"It was the happiest audience I've ever seen," said
Classical music performances don't generally call for, ahem, enhancement, and last year's concert was an exception. Still, it signals shifting attitudes on behavior at live performances and the resulting need for cultural organizations to adjust to a more casual arts-going culture.
In general, these groups mention policies in preshow announcements, programs and tickets. In most cases, cell phones, recording devices, food, drink and excessive talking are prohibited, and varying rules dictate when or if latecomers can enter. But while changing technology and attitudes challenge pre-existing etiquette, they also represent an opportunity to welcome new audiences.
Theater: Late seats and well-timed tweets
When he was offstage,
Technology's influence on theaters is a draw or a drawback -- depending on whom you ask. Some theater and music organizations are attempting to harness the power of social media during live performances. For the interactive-conscious Bricolage, communications manager
"I researched local bloggers, tweeters and other social media personalities that I felt had the type of audience that we wanted to reach," Ms. Zavolta said. "The Tweet Seats were comped to our guests and were for opening night only." All Tweet Seats were in the back row and tweeters were asked to dim their screens. "We ask that the tweeters give out teasers and quotes from the show, as well as their honest opinions of the work."
Still, all but the most experimental arts organizations agree: Use of cell phones during a live performance is a no-no. "Silence your cell phones" is an admonishment made before most live shows and met with varying degrees of compliance.
Beyond the obstacles presented by new technology, some issues are timeless, such as misreading the time on the ticket or getting stuck in traffic.
Employing parking and dining strategies can minimize chances for a late arrival to a
On the strictest end of the spectrum,
Food is another potential annoyance and convenience inside an auditorium. Most venues don't allow food, but drinks are becoming another story. At the Benedum, for example,
The classical animal
In 2012, two older women began to bicker during a
"Tall Lady was allowed to come [back] because it was determined she was not at fault," said
Observations from PSO and opera staff illuminate the extent to which concertgoing practices vary by audience and have relaxed over time. Attire, for instance, used to be more formal and now runs the gamut. During much of the 20th century, audience members -- many of them European immigrants -- would dress up as was customary in their home countries, the PSO'?s
Now, "the younger [audience members] are, they're either really dressed up or they're not dressed up at all,"
"There are no longer any rules about what is expected," said
Applause is another issue. Fifty years ago, no one would clap in between the movements of one work. With the entry of new audiences in roughly the past decade, it has started to bleed into pieces,
A recent performance of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" -- which is four violin concertos performed together -- received the most applause between movements he's seen in attending concerts for 45 years. The flow was so disrupted that before remaining performances of the piece, the PSO made an announcement asking audience members to curb their clapping,
If changing concertgoing practices reflect a more casual society, they also signal a return to earlier attendance styles. The notion of being quiet during an opera, with lights dimmed in the hall, the idea of the performance as "a temple," was an invention of
"This was a shock to late 19th- and 20th-century audiences,"
Before Wagner, wealthy, serious operagoers would sit up front; other audience members were accustomed to talking through performances, in well-lit, active side boxes that permitted eating "much like a baseball game," he said.
The resulting standards of behavior emphasize music above all, particularly given that classical performances are acoustic.
"The classical world does need attention to be paid to the sound,"
Given the traditions behind the music, "the classical animal is always going to be the last to change,"
Still, not everyone got the message. "You get the occasional intoxicated person, but mostly they just snore," said the opera'?s Ms. Bell. "There's more noise if you wake them up."
Ms. Bell recalled a time when a person took out a full meal during a production. "I think it was curry," she said. "How they got it in was a different story."
The Benedum Center, where
Hypothetically, latecomers are seated during a natural break, such as following an overture. A
The company uses its own ushers and has more control at smaller venues, including
Musician contracts frequently forbid the use of recording devices, a rule that comes up against society's ever-increasing reliance on smartphones. "Now, it just seems churlish and not very user-friendly to tell people not to take pictures,"
On Wednesday, the PSO will experiment with "Tweet Seats" at a joint performance with Boyz II Men; cell phones are strictly banned at traditional classical music concerts.
The PSO hands out cough drops at Heinz Hall, preferring crackly unwrapping to loud coughing. Following a hall renovation in 1995, acoustics were improved and food (namely, candy with loud wrappers) was no longer sold at classical concerts, according to
Ultimately, the goal is to preserve the concert experience.
"I still think when the lights go down," said
Dancing around the issue
Excessive tardiness is not out of hand at
Those who are a few minutes late still are permitted to quietly find their seats. But once people "enter the territory of possibly missing details because of the distraction [of people finding their seats], we have to ask latecomers to wait in the lobby," Ms. McNamara said. If room is available near the back of the orchestra section or the first tier of the balcony level, late arrivers will be ushered to those seats to minimize disruption.
"We try to do our best to make sure they don't miss too much of the performance," she said.
Photography is not permitted, as the flashes can be distracting to others and potentially dangerous to performers. The same goes for cell phones.
Regular sections reserved for social media usage have not been introduced to PBT performances, Ms. McNamara said, although the ballet has experimented with the idea. At a few performances the company has welcomed
"Allowing people to share in their own words and in the moment the special effect that ballet can have and just kind of the power it has to transport you and generate thought and just affect everybody in a different way, that type of more organic conversation is really valuable," Ms. McNamara said.
While they wait to enter the theater, they can view the performance on a monitor. Once inside, use of all electronic devices is strictly prohibited.
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