Friday, March 07, 2008

Theater Etiquette 101

This is one jester who's not in the mood for jesting.

Jester-in-Exile is angry, and he has every right to be. A weekend ago he watched Tanghalang Pilipino's rock musical, EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson, at the CCP. As he puts it in his recent blog, "I nearly enjoyed myself thoroughly... I said nearly, because this really wonderful play was quite nearly ruined by the idiot audience seated nearby. Why so? Simply because they had ABSOLUTELY. ZERO. THEATER. DECORUM."

Jester says he had to suffer the boorishness of clueless audience members who gabbed their way throughout the show, unmindful of the other people around them. "Going to such an event does presuppose one should be on one's best behavior and respect the theater and the rest of the audience," he laments.

So true. I've had the same experience several times, the most terrible of which was the afternoon I watched a performance of the modern zarzuela Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Laktaw at CCP's Little Theater.

The venue was packed with rowdy uniformed boys from San Beda High School (I asked). Obviously, they weren't briefed by their teacher about the kind of show they got dragged to. So when Arnold Reyes, Agnes Barredo and company started warbling zarzuela-type music, there was a collective groan from the audience. Pretty soon everybody was dozing off, getting fidgety or annoyed--so annoyed that I heard one boy say, just before another song, "Putangina, kakanta na naman!"

Thunderous applause greeted the end of the play--not because the boys appreciated what they saw, but because their ordeal was over. What's more mortifying, the play's librettist--National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera--was in the audience that afternoon. I wanted to bop the heads of the impertinent kids, but I thought I should reserve that punishment for the teacher who brought them to the theater without explaining to them beforehand what the show was about--or how they should behave.

Jester's got advice for those who persist in less-than-appropriate behavior inside the theater. Despite the sharp words, I couldn't agree with him more. Here, verbatim:

So, children, here's a little list of five do's and don'ts when you're watching a play.

1. Be on time. Nothing is more irritating than having an idiot move through the aisle while the play is going on. If you can't be on time, don't go at all.

2. Keep your questions to yourself. If you don't have any gray matter between the ears, try not to embarass yourself and irritate the rest of us. Ask any questions AFTER the play. ("Sino si Herakles?" Moron.)

3. Dispense with the running commentary. This is a play, not a basketball game. If you can't STFU, gag yourself with a sock and duct tape before entering the theater.

4. Do not, unless faced with immediate death or dismemberment, engage in conversation during the play. Oh, and girls, slap the fellow who's making pa-cute by asking you the time while the scenes are playing out; make the fellow realize that if he's bored, he should've just left the theater.

5. Think twice about going if you don't know how to behave in a theater. This is not a movie, you stupid morons. There are live actors going about their lines. If you are incapable of respect, go do your usual thing and jack off in your bedroom watching your collection of gay porn.

Amen to you, brother! Thanks for getting angry.

PLUS: Inquirer's Pocholo Concepcion interviews the seminal rock band The Dawn on their involvement in EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson here.

The musical, starring Ricky Davao and Jett Pangan and directed by Chris Millado, is on its last weekend this March 7, 8 and 9, 8 p.m. with 3 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday, at CCP's Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino. For tickets, call 8323661, 8323704 or 8919999, or visit


arelente2 said...

Well said!

Jon Limjap said...


So does this mean Mayor Lim's dream of turning the Met into a "theater for the masses" will be... uhrmm, futile? Considering that all "the masses" (well, not all of them. But definitely most of them) care about are Wowowee/Eat Bulaga antics?

vonjobi said...

"i came here to listen to them, not to you."

that's what i told two girls a few years ago, when they couldn't stop chattering in front of me as i tried to watch a musical. thankfully, they stopped.

Yvarra17 said...

Painfully true, even here in the Americas. Once I watched "DH" with Nora Aunor. Amidst the crackling celophane wrapper, in a most intense and emotional moment, one said in a stage whisper, "Kumanta ka na lang."

I bit my tongue not the dignify the garbage thinking that "our people's taste" is that of a gutter culture. Wawa naman.

Maryanne Moll said...

Even if it's just in the movies and not in the theater, I still want to toss the contents of my softdrink bottle onto the person near me who maintains a running commentary. Sometimes a little bit of anger is in order.

beektur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beektur said...

wow, met is going to be a theater for the masses? that is exciting. how? fyi, the rude san bedans...and those who can afford to pay prices for air-conditioned theaters are not "the masses". "the masses" are appreciative of the arts. just ask the shoeless boy watching a street play in one of the rallies in manila. just look at the kids watching concert in the park. ask lisa macuja how the masses reacted to her group when she brought her ballet to the basketball courts around the provinces. to "these masses" theater is a serious matter; not another pricey fleeting distraction one goes to discuss with other friends.

Patricia said...

Gibbs, Naalala ko si Rolando Tinio at Ella Luansing. Estudyante pa ako noon, nanood ako sa CCP ng isang play ni Tinio, at nagkataon nakaupo ako sa harap nila. May mga manonood na maiingay. Ayun, sabihin na lang natin na nakatikim sila sa mag-asawa. Dapat nga siguro manaway, magalit tayo ng mas madalas.

yvarra17 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yvarra17 said...

