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Squirmy, Sexy Theater Patrons

I’m not sure how to handle the below situation, and thus, am requesting assistance.

I have season tickets to the theater here, and love nothing more than a Broadway show. This week, a Disney show was playing, and there were adorable little girls in their princess dresses on their absolute best behavior to come and watch the show. My issue was not with them. Directly in front of me was a woman, probably in her mid 30s, who was attending with her partner. Throughout the entire show, she was shifting from side to side, combing her long hair out with her fingers, whispering into her partners ear, leaning into the aisle- Thereby causing me to have to keep moving my head around hers to see the stage. I kept thinking that she was just trying to get comfortable, and if I did not say anything that it would finally stop, as no one could be that jittery. It never stopped, and shamefully, I just kept getting madder and madder, to the point that if I would have even tried to say something, I’m sure it would have spewed forth from my mouth like the words of the Sea Witch on stage. I hardly wanted to start a scene in front of the entire city, so I just bit my tongue. This went on for the entirety of the show- Every two minutes, I was leaning one way or the other to get around her. The family behind me (Who I apologized to during intermission) had to keep going around me as well- I just tried to slump down in my seat to lean out of their way and they put their tallest family member behind me.

So my question is- What do you say to a jittery patron who can’t sit still in a theater? At what point you actually say something? The tiny princesses were fine- But this grown adult was having a time of it. Any suggestions? 0714-14

You do what the following Ehell person did…..

I saw this article about the rudeness of theatre-goers and thought of Etiquette Hell:


It reminded me of a recent experience my husband and I had at a theatre production.

A production of Les Miserables was running in our city. This emotional, heavy show is one of our favourites, and we were looking forward to enjoying it from our very pricey premium level seats in the middle of a row in the orchestra. In front of us sat a couple who were apparently throbbing with heated desire for each other. They couldn’t stop petting, stroking, and nuzzling one another through the entire first act. It was gross. At intermission, we tapped one of their shoulders to get their attention and told them what an “adorable couple” they were, but that their undulating bodies were extremely distracting. They seemed embarrassed, and apologized. The second half of the show was much better. They still squirmed and snuggled more than was appropriate at a theatre, but at least it wasn’t borderline foreplay anymore. 0716-14


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • K July 21, 2014, 3:11 am

    I applaud the second OP’s polite spine, but would caution the first OP about approaching the jittery-patron situation in the same way. There are many reasons people jitter and squirm, including medical conditions. I’ve got a series of quite noticeable tics in my face, shoulders, hands, thighs and feet. Doctors have never offered me a cure that doesn’t have side effects worse than the original condition. The tics are triggered by a number of stimuli and can come on quickly and last for seconds or hours. I know they drive people crazy — they drive me crazy too, of course! — but if someone I was bothering asked me to stop, all I could do would be to feel mortified and answer, well, no, I can’t stop. (That said, the OP’s allowing inconvenience to turn into rage is a great example of why it’s usually better to say something to someone who’s irritating you sooner rather than later, so you don’t end up in a situation in which you’re at rage level: nuclear, the person still has no idea they’re bothering you, and you haven’t done anything that might change the situation for the better.)

    • ImJustSaying July 26, 2014, 2:13 pm

      I believe the OP said that the moves were of an amorous nature toward the squirm-ers Girlfriend. I think it is fairly easy to determine if those moves were involuntary a la Michel J Fox’s involuntary moves from Parkinson’s, or children and adults with special needs or even your tics. Something about the movement really *looks* uncontrollable if give a minute’s viewing, which signals to the reasonable person “bothered” that they should keep their comments to themselves. The OP had a view of the person for an entire theater performance.
      Rubbing through your girlfriends hair and whispering in her ear doesn’t look that way.

  • Justme July 21, 2014, 3:35 am

    Kevin Williamson, theater critic for National Review, says that the steadily rising price of theater tickets may give theatergoers “a sense of entitlement.”

    That sentence says it all. People feel that they paid their money, and that they are owed. They could care less about others, it is all about “me”! Such a shame….

  • Green123 July 21, 2014, 5:46 am

    ‘Excuse me? Would you mind sitting still? We’re finding it difficult to see back here. Thanks. I know, it’s terrible that they designed the theatre seating like this, but… Thanks so much’.

  • Margo July 21, 2014, 6:49 am

    I think you can make a polite request to them, either during a scene change or in the interval. If you start by assuming that she probably did not realise that her movements would disrupt your view then you can aim for a pleasant tone of voice, and even say “I’m sure you didn’t realise, but when you lean forward it blocks our view, and your talking to your partner is also quite distracting, would it be possible for you to sit still, and to only talk int he interval? ”
    If they are simply clueless then they will be embarrased, and probably change, if they don’t care, then they will ignore you and you’ll be no worse off.

  • Dominic July 21, 2014, 6:55 am

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has a hard time not being distracted by other show or concert attendees who constantly shift, jiggle, unwrap, whisper, play with their hair, etc., instead of quietly and politely enjoying the show with the rest of the audience. I have sympathy for the shifters, since for me, sitting still for an hour is difficult, but I usually take a pain reliever and try not to move around too much during the performance, out of courtesy for others. As a person of shorter stature, I have a particular problem when someone in front of me decides to keep moving around, because then I also have to shift to see around them, which, as OP mentioned, has a domino effect for those behind.

    I’ve only been going to Broadway shows for the last 15 years, so perhaps someone else with more experience can say whether the deterioration in behavior is recent, or if it’s always been this way. It likewise seems that during music concerts people don’t seem to know how to keep quiet. I once shushed a college-age young man behind us who was explaining some of the musical technicalities to his mother during the performance, as they were happening. He actually kicked my seat afterward, and his mother spat such venomous words at me for daring to correct her darling, genius son. In retrospect, I’m sorry we didn’t complain to the organization holding the concert, since they should have been removed. Thankfully, it was not assigned seating, and we were able to move away from the offenders.

