The role of the audience in upcoming senior studios

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Actors prepare for the fall mainstage “The Skin of our Teeth” by Thorton Wilder. Photo by Marquel Plavan.

As the fall semester comes to a close, half of the senior drama majors present the culmination of their studies with a full one-act studio production of their choosing. However, the art of attending performances of theatrical works can lose its significance if the audience does not give due respect for the multitude of hours that the director and his or her creative team, cast and crew have put into the production. Here are just a few suggestions of proper theater etiquette to keep in mind while in the Margaret Jonsson Theater.

Firstly, reserve your tickets only for the night you will be attending, and then attend that night. If someone reserves multiple seats for a night they are not attending, and the show “sells out,” people who later attempt to reserve tickets will see that the show isn’t available, feel discouraged by the idea of the waitlist, and won’t bother to arrive. The department doesn’t want to lose any patrons, so help keep that no-show rate down and be specific when choosing your tickets.

Secondly, arrive on time. Seating will open half an hour before the first show, which will begin promptly at 8 p.m., and holding the house open past that time because someone decides to show up at 8:01 p.m. causes a setback for the entire cast and crew. Late seating can be difficult as the theater fills up, but management will do everything in its power to find you a spot that does not violate any fire codes. Everyone wants to be doing their best work during the performance, and beginning on time is a great boost to morale.

Thirdly, don’t bring food or drinks into the theater. The exception goes for mints, lozenges and candies, which you can unwrap and eat before the show starts, but there have been sightings of food items such as McDonalds in the seats, and that is heavily discouraged. Eating during the show distracts actors and theatergoers alike, and the smell of such foods in such a small area as the MJT is highly problematic.

Speaking of distractions, do not talk during the performances. While there may be shocking or inspiring events occuring, the auditorium is small, and your conversation will carry. Management, actors and other theatergoers can and will hear you, and anything you may have to say at that moment can wait. Let the actors do their jobs, and discuss the work after the performance is over.

Please do not step on the stage when finding your seat. Everyone who has ever been in the MJT will acknowledge that it is a pretty cramped area, but everything placed on that stage, including what may seem like bare floor, is perfectly positioned for a reason. Stepping on the stage punctures the barrier between performance space and walkway and insults the work that the designer has put so much effort into creating.

Finally, please stay for all three shows. Seating for senior studios can be a hot commodity, and leaving after seeing only one or two performances is a blow to the work of the directors and their teams that you do not witness. Each show is the culmination of someone’s four years of dedicated work; that alone should be worth the extra thirty minutes or less of your time. Besides, if someone is turned away at the door due to lack of seating at the opening, but could have had the seat of someone who only watched one performance, that is a two-fold strike against the shows as well.

When all is said and done, however, the drama department hopes that you attend each performance of this semester’s studios with an open and inquisitive mind. These shows are not put together by chance, and every person in the program that you walk away with has poured an untold amount of effort into making each performance possible. If you recognize anyone in the cast on campus, go talk to them about the shows. Drama invites discussion, and each studio this semester aims to open conversation about the material in the play in one way or another. If anything sparks your interest, find a drama major and ask them about their show; I can guarantee you will leave that conversation glad that you instigated it.

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