Ah yes, Rolando Tinio, my former professor. God bless his soul. Absolutely, he would not tolerate such imbeciles nor the nouveau riche who would/could not speak correct/straight Tagalog, e.g. "let's go there na." Tinio did both street theater and classical/stage theater.

Hence, it is not a matter of distinction between the "masses" or the "cultured." It is rather a matter of education on and exposure to an appropriate/specific behavior in a specific place and time - ang nasa lugar. Marami sa atin ang dead-ma sa pagkakaiba nito. Marahil kulang sa lawak ng karanasan o mistulang asal lansangan? Bring GMRC back to school?

BTW, a real and good theater is a "serious matter" that entails a lot of thinking, revising, rehearsing, blood, sweat, tears, etc. Whether they be on street or on stage, [which I produced both] if these forms project a "fleeting distraction" from LIFE, then it is not theater at all!

bingskee said...

even some moviegoers have no etiquette. it's like they're the only ones in the movie house, not mindful of what others feel.

agwe23 said...

Hi Gibbs, just wanted to share as well.

I've long accepted the fact that school requirements pay for a lot of the theater I watch (especially those from Repertory, CCP and PETA), but today watching Skin Deep (Saturday, March 08, 10AM) was especially excruciating. I've trained my senses to tune out extraneous noises, but the hordes of cackling, talking, snickering was just too much to ignore.

There was a bunch of girls who were having a full blown conversation in the middle of the performance; and maybe they were trained by watching too much telenovelas, but they have a misguided notion that when the lights dim, it's time for them to share their useless opinions. And what's with their lengthly laughing/snickering whenever a dirty word is uttered??!?!?

I was just so distracted that Skin Deep never really resonated with me.

One more thing. One of the students (in the first three row) actually stood up during the intermission and with as much bravura as she could muster told her friends (and everyone in the theater) that she's not as obese as ms. escalante's role, and she can still see her "flower". Talk about a total lack of boundaries.

At the end of the show, the emcee was enumerating a list of sponsors and universities that bought tickets. At the mention of the University of Batangas, those group of girls cheered. I was left thinking that if their principal/teacher/dean/etc etc. was with them, he'd wilt in his chair.

Today was just too much. Shushing them didn't even slow them down. It was like you were the bad guy for not letting them talk. The ushers were "flashlighting" the noisy ones, confiscating cell phones and sitting down near problem areas just to tone them down, but sadly it had little effect.

I know that these students couldn't be made to care about people who go to theaters and genuinely enjoy these productions, since it was their Saturday mornings intruded by the school's requirements, but today's display of boisterous behavior inside PETA was the worst display I've experienced.

The "kissing scene" at the end of the show generated waves of "yucks" and "kadiri" and "ewwwws"; it made me think like maybe these kids think that they were merely watching a taping of Bubble Gang or Eat Bulaga, that their over the top reactions would give them their thirty seconds of fame.

Maybe the theater companies themselves could help theater patrons by posting which shows were purchased by schools; or maybe have certain dates where school block buyers are accommodated and certain dates for legitimate theater patrons.

On a side note, I watched Zafira and Orosman again this saturday. Awesome awesome awesome performance. The actors were already crying before they enter the stage. Ms. aves was in tears singing her opening lines. Even cris villonco was sobbing. haha great production. I was so happy to have been able to see this production twice.

EJ naman tomorrow. :)

agwe23 said...

re movie houses

I think different movie houses have different cultures. I've noticed that whenever I watch movies in Glorietta 1/4 and Trinoma, people are especially noisy (running commentaries / conversations / people with the compulsive need to repeat plot lines to their companions thinking that they were the only ones smart enough to pick up on it).

Galleria seems quieter. Maybe because not alot of people watch movies there. Greenhills Promenade and Gateway is also OK in my book. I refuse (or refrain) from watching movies in Rockwell and GB3. 170 bucks is too much for me. I'd rather watch a stage play.

missingpoints said...

@ agwe23: I watched the 3pm staging of "Skin Deep" yesterday. The director spoke to the audience before the show because of the 10am incident. There was still noise but I guess it wasn't as bad as the morning show.

I think it's more the school setting. Watching with familiar people in the audience makes the students forget themselves.

At siyempre, mayroon lang talagang bastos.

the jester-in-exile said...

@ missingpoints: oddly enough, the children (teens and below) who were there on a field trip were far more behaved than those who were disruptive.

decorator said...

We were doing julius ceasar about ten or nine years ago and it was one play with the most number of 'intermissions'...

the actors were given the right to stop the show everytime we felt the noise was too much. In a typical morning show, we had ten breaks.

before the run got to end, we had our director on stage, cursing everybody.

gibbs cadiz said...

thanks for your sharing your comments and stories, friends. there's been a very interesting discussion on this topic as well here:


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