    Point is, nowadays politely asking someone at a concert, movie, or show to cease their distracting behavior is just as likely to get you a blank stare or worse. People have no shame, as the centers of their own worlds, and the sense of community in an audience is largely gone.

    • Rebecca July 22, 2014, 12:19 am

      I usually don’t say anything even if I’m super irritated at the distraction, but at a recent performance the racket coming from the family sitting next to me became too much to bear. The kids were quite good; the mother was talking loudly, and the father (a very large man whose every move I could feel) was fidgeting and practically leaping about in his seat. At one point, the mother wailed, “I need to PEE!!!” and then after some commotion, got up mid-performance to go to the washroom, and came back yakking and causing a huge disturbance as she returned to her seat. From there the commotion escalated and other people were looking at each other with a “what the heck’s going on over there?” look. I finally turned to them and, not angrily, but calmly said, “Guys….guys…” to get their attention and held my fingers to my lips. As a result, I got sworn at and threatened. At intermission (10 minutes later…I mean, could she REALLY not have waited that long to pee?) they left for the lobby, and EVERYONE in the row behind and around us was talking about them. Then, this family returned, and as I was pointedly ignoring them, the woman came up to me, leaned in close into my ear and called me a few expletives and threatened me some more. I then got an usher, who moved my whole group to a more pricey section. That was nice, but the evening I’d been looking forward to with some out-of-town relatives for a show I won’t get to see again, was already ruined.

  • Anonymous July 21, 2014, 7:33 am

    This is so far out of the realm of socially acceptable behaviour, I wouldn’t feel comfortable dealing with it myself. If I was in a theatre/concert hall/whatever, and there was a couple having sex in front of me, then I wouldn’t even bother talking to them; I’d find an usher, or a manager, or someone who works at the theatre to deal with it.

  • DaDancingPsych July 21, 2014, 8:00 am

    I am not sure that I have any better advice than the added Ehell person’s reaction, but I did read the included article. I am somewhat appalled by the idea that a movie theater goer could not understand live theater etiquette. How are they any different? Every example listed would be equally inappropriate while watching a film. And, quite frankly, the etiquette is rather simple… be considerate of others.

  • Weaver July 21, 2014, 8:15 am

    I absolutely love your response, Admin, to the overly physical couple. By first calling them “adorable” and then pointing out how distracting their behaviour was, you probably avoided escalating the situation into a much more unpleasant one. Kudos, and I’m going to try to bear that in mind for similar occasions, should they arise in the future.

    As far as your situation goes, OP, that’s a tricky one. If it had been a case of more obvious annoying behaviour (lighting up her mobile phone, loudly unwrapping snacks, talking etc.) I might’ve felt justified in saying something. You know what? Scrap that. As irritating as all those behaviours are, there is a difference between a live show and the cinema. However awful theatre patrons are, if it’s a live show then my first aim is not to increase the volume/distraction, for fear of distracting the performers and/or the other audience members. A show is a one-off – you’re only going to get to perform/experience that particular show once. I don’t mean to say that we don’t all have the right to enjoy a performance in relative peace and quiet; just saying that it’s particularly tricky when there are disturbing patrons in a live show.

    To stop rambling and get back to my original point: I wonder if the woman was just a particularly nervous person who doesn’t realise how much she fidgets? Not saying you should have to deal with her fidgeting, OP, I’m just wondering if she was aware how annoying it was, given that her behaviour seems irritating, but not necessarily selfish. If I was as confident and self-assured as I’d like to be, then I would have tapped her on the shoulder at the interval and said something like “Hi! I don’t mean to bother you, but I’m just wondering if you’re aware how much you’re moving about and whispering? This is an amazing show and I’m really enjoying it, but as we’re sitting right behind you, it’s a bit distracting to have you shifting and whispering this frequently. Do you think you could tone it down a bit?” If her behaviour continued to the point that I still couldn’t appreciate the show, I would’ve walked out soon after the interval, gone to the box office, explained the issue, and asked for tickets for the show on an alternative date.

    Eh, take my advice for what it’s worth, OP. I’m actually a bit of a doormat when it comes to things like this, although I’m gradually improving.

  • Jinx July 21, 2014, 8:19 am

    I am a frequent show-goer, and have experienced inappropriate theatre patrons and have handled it these often, though possibly not always Ehell-appropriate.

    The most hilarious Once, this middle aged woman pulled out her phone 5-6 times during the 1st act to text. She didn’t even dim the screen intensity (which you can do, I have the same phone). I said to myself, maybe she’s a doctor, or has a family crisis, so I was very annoyed, but I let it go, hoping she’d take care of the problem at intermission.

    She pulled it out again in the second act.

    The 3rd time she did it, I leaned over way into her personal space and stared at her phone, grinning like an idiot as if she had been a friend who wanted to show me something. she turned her head to look at me shocked, and I looked at her, still grinning like an idiot. No words were exchanged, but she did not pull out the phone again.

    This is probably (definitely) not as considerate as merely mentioning to her that in a darkened theatre, her phone produces very distracting light, and if she has an emergency, it may be better to step outside. That is what I would recommend other people to do. But, I can’t help but feel I shouldn’t have to tell someone twice my age these things. I can’t help but wonder if I am exceptionally sensitive to certain annoyances (as no one else had said anything to her). I will admit I wait too long to address the issue, which makes my tolerance level low by the time I address things, which is not a great idea.

    But unless that text is something you need to share with the rest of the class to enhance enjoyment of the scene, I probably don’t need the distraction. Going to the theatre is a treat for me (at $120 per seat); I can’t imagine why other people would pay so much if they find it boring.

    • Orinoco July 22, 2014, 4:49 am

      Actually, I think your response to her rudeness was very appropriate and relatively non-intrusive.

      I’ve had the same, during a movie I was very keen to see at a one off showing at a film festival here in NZ. I had dude next to me bringing out his mobile phone and texting.

