Disrespectful Audiences

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    Re-educating audiences is a good idea. I thought it was clever that the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln Nebraska had cough drops available in the foyer because in the cold Midwest, there was issue of coughing.

    I think it can help in a small way to ask an individual to be quiet when encountering it personally, but it’s not a long-term solution. If the person is not educated about attending deeper, more thoughtful performances, then they will mirror back by assuming the person asking them to be quiet was the rude one, and they will pass that idea onto their social peers, etc. People tend to assume they are in the right.

    To have the request more institutionalized by having it in print in the brochures, perhaps an announcement at the beginning, and having the ushers trained to take care of these things is probably the most effective solution. With issues like cell phones, there is more opportunity today to take a moment and remind people at the beginning. But in the degrading of manners of society as a whole, it might even be worth finding ways to educate in addition to just telling people. They don’t know what it is like to concentrate at that deep level on stage, so how can they learn this? Removing as much emotional negativity from the problem solving also helps, even though as musicians we feel it on a more personal level. Sometimes expecting the best of people gives them a reputation to live up to. I realize that is not true for all cases, but for those who are just ignorant of the process, it could help.


    Thankfully, I know my standing ovations aren’t mandatory, because I didn’t get one last year, and I did this year, and which piece I play last makes the biggest difference. I think my record is 8 out of 10 performances with standing ovations. A lot of it has to do with the way I sequence pieces.


    -If the person is not educated about attending deeper, more thoughtful performances, then they will mirror back by assuming the person asking them to be quiet was the rude one-

    That hasn’t been my experience. When I’m forced into the position of having to tell someone to be quiet, they don’t make another sound, and they don’t talk back to me, because they know they are wrong. Making noise or disruptive behavior at performances(talking, whispering, opening candy, even arriving late, including getting seated again after intermission!) is nothing more than thoughtless self-centered behavior, and my experience is that they will continue to do whatever thoughtless behavior they are doing until someone tells them to stop. So I can either tell them on the first or second offense that they are out of line, or I can wait 20 or 30 minutes to tell them and the result is the same. They will do their behavior until I or someone else tells them to stop, and then they stop. If many more people would speak up when someone is behaving badly, then word would eventually spread that certain behaviors are unacceptable at performances.

    Angela Biggs

    Re: the standing ovations – amen to that! I live in a city with a very low level of education and a cultural activity temperature close to absolute zero. When a travelling production of La Boheme came through town a few years ago, my husband leaped at the chance to surprise me.

    La Boheme has been my favorite opera since I was young enough to count my years in single digits. This production was okay, but not amazing. The acting was stilted, and the singing was mannered. Frankly, the performances on the old vinyl record to which I grew up listening were better!

    At curtain, however, everyone in the theater stood up and applauded wildly. I clapped freely, but purposely remained seated. My poor husband felt so awkward about being one of the only two people in the crowd still sitting that I had to explain to him, “Was that a performance you’ll remember for the rest of your life? Were you moved on levels you didn’t even know existed? No? Well, you can stand if you want, but you’ll be sacrificing your integrity to fit in.”

    Funny thing too – we definitely stood out as sitters. The soprano spent the entire ovation staring at us. She must have become accustomed to unearned standing ovations, poor thing!

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