Shhhh!!!!! Does South Florida Have The Rudest Theatergoers Anywhere?

Mar 14, 2019

So you snagged some great seats to a show you’ve waited a LONG time to see. Then, all of a sudden, right behind you:

“Gosh, that costume is atrocious! But she sure can sing!”

Oh, no. It’s the Chatty Theatergoer. And then to make matters worse, somewhere a few rows down: Ring! Ring! 

“Hellooooo! No, I can’t talk now, I’m at the show! I dunno yet – it just started ...”

Yup. The Cellphone Junkie – who decides to hold a full phone conversation near the seats you paid about a $100 a pop for.

But wait. There’s more. Someone else nearby has opened up a bag of potato chips and all throughout the heartfelt solo on stage ...

Crunch! Crunch! Crrrrrunch!!!!

It’s the attack of the Not-So-Surreptitious Theater Snacker. And you may ask yourself – what ever happened to theater etiquette?

The Miami Herald’s Linda Robertson recently wrote a piece describing how some South Florida venues are dealing with rude behavior from theatergoers.

WLRN’s Christine DiMattei interviewed Robertson about whether the problem is worse in South Florida than other places.

What's YOUR worst experience with rude behavior in theaters? To tell us your story, please Tweet us @WLRN.

Highlights from the interview:

WLRN: Why did you decide to write this piece now?

Robertson: There had been a slew of complaints in the wake of the recent “Les Miserables” show at the Arsht Center – which was a big Broadway hit. And when they brought it here, people paid big bucks to go see it and were quite upset about the disruptions.

How are South Florida performing arts venues dealing with tardiness and other infractions?

One thing they've started doing is they send out e-mails prior to the shows to reinforce the rules, the etiquette of being on time and turning off your cell phone and not talking. Ushers go around carrying signs. They make announcements. Frequently, the shows are introduced by a person who gets up on stage and reminds everybody to turn off their phones. Of course, they have the traditional flashing of lights and bells ringing to get people to their seats. But none of this seems to work with a certain percentage of these audiences.

How does South Florida compare to other major cities when it comes to rude audiences?

I think we've all heard “Miami Time.” And there is something about the culture here – nobody is ever on time and they just assume that nobody else will be on time. So, what I've been hearing is that it IS worse here than in other places. Say you go to a show in New York. You KNOW those doors are going to close and they will not open the doors until intermission. In most cases, you have to stand in the lobby and watch the show on a screen. You know if you go to a show in Chicago or London, they enforce the rules. And that's something that people are asking for here – strict enforcement of the rules so the people get the message and they don't get away with this.

You've been getting all sorts of responses to your article. What are people saying?

They just can't believe that that there's no consideration of manners in a public setting. You're not in your living room. You're not in your TV room. You are surrounded by other people who've paid a lot of money to come to this and they expect this to be – as one person put it – “a sacred space.” Where, for those two, three hours, you can immerse yourself into this world that's being created for you – whether it's 1832 France or a Chopin nocturne or whatever – and you can sort of be in the moment with that performance. And they just can't understand why other people would throw that opportunity away. And they're also being disrespectful to the people on the stage.

Why do some people come to live shows after the curtain goes up? Or talk non-stop and take phone calls during the show? If you love live theater, but hate rude behavior from other audience members, we'd like to hear from you. What's the worst live audience experience you've ever had? Send us an email at TalkToUs@wlrnnews.org with the subject line "show." A producer may be in touch with you to follow up about your experience.