      I did not know what to do about it. It was very distracting. It made me disassociate emotionally from the movie, and consequently I did not enjoy the film as I could have.

      I wish, oh how I wish, I had tried your semi humerous approach. Maybe it would have stopped him.

    • EchoGirl July 23, 2014, 12:35 am

      Texting is bad, but nothing compared to what happened at a performance at my university about a year ago.

      I was backstage crew on this particular show, and I was the assigned technician on headset in the dressing room area. (For those who aren’t familiar with theater, technicians’ headsets work like walkie-talkies so that people in different parts of the theater can communicate with each other even during the performance without the audience ever being aware, usually 1-2 people in each area have them.) An actress storms offstage, clearly upset, and I think something went wrong with the scene until she looks over at me and says “Oh, you’re on headset.”

      Since it’s pretty obvious (the headsets are huge), I just say “yes”, wondering where this is going.

      “I need you to call front of house [the people in charge of the ushers],” she tells me. “There’s a person in the audience who’s on a laptop.”

      My jaw almost hit the floor. I know that in university productions some of the audience will be students who have to see the play for a grade and aren’t thrilled to be there, but this was so far out there I couldn’t comprehend the idea that a college student would think that was okay (and none of the assignments were so detailed that someone would need to take notes to be able to complete them). I called front of house and sure enough, it was true. An usher walked up to the person and told them they had to shut their laptop off. They were as stunned as I was.

      • NostalgicGal July 27, 2014, 1:39 am

        That is incredible. And I bet they were doing anything BUT making performance notes or doing a review.

        • delislice July 29, 2014, 2:49 pm

          Years ago, when I wrote for my college paper, I was at a student theater performance. I had a small hand-held memo tablet and a pen and was quietly making an occasional note for a review (in the complete darkness, hoping I could read them later).

          At one point, I must have actually written a slightly longer note.

          A classmate’s older visiting boyfriend leaned over and, eyebrows drawn into a glare, gave me an exaggerated “SHHH,” finger to lips. I was so stunned I stopped taking notes.

          Now, I wonder if it was a faux pas on my part? I didn’t think the pen on paper was making a noise enough to be distracting.

  • Lera99 July 21, 2014, 8:24 am

    Some people were simply never raised to learn proper theater behavior.

    I am so grateful my elementary school had a program where once a year we all took a field trip to the symphony. Before we went the teachers talked about what was proper behavior.

    The covered:
    – appropriate attire
    – no talking
    – no eating
    – no sleeping
    – no excessive fidgeting
    – wait for the conductor to put down their baton before clapping.
    – wait for intermission to use the restroom. If you cannot wait that long, then wait for a pause between pieces to get up and make your way out of the row.

    I wish all adults had received these instructions.

    I love musicals. And nothing makes me sadder than when the end of a person’s performance is drowned out by applause.

    For goodness sake, wait for them to finish! There is no prize for being the first person to applaud.

  • SleepIsabella July 21, 2014, 8:36 am

    There’s a reason I like sitting in the most back seat of any theatre if possible. I’m an extremely jittery person. My mom has commented that it makes me look like I’m on something, but it’s something I can’t help. I don’t even notice it half the time. I’m unable to stop myself from fidgeting. I’ve gotten flack for it a lot during my years of school, and I can only wish I could stop. Even when home I do it, and let me tell you my family members have taken notice. It’s very embarrassing when aunts comment on it and ask about it during family dinner gatherings. It’s just something that is apart of me.

    • JO July 22, 2014, 7:02 am

      Kudos to you for being aware of your fidgetiness, and avoiding being intrusive to others! As long as you Aren’t causing disruptions, you owe an explanation to nobody 🙂

  • MsDani313 July 21, 2014, 8:39 am

    Sometimes it seems hard to speak our minds when it may seem rude. But it is also rude to distract others when at the theater. Although our nervous tics, bored movements, and personal adjustments may not see all that distracting, it can be to the person seated next to you or behind you. The same goes for the movie theaters. The theaters that DF and I choose to frequent have electric lazy boy recliners that are assigned when you purchase your tickets. It makes the movie going experience truly great. Sometimes we choose to see two movies at once like we did this past weekend. In both theaters there were patrons who continuously checked their cell phones, talked and even a few who arrived 15 minutes late to the movie. The person who took the cake was sitting to my left. Not only did he and his companion speak during the entirety of the movie (on unrelated subject matter) but he continued to adjust his seat. At one point he kept pushing it up and down repeatedly until I whispered to him to “please stop adjusting your seat.” I also asked for them to please be quiet as their incessant talking was causing distraction for me. Although it is sometimes hard to speak our minds under the auspicious need to have a polite spine it is sometimes necessary to preserve one’s sanity.

  • Cecilia July 21, 2014, 8:55 am

    What a dreadful experience. It is a shame that basic, common (theater) courtesy- not talking, not squirming, blocking the view of others and not grooming yourself in public- have gone by the wayside. Sure, people may need to shift from time to time and whisper a question or comment to their companion but, it seems as thought the lady in the story really did not want to be at theater so she did not care if she disturbed others.

    It is hard to decided if, and when, should say something in such a situation. The squirmy lady would probably have taken great offensive and made a public scene. I think considering what entertainment costs these days, you could do as the LW in the second story or maybe speak to the usher and see if they could have a chat with the squirmy lady. Could it be possible that she really had not idea that she was disturbing others or she did not really care?

  • rachel July 21, 2014, 10:04 am

    I don’t go to the theater but aren’t there ushers you can ask to deal with this kind of thing?

  • acr July 21, 2014, 10:17 am

    While I agree that if others could here, the whispering was rude, I’m not sure that being fidgety is rude? Certainly annoying in the situation the OP describes, but I’m not sure if the restless lady was actually being rude.

    This is why I love tiered seating!

