Time for a New Exit Strategy
Wednesday, June 06, 2018  •  
Wed Jun 6, 2018  •  
Broadway  •   8 comments Share This
"Whenever a show ends and my seatmates rise I wonder, are they giving a standing ovation or scheming to bolt?"

Leaving the theatre shouldn't feel like a competition


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.


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

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Daniel Guss said:
A friend of mine taught me a term for the phenomenon you describe with your question, "Are they giving a standing ovation or scheming to bolt?" He called it a "stand-and-go-vation."
Posted on 6/9/2018 at 8:53 AM
Anne Satterthwaite said:
I am old enough to remember theatregoers making a point to dress in an attractive fashion to attend the theatre. Now the flip flops, shorts and torn jeans not only diminish the magic of the whole experience but seem to entitle some to be agressive, boisterous and completely self centered. I love the theatre and am saddened not to see it given its due by the audience.
Posted on 6/9/2018 at 9:08 AM
Sandy Bucholtz said:
The same exit panic pervades the classical music world too. MAYBE it'd help to hear a CALM, REASSURING, EVEN HUMOUS announcement from the STAR/CONDUCTOR? Couldn't hurt.
Posted on 6/9/2018 at 11:06 AM
Shari Fox Laval said:
On Thursday I went to see The Iceman Cometh and I had to spend literally 15 minutes struggling to hear the actors because someone about 2 rows in front of me was closing up a plastic bag and the crinkling sound of the bag went on for a long time. People were shushing but it continued. Then, she loudly opened whatever it was she took from the bag for another 5 minutes! Ridiculous!!
Posted on 6/9/2018 at 11:49 AM
Alan Schlesinger said:
I am a retired NYC school teacher. I always emphasized good manners to my students. It wasn't easy to do since so many adults presented the worst manners in front of my students. As for the theaters, beyond the simple bad manners of many people, it doesn't help when theaters do not open all the exits. Luckily I live in Manhattan, so I can just wait as long as I need to before heading out.
Posted on 6/9/2018 at 5:35 PM
Joanne Theodorou said:
Sadly, the rules of civility have been trashed, tossed aside, thrown out. I understand that the majority of the audience at Broadway show are tourists so they are dressed for a day of touring and attend the theater in the same clothes- there is no time to get back to their hotel and change. This dressed-down look brings out the worst in people eager to exit "the stadium!" No respect.
Posted on 6/10/2018 at 12:13 AM
Katie said:
I feel exactly the same way as you do, and I must add the frustration of all of this disruption happening during the exit music of a musical. Those are live musicians, playing for our entertainment, and while they get acknowledged during the bows, they deserve much more than audience members climbing over seats and pushing to get out. I always stay until the exit music is finished, and I applaud.
Posted on 6/10/2018 at 10:03 AM
Czerny said:
After the customary 2 curtain calls and the standing ovations, it's only considerate to make a reasonably orderly move for the exits, but some people will stand around to check their phones or to text, obstructing the flow of egress. These are likely to be the same annoying people who during the show will check phone message, flashing bright lights in the darkened theatre.
Posted on 6/11/2018 at 3:49 AM
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