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March 31, 2017

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It ain't etiquette: How to be an attendant audience

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- As Moses mounted Sinai he bespied, from his favorable vantage, Disney Theatrical's Pride Rock upon the lush Taipei savanna and surrounded as it was by the robust circle of life the esteemed prophet looked on and pronounced eminently, "It is good." No sooner however were the words the uttered did Moses note with despair the Taipei Arena spectators of questionable constitution. "Ye gods," moaned Moses, and it was not good.

Submitted humbly below, a refresher on audience etiquette as based on New York's "Stagebill" and Director Doug Woods of the PA Governor's School for the Arts, where the first thing taught to teens is how to be the audience:

1. Thou Shalt Turn off Thy Communication Device

Once I was at a poetry reading where the announcer, packing some punch in the standard ho-hum cellphone reminder, prefaced the show with a rather dark limerick rhymed on "cancer" and "incurable gabber." But there is no uncommon way to say this: Turn it off or you will make people sad. Unless you're a physician on call, there is no reason you and the outside world must be in perpetual communion. You bought the ticket; why not enjoy the show? Also, should the device siren mid-overture, the rule holds doubly. It is no use letting it go and gazing askance at your neighbor. We know it's you.

2. Thou Shalt Not Synopsize to Thy Offspring

In shows like "The Lion King," there are invariably children in the audience, but it should not be invariable that they discuss the action with their parents throughout the performance. This was not a particular forte of Tuesday's show, during which in my aural proximity there were approximately four parent-child pairs noisomely collaborating. In Europe, so it goes, children are taught that opera attendance is adult privilege, and if allowed to participate they may shut it or leave. Certainly though this is not Europe: a night out at the opera is few and far between for most Taiwanese parents, who on the rare occasion like their children along and to get the most of it. However, the audience is part of the performance, as etiquette is part of the experience. Make it so — children like learning new things — and play catch-up during intermission.

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