  • Stacey Frith-Smith July 21, 2014, 11:09 am

    I don’t know what alternative you have in a situation where a fellow patron is behaving badly than to appeal to a manager. It interrupts the experience for you and for those seated nearby- but trying to deal with someone directly can have an unpredictable outcome. And as OP discovered, trying to endure bad conduct throughout the performance serves no one but those behaving badly.

  • NostalgicGal July 21, 2014, 11:09 am

    I used to live in a very big city; and had season tickets to the concert series. Those cost mightily. I had someone who just could not hold still seated directly ahead of me. I am not kidding, the fellow twitched, switched positions, sighed, put his hand to his face, scratched his nose, and everything about as fast as he could move… like he had ants all over him. I managed ONE performance with him in front of me, two more where I had to go ask the usher if they had ANYWHERE else and go to the nosebleed seating just to get away from him. After 3 I realized he had season… and went to the office and forced a trade of ticketed seating for myself. I found out a few months later he worked where I did, and he was that way ALL the time. I was told what he had, it was something medical, but the man could not even stand there without twitching, dancing, hands all over his face and through his hair, etc. I gained sympathy but still. If you go to a performance-pay attention to the performance-if you want to do other things, stay home, pop something in the DVD or call it up from cable, and do your bouncing on the couch for an audience of two! (I do hope in the many intervening years they have found something to manage his symptoms…)

    • Lera99 July 22, 2014, 7:36 am

      That poor guy. It must be really difficult for him to constantly be moving and twitching and drawing attention to himself.

      I don’t envy your situation. The medical condition obviously isn’t his fault, but at the same time you paid a great deal of money and should be able to enjoy your shows without such distraction.

      • NostalgicGal July 22, 2014, 10:50 pm

        And why I didn’t approach him. It was obvious after five minutes that there was something that it wasn’t ‘personal’ in that he probably couldn’t stop. But, I had indeed paid some pretty good money to be down where I could see and hear well. They had a policy if even season ticket holders didn’t want to or couldn’t attend that particular concert; if you called the ticket office they could then resell your seat for just that performance; allowing them to gain more revenue… they were also broadcast on NPR, so there were a few times than rather drag my cold (plus snorfle sneeze hack) there I called them to donate my seat for the night and sat at home to listen to it. Wasn’t the same but it was the proper thing to do. Hence it took me three passes to determine that that was a season ticket not a per-performance open seat. And both those things (medical and illness) are different than those that can choose to not do the distractions voluntarily (amor in the seats, play with your lit up electronic thingy, talk, eat stuff, etc).

  • Susan July 21, 2014, 11:48 am

    I am always so careful at the theater. I remember once while watching a Broadway actor on tv telling his experiences. I don’t remember who it was. But they told the story of being onstage during a show and the family in the first row was passing a bucket of chicken back and forth. To eat during the performance.

  • LovleAnjel July 21, 2014, 11:56 am

    I’m a seat squirmer. In high school I broke my tailbone. Even years later, it will ache if I sit on a hard-ish seat for any length of time. Hard plastic seats are the worst, the more padding the better, but anything other than a fluffy couch will have me shifting positions with some frequency (which makes road trips a literal pain in the butt). I do try to minimize it in public settings by taking painkillers and putting up with the pain as long as I can, but eventually I’ll have to start shifting.

    No one has ever said anything to me directly about it, and I don’t know how I would respond (“I’m sorry, but my butt hurts from an old tailbone injury” sounds a little too TMI).

    • NostalgicGal July 21, 2014, 11:11 pm

      I would get a nice cushion, make it myself if needed, and upholstered with something that looks civil and will make no noise, and take it WITH me. Explain carefully and allow it to be examined if needed, why I need my cushion, if asked (aka to the ticket taker etc). My issue is movie theater seats and my knees; they don’t usually want to work after a couple hours in those. Aka I might have to get carried out. I wish I could do something about that but can’t.

      • Yet Another Laura July 22, 2014, 9:56 am

        After I had knee surgery, friends treated me to a movie. They brought along a stool, asked the usher if we could get a seat where I could prop up my leg. This particular theater had a row that had tons of leg room and the usher was kind enough to make sure we got in that row.

        That being said, as a restless sitter myself, moving so much you interfere with someone else’s sightlines is avoidable and rude. The original poster should just say something like, “Excuse me, I’m having trouble seeing.”

    • Brit July 22, 2014, 2:47 am

      This clearly isn’t what the OP is complaining about here. Nor are any of the ‘medical reasons’ being offered by other posters, which aren’t relevant. This is a woman moving around and spooning all over her partner, forcing everyone else to move around her, not someone with tics or a broken coccyx.

      OP, no sympathy here. By moving about rather than ask her to sit still (when she could have explained why she couldn’t if she did have issues), it just meant everyone else had to do the same because they couldn’t reach the woman in front of you.

      Really, how hard is it to whisper, “I’m sorry but please could you stop moving around? I can’t see.”

      • EchoGirl July 23, 2014, 12:18 am

        OP 2 is talking about partners cuddling, OP 1 is just talking about someone fidgeting at a performance. I think a lot of the suggestions as to conditions that might cause restless sitting are aimed at the first story.

    • Miss-E July 22, 2014, 5:47 am

      I have a similar problem – knee surgery that left my knee crackling and stiff. If I don’t shift it around a little (especially in those theater seats that are really close together), it gives out on me when I stand. I try to be subtle in my movements but its unavoidable.

  • Els July 21, 2014, 12:21 pm

    Some adults can’t always help that kind of thing. I have an anxiety disorder and I’m constantly fidgeting and moving slightly in my seat. I really can’t sit still.

