Theater Etiquette

Knowing theater etiquette shows respect for all audience members.

Learning theater etiquette will enable you to avoid embarrassment. There are certain unspoken rules that apply to theatre attendance that only those that have been initiated into the process know. Avoid the risk of seeming boorish by learning about the proper way to manage your behavior in a performance to increase your level of enjoyment and participate as a courteous audience member.

Electronic Devices

Silencing all of your electronic devices is considered proper etiquette for attending a theatrical performance. To be safe, you should completely turn off all electronic devices. If you have a watch that beeps, leave it at home or silence it before entering the theater. Setting a device to vibrate should not be a substitute for shutting down a device. Vibrating devices still make noise and may come in contact with keys, change or other items in your pocket, making the device make unnecessary noise. Silencing a device does not necessarily mean that an alarm that bypasses the silencing system will not go off. Err on the side of caution with electronic devices.


Arrive at least 30 minutes before the performance and no later than 15 minutes before the start of a performance. Leaving during the performance is considered highly disrespectful. It is not the same as going to see a movie. Patrons pay high fees to enjoy the theater experience, and leaving in the middle of a performance should never be done except in an extreme emergency. Leaving in between acts is appropriate if there is enough time to get out of the theatre before the production resumes.


Avoid sifting through bags and making unnecessary noise during a performance. Babies and children must be left at home, unless you know they can remain still and silent through the entire production. Talking is not allowed, even whispering is a distraction to other members of the audience. Enjoy the show and keep your focus on the performers instead of your friends and family. Some theatrical presentations will engage the audience and expect them to respond. In these cases, it is okay to laugh and respond to the performers.

Pictures and Video

Taking pictures in a theatrical production should never occur, unless the host specifically allows photos. Cameras with flashes will distract the audience and the performers on stage. Taking pictures also goes against the agreement that you obligate yourself to when you purchase the tickets. Taking videos of the performance is also not be allowed. Video disrupts the experience for other audience members as a video camera often has light and creates obstructions for other patrons. There are also copyright issues with the taking of photos and videos.


One of the biggest mistakes made in a theatre performance is clapping before a thespian concludes their performance. Sometimes knowing when a performance has concluded can be difficult. When in doubt, respond with the audience. Appropriate times to clap are between acts or sets. You should also applaud at the end of a solo or when the performance has concluded. At the end of the show all of the participants will come on stage and take a bow. If the audience claps for an extended period of time, the performers provide an encore and come back to bow a second or even third time.


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