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Time for a New Exit Strategy

By: Allison Considine
Date: Jun 06, 2018
Broadway

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Leaving the theatre shouldn't feel like a competition

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Pre-show announcements prompt theatre audiences to turn off their cell phones and unwrap any hard candies. But I think what we urgently need are post-show etiquette reminders, specifically how to exit the theatre in a way that doesn't feel like we're all trying to flee the zombie apocalypse. I can't remember the last time I left a show in an orderly, single-file line that didn't involve pushing or prodding.

I understand that people have places to go -- they're late for their dinner reservation or want to claim their spot at the stage door or, as in my case, have a long schlep home to an outer borough. But the flurry of spectators eager to escape always disrupts the curtain call or encore, and totally stresses me out. Whenever a show ends and my seatmates rise I wonder, are they giving a standing ovation or scheming to bolt?

After a recent matinee performance of Mean Girls, I witnessed a young woman climb over two rows of seats in order to access the row that was moving the fastest. At the end of Angels in America, the continental seating in the mezzanine caused a bottleneck of aggressive exiters. Admittedly, sometimes there's cause to be annoyed at a slow egress. Last year during the intermission of The Little Foxes, a woman three seats from the aisle blocked the way like a troll guarding a bridge, refusing to let anyone pass, so we all had to go in the other direction. But usually I hate the race to leave, especially in winter, when theatregoers who manage to bundle up quickly think they've earned the right to mow you down.

Perhaps the exit madness is in part a matter of design. Old Broadway houses are not equipped to comfortably fit the amount of seats they now hold, so it can feel like we're all fighting our way out of a clown car. Or maybe it's just a matter of manners. No one ever politely asks to slip by -- they just barge through. For me, the experience of attending the theatre begins when my ticket is scanned in the lobby, and I want the magic to continue until we all spill out calmly onto the sidewalk. I implore my fellow audience members not to break the spell by creating drama as we exit.

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Allison Considine is a staff writer at American Theatre magazine. Follow her at @theatric_ally. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

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Allison Considine is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Follow her at @theatric_ally. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.