  • SLR July 21, 2014, 12:34 pm

    I actually had someone ask me to move in a theater recently! I was actually quite appalled. We were in fairly cheap seats (balcony by sound booth, obstructed a bit) and the theater itself is relatively small for Broadway style shows. The woman in the row in front of me (and the row in front of her, and so on) started to lean forward the second the show started, so in order for ME to see, I head to lean forward as well. 10 minutes into the play, the lady behind me asks me to move b/c she’s having a hard time seeing and she goes “Can you please sit up like an adult?” I was really shocked, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me at a play! Even sitting up I would have been in her way due to the way the stage was set up. The ‘adult’ comment really got me. So my husband (I think he saw the fire in my eyes) just sat back and told the lady behind me “When the person in front of my wife sits ‘like an adult’* she will as well, she’s only able to move so much, you’ll have to deal with it”. *He did air quotes, it was great!

    • Sura September 30, 2014, 4:50 pm

      Ew. I wonder if she’s one of these who also gets annoyed when people get up for intermission.

  • Dee July 21, 2014, 12:52 pm

    Some people, due to disorder or illness, just can’t sit still. They are as annoying as anything, no matter what the venue, but they can’t help it. Having said that, there is a minimum standard of behaviour expected for different occasions and places and if one cannot meet that minimum then, if at all possible, one should just stay home. What could you have done to solve the problem? Weren’t there ushers at this event that you could consult about changing your seat and/or speaking to the offending person? Surely they would have at least some experience in dealing with people who aren’t being outright offensive but are still preventing others from enjoying the show.

  • kingsrings July 21, 2014, 2:58 pm

    I think we’ve all dealt with people like that before at events. It drives me just as crazy! If you can’t sit still , then don’t go to the event and annoy and distract others. And the constant running fingers through long hair is gross and unsanitary. I don’t know why people do that. Perhaps a nervous habit? I have long hair and don’t have the need to do that.
    I don’t know that there is a polite way to tell them to stop, though. I could easily see the example given by Admin taken the wrong way and causing offense. If someone is kicking your seat you simply just tell them to stop kicking your seat. But how do you politely tell them to not move?

    • SmarterPrimate July 22, 2014, 9:09 am

      Fidgeting with my hair is exactly how my social anxiety plays out. I have to consciously school myself to keep my hands in my lap, but 5 minutes in a crowded place and before I even realize it, my fingers are knotted up in my hair. I really try, I do! It’s a tic I’ve had all my life, with photographic evidence of me twisting my hair at 4 years old during a family reunion 🙁

      (Thankfully I’ve been able to modify my tic to be less intrusive to others – I keep my elbows down at my sides, so in a theatre, it might look from the back that I am simply scratching my neck.)

      (And as an aside, “gross” is a pretty strong word. My hair is shiny clean, cleaner than any surface I might touch out in public. I think touching my hair is considerably less “gross” than touching a doorknob or public toilet handle… 🙁 )

  • AnaMaria July 21, 2014, 3:05 pm

    You paid to see the show and fellow audience members should respect that. I would want to make CERTAIN that there is no reason for this person to need to squirm- I have spent time working with children with special needs and some of them need to move a lot to relieve sensory issues. The same can be true for adults. Even smaller factors can play into it- if the person is sitting directly under a vent and being blasted with cold or hot air, a pregnant woman struggling to get comfortable, etc, but just trying to flirt with your date isn’t a good enough reason to steal the show!

    • hakayama July 22, 2014, 12:02 pm


  • Catvickie July 21, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Maybe the woman has adult ADD or does not like music? Anyway, that said, maybe you could have asked the ushers if there were ANY empty seats left somewhere else, even though I understand your season tickets are probably for reserved seats. Hope this person is not in front of all of your shows.

    • Nicole July 21, 2014, 11:29 pm

      Why on earth would a woman who doesn’t like music attend a musical?

      • Lera99 July 22, 2014, 7:41 am

        People often attend events they have no interest in to make their significant other happy.

        That is how I ended up spending one weekend at a boat show and another weekend at a gun show. Neither are my particular cup of tea, but my girlfriend at the time had a passion for both things.

        She was so enthusiastic and really wanted me to go with her. So I went and made sure I was a fun and enthusiastic guest even though I can’t tell two types of speed boats apart from each other nor can I tell two types of pistols apart from each other.

        • NostalgicGal July 22, 2014, 11:00 pm

          Yep. DH and myself have many different interests and one has attended stuff with the other. Being considerate of the other, if they are having a really miserable time, it was get down to business and move on. Even in the days before electronic thingys, there was usually a place where others that had to come with their significant others ended up and you could make some friends while waiting… Bravo that you could share and be a good sport.

      • A different Tracy July 22, 2014, 8:56 am

        You’ve never attended a performance you weren’t interested in? Lucky you. 🙂

      • yadayada July 22, 2014, 3:26 pm

        Cause sometimes we do things we the people we love that we don’t necessarily like.

  • AM July 21, 2014, 5:44 pm

    Our family was on vacation in New York City, and had the opportunity to see a Broadway show. The entire time, the little girl behind me (about 8 years old) was leaning forward in her seat so that her face was inches from the side of my head, right next to my ear. That in itself was a distraction, as I could sense her constant movement, however, I could have tolerated that if she hadn’t been CONSTANTLY sniffing her nose. I was so irritated that the adult with her said nothing, so even though my attitude about it was bad, I turned and whispered kindly to her, with a smile, “Would you please not make sniffing noises in my ear?” The adult with her immediately asked, “What did that lady say to you?” in an unkind tone. The sniffing did improve, but did not cease. At least I was no longer fuming in my head, knowing there wasn’t much more I could do.

  • nikki July 21, 2014, 8:16 pm

    My first thought is that maybe she is like me and suffers from health issues that leave me in constant pain and sitting still for long periods can be nearly impossible, but the whispering, hair fixing, etc makes that seem unlikely. I know I try my hardest to be as still as possible and always try to sit as far back as possible and in an aisle seat so if I absolutely have to move I don’t disrupt anyone behind me. Sometimes it is a hard balancing act. I’m not trying to ruin anyone else’s experience and still like to enjoy shows regardless of my health issues. I think it all comes down to people who are so self-centered. It never occurs to them that they are not being good “citizens” and they don’t think (or care) how their actions could disturb others. I would have politely spoken up and explained that you were having trouble seeing and so were those behind you.

  • hakayama July 21, 2014, 9:38 pm

    In a somewhat similar situation I’ve heard quite young people just say “Get a room!”
    How would a comment like that stand (sit?) with the super refined EHell Gang? 😉

    • Lera99 July 22, 2014, 7:45 am

      “Get a room” is a bit crass in my opinion.

      Though I did once tell two teenagers who were sucking face in the line for Space Mountain “Excuse me, at this point I have seen both of your tonsils. No one enjoys public displays of affection. Please save your making out for the back of cars and movie theaters.” Also a little crass but they did stop trying to devour each other’s faces.

      • hakayama July 23, 2014, 7:38 am

        I agree, BUT I believe there’s an old adage about fighting crass with crass. 😉
        Subtleties are lost on some people and, under certain circumstances on most of the people.

  • JennJenn68 July 22, 2014, 12:02 am

    I’m seeing a lot of comments that boil down to, “But I can’t sit still due to health issues”…

    Sorry, folks. Then just don’t go to the theatre. Really. I don’t go to a lot of shows because I find it challenging to sit for an extended period of time, but I wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing people because of my own personal difficulties. It’s basic courtesy. (I’m a musician, and nothing drives me crazier than people who make noise and keep moving around loudly while I’m trying to perform. Really, if it’s that difficult, stay home! Nowhere is it written that your right to go to the theatre trumps the rights of others who have paid at least as much for an uninterrupted performance.)

    It is never okay to distract others during a performance. Full stop. In the case of the OP, I would have been inclined to whisper to the jittery patron, “Please sit still–you’re distracting me and everyone behind me.” And if the aforementioned patron gave me any flak about it, an usher would have been summoned forthwith. I have no patience with entitlement in the theatre. God knows the seats cost a king’s ransom; one should be able to experience the performance in peace!

    • Tracy P July 22, 2014, 6:35 am

      Where does it stop? You have a right to a quiet bus ride, so the jittery person can’t take public transportation now?

      Maybe we shouldn’t allow people in wheelchairs to go to the theatre because they might sit higher than others and block the view of people behind them. But that’s ok because it’s just a personal difficulty.

      • Sura September 30, 2014, 4:53 pm

        You can’t be serious. Is it a leap to consider that people might need to pay attention to, i.e., not be distracted from, a performance? The entire point of attending a performance is to attend to it. The point of bus ride is just a means of getting from place to place, which occurs whether someone fidgets or not.

        Accomodations are made for people in wheelchairs. Where does the carte-blanche-for-illness excuse stop???

    • Lera99 July 22, 2014, 7:49 am

      JennJenn68, I have to agree.
      I also feel this way about adults to bring toddlers to R rated movies.
      I get it, toddlers are a handful, babysitters are expensive, and the parents really want to see the movie.

      But I don’t enjoy having a 3 year old running up and down the aisle throwing cheerios everywhere while I’m trying to watch Black Swan.

      The movie isn’t appropriate for your kid and the rest of us who bought tickets shouldn’t have to tolerate a fussy toddler simply because the parents couldn’t be bothered to get a babysitter or wait for the movie to come out on DVD.

      I don’t blame the 3 year old. Kids will be kids. But I DO blame the parents for not parenting.

      • delislice July 29, 2014, 2:57 pm

        Oh, I agree! I hate this. I’m worried for the small children, and I’m angry because the parents made a selfish choice that has a negative effect on everyone around them.

        When our children were very young, and we couldn’t often afford both a sitter and a night out, we missed out on a lot of movies. Or one of us would go and the other stay home. Not as much fun, I know… but it’s what we did.

        My distress level goes up much higher if this happens at shows that begin at 7:30 or 8:00, so that these infants in arms, or 1-year-olds, are kept up until 10 p.m… well past their bedtime… so that in addition to being scared by the noise level, and disturbed by what’s on the screen, they are being kept awake a good couple of hours later than usual.

        Heck, *I* get cranky when I’m up past my bedtime, and I’m 47.

    • Meegs July 22, 2014, 8:10 am

      This is exactly what I was going to say. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to sit still, then honestly you really shouldn’t go to the theater, or you should get seats in the back row where you will be less likely to disturb other patrons.

    • yadayada July 22, 2014, 3:29 pm

      Just get an usher. Grown adults don’t discipline other grown adults. And maybe we should all try to be more graceful and be tolerant to those who also wish to enjoy the theater/opera/play but can’t live up to everyone’s standards because of health issues.

    • Angel July 23, 2014, 9:47 pm

      I agree wholeheartedly with JennJenn! If you can’t go an hour or two without constantly moving around, checking your phone, talking, eating, etc., stay home. These days even movie theater tickets cost a pretty penny. I used to love attending Broadway shows. But in recent years I have started going less and less. And in my experience nine times out of ten, the adults are worse offenders than kids. And believe me if it’s a kid I definitely sympathize–because you don’t always know what a kid will do. They could be fantastically behaved at one performance–and misbehave at another. But adults should know better!

      I know that some posters have mentioned telling an usher if there is a problem. That doesn’t always work. The more obnoxious a patron is the more likely the management of the theater is to kiss his butt!! I try to pick my battles carefully since there are all kinds of crazies in the world.

  • Margo July 22, 2014, 3:42 am

    I think that fidgeting, due to discomfort or trouble sitting still, while potentially distracting, is different to things such as talking, leaning forward (which can obstruct the view of the person behind you), cuddling our partner etc. all of which are things which you can control.

    That said, I do think that is really important to try to be polite and friendly when speaking to anyone – not least because they may well not realise that their behaviour is distracting, or noticeable, and a nasty or rude response could put someone off attending live events, which would be a shame.

