3 (Simplified) Rules for Attending School Performances

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my high school’s musical. Neither of my children were involved with the show, but I wanted to go see my students, a good number of whom have been working hard and talking non-stop about the show. It was no polished, Disney version of a high school musical, but I actually appreciate that.

In the movies, every single kid is super talented. In real life, the talent is more varied. Some kids have voices of angels while others simply have voices that they generously choose to share with us.

In the movies, shows are produced within an inch of their lives and everything runs smoothly unless some complication serves to move the plot along. In real life, kids miss cues. Streamers from party poppers accidentally get stuck in the lighting and need to be fished down by teachers, the stage crew, and eager members of the orchestra. Mistakes happen. It’s all part of live local theater. Enjoy it.

In the movies, audiences are spellbound. They know when and how enthusiastically to clap and are otherwise quiet, attentive, and respectful. In real life… Well, let’s just say this is not the case.

Years ago, after attending an elementary school variety show, I wrote about basic etiquette for school performances, specifically elementary school variety shows. Based on some of the behavior I witnessed last night, I think it’s time for an updated and simplified version of 3 Basic Rules for Attending School Performances.”


1. When the lights go down, shut up and sit still.

This goes for children, too, even at child-friendly shows. Some shows obviously attract a larger number of young viewers, and it is realistic to expect some noise from the peanut gallery during those performances. It is, however, your job to teach the children in your care how to behave during a performance, so model appropriate etiquette and steer children toward quiet behavior. Pay attention to their cues. When a child stands in the aisle, pulls on your arm, and chants, “I want to go! I want to go! I want to go,” he wants to go. Take him. Quickly.

2. Clap politely for everybody and refrain from screaming for anybody.

It is almost never appropriate to scream out the name of one performer. At the appropriate points, like when a musical number is over, the whole audience should clap for the entire cast without screaming, hooting, or hollering. Obviously, some performers will elicit heartier applause than others. This is to be expected, which is why some numbers get applause and others bring down the house. However, this does not change the fact that calling attention to yourself or deafening those around you are inappropriate. This rule applies even at curtain call when the audience is given an opportunity to express their appreciation to the cast as a whole and to single performers.

3. Refrain from criticizing performers both during the show and immediately after the house lights come up.

First, the cast and crew are not professionals. They’re students who have worked hard for the last couple of months to pull together an entire show while keeping up with homework, household chores, and budding social lives. Sure, some of them sing a little off key. So what? It’s not easy to get up there and sing and dance in front of the whole community, especially if one or two performers shine above the rest. Let’s support everyone’s efforts, not just their results.

Second (and this one is nearly identical to the earlier version of the rules), others can hear you when you criticize the performers. Who knows if you’re sitting next to someone’s dad or grandmother or friend or teacher? Who are you to publicly criticize someone else’s kid? If you have a student involved in the production, keep in mind that your assessment of him or her is biased, just as ours is about our own kids. And if you don’t have a student involved in the production, remind yourself that you just paid less than $10 for an entire evening’s entertainment. An increased level of expertise is a whole lot of cash and a bus ride away. Go for it.


Once again, these rules are nothing more than reminders that respectful behavior and an awareness that none of us is alone in this universe are always in vogue.

And I repeat: we’re all in this together. Act that way.

2 Comments on “3 (Simplified) Rules for Attending School Performances

  1. Perfect. Can I add one?

    4) Put away your phones. I know you are not talking on them and the texting you are doing is “silent” but the light is distracting and when others see you the impressions is that you don't care about the performance or performers (many of whom are your classmates). This goes for adults too. If you need your phone to check the time, get a watch


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: