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Theater, concert patrons have rules to obey

“Ding-dong. Hello, my name is Elder …” Very soon The Smith Center for the Performing Arts will fling open the doors on Reynolds Hall to a flood of patrons. There are those who may be familiar with that opening salvo to “The Book of Mormon.” But we’d still like to hear it. And we’d like to see it.

As a critic, one witnesses many things going on that don’t mesh with what’s happening onstage. With the popularity of this show topping last year’s “American Idiot,” there will be many casual patrons who don’t regularly attend the many performances around the valley. It’s the perfect opportunity to extend the gift of Theater Etiquette for all productions, everywhere.

If you arrive late, please don’t insist on going to your seat. In fact, you may not be allowed to. “Sometimes, we can let latecomers stand in the back,” says Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center. “Some producers insist latecomers be held in the lobby, where they watch on video screens, until an appropriate interval.”

Theaters understand things happen: the car broke down, the baby sitter was late. Yes, you paid for that seat. But the folks around you paid for theirs as well, and they deserve to enjoy the performance without being disturbed. So, quietly wait in the back for an appropriate break in the action. Or, better yet, wait until intermission.

There’s a saying around the theater: “Please, let the actors do the talking.” We know it’s enticing to remark on a witty line, but please don’t. We want to hear what could be an important piece of dialogue.

Bear in mind you are not at a rock concert. Don’t dance in front of your seat, or in the aisles. The only time you should leave your seat is in the case of an emergency. Though you may know every word — and we’re sure you have a glorious voice — we paid to hear the performer onstage, please don’t sing along.

Turn off your cellphone before the show. If you feel the need to remain connected to the real world, put your phone in vibrate mode. If you must answer an emergency call, leave the theater before speaking. Do not use your phone as a camera. It’s not only illegal to photograph a performance, the glow of the screen distracts those around you.

Open concession times are a neotradition. Sales help pay bills and minimize ticket prices. If you plan to partake, make purchases before the performance starts. And do your best to chomp on those snacks quietly. Better yet, suck them into submission. Nor do we want to hear your candy wrappers crinkling — unless you can match the beat and key of the music.

Speaking of music, the Las Vegas Philharmonic is a resident company and The Smith Center books many other orchestras and symphonies. The same rules apply, even at an outdoor concert somewhere. Remember, applause is not appropriate between movements of a symphony. Keep your eye on the conductor and orchestra. There are hints that clearly signal the end: the conductor’s hands will drop below the level of the music stand, all musicians will lower their instruments, and the conductor will turn to face the audience. You are then permitted to roar your approval with applause and shouts of “Bravo!” or “Brava!” as the case may be.

Now, sit back and enjoy the show like a pro!

Paul Atreides is one of the theater critics at the Review-Journal. His column appears on the first Thursday of the month.

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