  • k2 July 22, 2014, 7:38 am

    I’ve been to the theatre in my city a lot – my parents always considered it a special treat for my older sister and I and taught us from a very young age how we were expected to behave while at the theatre (both movie theatres and live theatre come to think of it). My ‘favorite’ bad etiquette I’ve ever seen during a play though was when I was volunteering with my mum’s class, to take them on a field trip. One of the parent volunteers pulled out her phone in the middle of the play and started texting her friends! The funniest part was before my mum or anyone else could say something, the volunteer mum’s son, who was five, told her to put her phone away because it was rude to the performers. Guess he’d been listening closely to my mum’s lessons about how we behave while at the theatre.

  • SS July 22, 2014, 7:52 am

    I was in a movie theater and a family in one of the front rows brought out a video game for one of the children. The game was played through the entire last half of the movie….. with the video game sound at FULL volume. I was about 15 rows back and the sound of the game was drowning out the movie. I wanted to go get someone to complain, but I knew that the theater was at the end of a long hall so it would have been 10 or 15 minutes before I would be able to find an employee and get back to my seat and I didn’t want to completely miss that much of the movie that I had paid to see.

    • Sura September 30, 2014, 5:03 pm

      There should be a call button, or an usher posted in each theater. Maybe some of the proceeds from the billion-dollar boxes of candy could go to this…

  • Michellep July 22, 2014, 8:54 am

    I don’t go to the movies anymore because of people being inconsiderate. Talking, texting, answering phones, getting up and down to talk to each other, you name it. Complaints to employees have done nothing. I still don’t understand why they let people in a half hour into the main movie. It just isn’t fun anymore. Telling people to be quiet has resulted in dirty looks and rude remarks.

    • Sura September 30, 2014, 5:01 pm

      Sadly I don’t either, Michelle. When I lived in NYC I would go to showings at 11 am on Wednesdays and the like if there was something I really wanted to see, as going to the theater is (was) an enjoyable experience for me, but now that I live in a small town I do not go ever, because there are not enough showings of a given movie to enable me to avoid teenagers or crowds in general. I tried going to the drive-in in my town thinking being in the privacy of my vehicle would help, and it’s almost worse because people driving huge pickup trucks full of people at 10 miles an hour into a gravel lot 10 minutes into the film is an even louder, more prolonged, and distracting distraction than anything I’ve experienced in a traditional theater. Thank goodness for streaming services and the relatively short time to being able to see movies outside the theater…

  • Jessie July 22, 2014, 8:58 am

    I never expected to encounter some of these same issues at a soft-rock Sarah McLachlan concert. The people holding up their phones to record, blocking my view and/or distracting me with the light was annoying. But the people behind me, who moved because someone else had admonished them in the first act, were horrible, talking through all the songs they didn’t know, and singing at the top of their lungs for everything they knew. I paid good money to hear Sarah sing “Angel”, not to hear you screaming it behind me. Really awful experience. I almost wish I had left.

  • Jenny R July 22, 2014, 9:38 am

    These stories just highlight why I no longer go to the theater or the movies. I’ve have too many experiences with people fiddling with their phones, screens on bright and often flashing the bright screen directly in my eyes. I got tired of going to the movies only to demand a refund half an hour in. Theaters no longer monitor their audiences and until they start again many of us will no longer go, and then they wonder why business is bad.

    I invested in a home theatre system and its the best money I ever spent on myself. Granted I have to wait a few months for the latest movies to come out but the wait bothers me less than a light flashing on and off in my eyes. Netflix is my new best friend. I believe that in the near future we will be able to stream new releases the same day as they are shown in the theaters and I can’t wait.

    I believe that people no longer practice manners most of the time, have situational awareness or think of others. It’s a shame because it just encourages people to do less socially.

  • Cat July 22, 2014, 9:50 am

    I no longer even attend movie theaters because of the number of patrons who feel the need to shout at the characters on the screen and those who have to point out facts that we all recognize (that’s Keith Richards!) to those around them.
    My grandmother used to yell at the TV when she watched soap operas as she believed everything she saw was real. She also yelled whenever Bobby Kennedy appeared because she was convinced he was forcing his wife to have a large family without her consent. Granny didn’t care much for men in general. At least she was rather comical and she was in our home, not in public.

  • PokaDottedRose July 22, 2014, 1:52 pm

    I haven’t been to plays or anything of the like (though its on my list of things to see) but I’ve had tons of problems going to the movies in the theaters.

    The last one that took the cake was going to watch a horror movie and for some reason or another there was a small group of teenagers behind him, one being a boyfriend who took it upon himself to explain to his girlfriend -why- the movie was scary. Hard to get into a movie when you hear someone jabbering on about silence used to create effect.

    About half way into the movie, I could take it any more and I turned around to shush them, but strangely at the same moment some lighting effect happen and it made my face look downright scary to them. I told them to be quiet as I wanted to hear the movie…. strangely I didn’t hear a peep out of them afterwards.

  • wren July 22, 2014, 3:23 pm

    This happened at the gorgeous Ohio Theater in Columbus, Ohio: The little girl in back of me was kicking my seat repeatedly before the musical even began. I turned around and said, “Please stop kicking the back of my seat.” Her parents immediately leaned forward with murmurs of inquiry and so I told them that I’d like their daughter to stop kicking the back of my seat. They whispered “sorry,” then spoke a few quiet words to their daughter. The rest of the evening was wonderful.

    I mention this because I thought it was time to hear a story of politeness at the theater.

    • Lera99 July 23, 2014, 7:36 am

      I am so glad that everyone acted appropriately here.

      I was on a plane where a kid (probably 10 or 11 – certainly old enough to know better) was kicking the back of my seat repeatedly. When I turned around and asked him to stop, his dad threw a fit and started yelling “He’s just a kid lady! Kids get bored on airplanes! If you don’t like it, spring for First Class next time! How dare you try to parent my kid! We we land I’ll be happy to take this outside with you! We’ll see how brave you feel then you fat B-word!”

