DEAR MISS MANNERS: When did it become common for people to obnoxiously hoot and holler to show their appreciation for the performance of an artist on stage?
I always applaud after a musical number and at the end of the production, and join in the standing ovation for a spectacular performance. I don’t expect silence; shouts of “Bravo!” are to be expected.
But my husband and I had to give up our long-held season tickets to see traveling Broadway productions due to the inconsiderate actions of other members of the audience. We could not enjoy the shows due to those arriving late, getting up to visit the snack bar — sometimes multiple times! — and loudly hooting at the end of every song.
Circumstances beyond one’s control can cause a late arrival or a need for refreshments, but not repeatedly. Refraining from yelling “Whoo!” as loudly as possible only requires self-control. Written complaints to the theater management did not even warrant an answer, or any sign that measures were being taken to make the events more enjoyable.
We recently attended a local production of a delightful musical. The actors performed very well, but the afternoon was ruined by the row of “hooters” sitting behind us. I left with a headache and the decision to refrain from attending any live performances in the future. Unless, of course, you have a suggestion that we could employ.
GENTLE READER: You might ask when it became common for audiences to sit quietly through live music performances, even of classical music. The answer: only 100 years ago, when furious musicians started calling them out.
Miss Manners throws that in because of the counter-historical notion that things were always better in the past. But actually, yes, you are right: Audience behavior has gotten dramatically worse over the last few years.
There is no shortage of blame: the habit of watching entertainment at home, compounded during COVID; the tendency to make all experiences interactive; the search for material to post online; the sense of being in an autobiographical narrative — and, oh yes, just the expression of enthusiasm, which used to be associated with certain venues, but not others. Rock stars may revel in wild expressions of adulation. Classical musicians do not. Nor do those who put on shows in which the point is to listen to the words.
Direct confrontation is futile, and that the theater managers did not respond suggests that they are taking the short view — that is, assuming that they can survive long enough with their hooting audiences to absorb losing your patronage.
So the forlorn hope that Miss Manners offers is that performers themselves will once again take on the task of training their audiences to behave.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.