at fine arts events. Adult patrons sometimes visibly cringe when a stroller rolls past them in an art gallery, when the sound of light-up Spiderman sneakers squeak on fine marble floors, or when a sullen teenager picks a fight with his parents during the second act. This reaction probably isn’t because these people are total snobs who feel children can’t appreciate art. It’s probably become instinctive, a response to the cultural epidemic that is children (and parents!) who don’t know how to be a polite audience member. This politeness shows respect both for the audience members around you as well as the performers. The following are some rules for audience etiquette, especially focused on children.
1. Make etiquette part of the experience when you bring a child to a live production. Don’t just assume your child will understand that she should be quiet, or that he shouldn’t kick the chair in front of him. Make these expectations explicit, and take the time to explain why. Just make sure that these explanations occur before the performance starts.
2. Make sure all pagers, beepers, cellphones, and other items that make noise are turned OFF. Explain to your child the difference between “vibrate” and “off”. Many teens read “off” as “vibrate”, so explaining that even the vibrate setting makes noise and can be distracting to others is a good investment. Also, texting is BANNED. The clicking of tiny keys and the glow of the phone screen are just as distracting as a conversation.
3. Do not talk. This is not only distracting to the patrons around you, but also cheapens the experience altogether. Devote your full attention to what is occurring on the stage, and save conversations for during intermission or after the show. Even whispering is distracting!
4. Unwrap all candies prior to the beginning of the show. The crinkling of a cough drop wrapper is overpowering, and is a definite no-no.
5. If your child is not feeling well, do not take him to a fine arts event! It will be agony for you, your child, and everyone around. Find a babysitter instead.
6. Put your program away while the show is in progress. Spending the whole show looking at the program does a disservice to the performance, as you can take the program home with you and enjoy it to your heart’s content.
7. Arrive early, and stay until the end of the performance. If you must leave, make it as unobtrusive as possible by leaving at a break in the show.
8. If taking young children, try to get an aisle seat so you don’t disturb others with frequent breaks. Attempts to soothe crying children should be done outside the performance venue, for everyone’s sake.
9. Show your appreciation for the performance and performers with hearty and generous applause. Teach your child that even if it may not have been her cup of tea, applause is still expected. Follow the cues of the rest of the audience regarding clapping. If everyone else is clapping, it’s probably safe for you to clap too.
Overall, attending a show is a good example of the Golden Rule, treating others the way you would like to be treated. These rules may vary depending on the formality of a performance. For example, dancing in the aisles may be appropriate at a Gary the Happy Pirate show but not at a Broadway showing of The Lion King. Another way to prevent a lot of problems is to make sure that the event you’re taking your child to is appropriate for his developmental level and interests. Ultimately, the way your child behaves in an audience is a matter of respect, and should be treated as such. This respect also ensures the enjoyment of the performance for everyone. So don’t hesitate- take your child to a great performance with confidence!