      The flight attendant finally came rushing back to see what was happening. I explained about the seat kicking and my request for it to stop. The dad yelled about how I was bullying his kid. Luckily the people in the row across from the dad and kid backed my story.

      The flight attendant moved me to 1st class so I wouldn’t have to deal with the dad nor the kid anymore.

      All in all it was pretty scary.

  • Serena July 22, 2014, 4:34 pm

    OP, I hope you see this…

    I am a box office manager at a small theatre company, and often I have to step in as an usher. The best thing for you to do, is quietly get up (preferably at intermission or the end of a scene) and tell an usher that the people in front of you are distracting. We cannot do anything regarding the fixing of her hair, or the shifting in her seat, but if she was in fact talking to the person next to her and dramatically leaning into the aisle (which is mean to be kept clear) we can come in and shut that down. Likely they will be given a warning, and then a close eye will be kept on them. If they continue, they should be thrown out. If an usher fails to do the above, feel free to file a complaint at the box office later. A good company (certainly a professional one) will deal with the problem–especially since our business is keeping patrons happy.

    • Jared Bascomb July 22, 2014, 8:10 pm

      I second this, Serena.

      I volunteer usher at two major regional theatres here, and even though we’re watching the performance we are always on the lookout for cellphones and cameras – it’s our job. During one performance I spotted a flash go off at one of the balcony seats; by the time I got out to the House Manager to report it, one of the techies in the control booth was also there and between us we pinpointed seat and the House Manager gave them a nice quiet warning.

      Another time, a man who was making rather loud comments during the show was asked to leave at intermission; he apologized and said he was off his meds, but complied.

      Those were rare events. At the venues I work (two theatre complexes with three stages each), there is always a pre-show announcement reminding people to turn off their electronic devices and to refrain from photographing or recording the performance “for the safety of the performers and the comfort of the audience.” That seems to work.

      Also, these are also small venues (the largest seats about 700 people; the smallest, 250) and they are top-notch productions often making their way to Broadway, so the audience self-selects to see and pay attention to something new and different. Audiences also skew older and most of the shows are *not* for children.

      • Dominic July 25, 2014, 12:13 pm

        A couple of years ago, a traveling company brought “Hair” to a local theatre known for very good quality traveling productions. The venue provided security guards (not merely ushers) in the aisles (unobtrusively) during the show, in particular for the end of the first act where there is a nude scene. They were apparently worried about people photographing or recording the nude performers.

        I didn’t see any such attempts, and maybe it was because of the extra supervision, but there I noticed a guy in about the 12th row with binoculars, glued to the stage during that part. It creeped me out, but the ushers/security probably couldn’t do anything about it.

        At a performance of “Sweeney Todd” at the same theatre, we had seats next to a family with what I estimated to be “tween” daughters, one of whom squirmed constantly and played with her hair, while her sister sat quietly, very bored, until she started hearing jokes she didn’t understand. Every time the audience would laugh at the innuendo on stage, she would whisper a question to her father and he would shush her, embarrassed. When we came back from intermission, that family didn’t return (surprise, surprise).

    • NostalgicGal July 22, 2014, 11:14 pm

      Thank you. Someone that cares. Bravo.

  • Kry July 22, 2014, 9:32 pm

    I was at a high school student production of various scenes from Shakespere recently and a couple in the front row of the theatre was getting rather amourus. The main male actor broke character and sat down on the stage in front of them and just stared at them, the rest of the cast followed his lead. This continued for a minute or so and when the couple finally broke their embrace the actors continued the performance. An announcement about the expected audience behaviour was made at intermission.

  • justmesometimes July 23, 2014, 10:36 pm

    Won tickets to a pre-screening of a not-yet-released R rated movie, and was quite surprised at the number of preschool!! children.

    Since the theatre marquee had a sign stating, “no children under 6 after 6pm” and there were wrist banded adults looking for seats past the jacket and purse saved seats, I found a row with several tiny children (I work with preschool kids for almost 20 years so I am pretty good at knowing ages) and asked the grandma of the group, “are you aware this theatre does not allow children under 6 to be here so late at night?”

    “How dare you tell me what to do? I signed a waiver and my kids can watch whatever they want!”

    And, after finding an usher type person checking wristbands, I learned that yes, it is true, all you have to do is sign a waiver.

    And there were adults that did not get to see the movie, while several small children finally settled down for bed in their seats and missed the movie. (We had to sit for over an hour waiting for movie to begin- “sold” out.

    It was not worth the cost to attend (which was free) so I will no longer go to a screening.

    Yes, an usher told me it was free babysitting for many of the regular attenders that have learned how to “win” tickets.

    btw- the movie was NOT appropriate for kids even under 13.

    • Enna July 27, 2014, 9:02 am

      Surely it is illegal for cildren to see a movie they are too young to see?

  • Enna July 27, 2014, 9:03 am

    There is nothing wrong with politing asking soemone if they could be quieter. Or asking them if they are ok – that could be a good way round if you are unsure if they have a condition.

  • Amy July 27, 2014, 8:17 pm

    I recently went to see a production of The Producers. Paid a lot of money for premium seats. The couple next to me kept trying to be one. Arms all over each other to the point that the dude was touching me while trying to do who knows what with his SO. Is it weird that I thought this was weirder because they were older? I mean, I expect that out of teenagers, not adults who should know how to act in public (they were both 40-50 years old). I regret not saying anything. I really should have. I don’t know why we all just accept this sort of behaviour.

  • delislice July 29, 2014, 3:03 pm

    I have restless-leg syndrome. As a result, I try to make sure to sit on the end of a row when going to a movie, play, or concert. That way, when I feel it coming on, I can sit on my hands (for some reason, that helps for a short time) until the next break, and then stand up for a moment or slip into the lobby.

    It comes on when I’m sleepy, so I make sure that, if I plan to attend an event that will have me up late, I’ve taken a nap first.

    A few times I’ve been caught short — luckily, it’s been when I was next to family members — but even then, I was acutely aware of how annoying it is.