Here & there: 5 rules of summer theater etiquette

Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

FEATURE — Summer and movies go together like hot dogs and barbecues, root beer and vanilla, and caramel and cheese. Wait, caramel and cheese? Yes, caramel and cheese. But only if it’s popcorn. And only if you’re in Chicago. (Hashtag: weird food combinations.)

I recently found myself in that dream of a city along the west banks of Lake Michigan. And while I loved soaking in the downtown architecture, zipping up to the 94th floor of the Hancock Building for killer views, strolling along the Magnificent Mile and marveling at The Bean, my favorite thing about the city was “Hamilton.” As in, the musical.

Alexander Hamilton has been with my family – in the backseat of most every car ride – since my husband introduced him to us one January morning last year while heading up to the ski slopes. Two of my three sons have since memorized the entirety of the lyrics and, when the spirit moves them, put on a pretty compelling rendition of “Cabinet Battle #1.”

And Hamilton and his rowdy band of revolutionaries have been in permanent residence in Chicago since January. Thank heavens New York shared them, because frankly, you had to be one degree of separation from someone famous to even get a seat. Or you had to be Mike Pence.

But in Chicago, the only city to literally have been lifted higher than its original station (kind of like Hamilton himself), you don’t need to be quite so connected. Oddly enough.

The show was nothing short of spectacular.

The cast had my oldest boy and me eating out of their hip-hopping hands from the opening declaration to the final supplication and every bit of the 2 hours and 45 minutes of history in between. I was disappointed when it came time for intermission. It was that good.

I was also disappointed by the manners I saw in the theater.

Before we arrived at the matinee, I cautioned my son that he could not, no matter how moved he might be, sing along with the show. He’d been doing exactly that from the front seat of our rented KIA the five days leading up to the performance.

He argued, saying he might not be able to help himself. And if he did sing, he’d only do it in a whisper. But this was no negotiation. We weren’t going unless he complied.

My rationale: No one person’s enjoyment is more important than the group’s as a whole.

But apparently the rest of the theater didn’t get the memo. Several people came late and crawled over other guests. The teenage girls next to us broke loudly into song at least three times and wept so passionately when Philip died, it was hard not to watch them. And the boy in front of us kept shaking the ice at the bottom of his empty drink.

They’re lucky Aaron Burr didn’t come off stage and challenge them each to a duel like he did Hamilton!

When my husband was a boy, there was a neighborhood kid who ruined every single movie for every kid his age. No matter when a movie came out and how soon you got to see it, there was a 100 percent chance this kid would have seen it first.

And then if you had the misfortune of watching the movie with him, there was a 100 percent chance he would ruin it for you. He’d spill the surprise ending, expose an important plot twist or announce 10 minutes into the show that there would most definitely be a sequel.

I could tell you a few more tales about the girl who yelled in the theater for Harrison Ford to “Run! Run!” during “The Fugitive” and about the man who offered commentary about the car chase he’d like to have in Central Park during one of the “Die Hard” movies.

We’ve all been there and seen that.

But if my experience at a fancy theater in Chicago viewing a Tony Award-winning play is any indication, we’re getting worse about individual etiquette in public settings.

Perhaps it’s because it’s too easy to talk on your cell phone in a public bathroom stall. Or perhaps it’s because we can stream movies onto our tablets while on a public train with earbuds in.

Whatever the reason, this mama is sending up a flare. This mama is laying out some rules. So now you know:

1 – Come on time – especially if you have an assigned seat. Nobody wants to be crawled over and mauled.

2 – Leave the ice alone. Don’t chew it. Don’t rattle it. Save it for the pool.

3 – Don’t quote the show or sing along with it unless you are at an actual “sing-a-long.” Then, by all means . . .

4 – Keep the plot twists to yourself.

5 – And keep your emotions in line.

Because not every show has the force of “Hamilton” and can hold its own with a poorly behaved audience.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Happy Day July 9, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Thank you for an enjoyable article.

  • desertgirl July 9, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Agree wholeheartedly. Also, the audience should be shown respect by the cast. Shut up and sing; do not attempt to humiliate or embarrass any member of your audience. Exception; comics and even then should not be personal.

    • Henry July 9, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Spot on. The well-known outburst by Hamilton cast members several months ago was buffoonish at best.

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