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The Green Room

An Insider's Guide to Being an Awesome Audience Member

Posted: 03/20/24

An Insider's Guide to Being an Awesome Audience Member

While the artist on stage may seem like the star of the show, the audience also plays a key role in a successful performance. Whether you’re attending your first concert or your hundredth concert, here are some things to keep in mind so that you, your fellow audience members and the artists have an exceptional evening at the theater.

General Rules of Thumb:

  • Arrive early if you are driving to the Theater. Parking on campus is limited so leave time to find a parking spot.
  • Arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes early to allow plenty of time to find your seat. If your seat isn’t assigned, consider arriving even earlier. We have on-site dining options, as well, for you to enjoy before performances. Food is prohibited in the theater, so arrive early to enjoy our chef-created food options.
  • Before select events, we offer a cash bar with specialty cocktails in the Shannon Sunset Lounge. If you purchase a drink before the show, you are welcome to bring it into the theater to enjoy during the performance, unless staff indicate otherwise. Some performances require waiting until intermission to get a refill. This will be announced in the introductory remarks.
  • Use the restroom before the performance starts. Non-gendered and accessible restrooms are located right outside the Shannon Hall entrance and men’s and women’s restrooms are down the stairs of the Shannon Hall lobby. Additional men’s and women’s restrooms are up the stairs behind the balcony seating area. If nature calls during the performance, to minimize disruption, try to wait to get up from your seat until a transition between pieces or intermission. At the Play Circle Theater, women’s restrooms are located to the right, if you’re facing the Play Circle, and the men’s restrooms are located to the left and down the hall. A non-gendered restroom is on the 4th floor. Take the nearest elevator to 4R to access it.
  • In addition to silencing your cell phone, silence smartwatches and other digital devices that could light up or make a sound during a performance.
  • Most artists do not allow photo or video recording during their performances. Listen at the start of the concert for an announcement from our staff about what is or is not allowed.
    •  If an artist does permit photos:
      • Be mindful that your phone or camera is not blocking other people’s views for extensive periods of time.
      • Turn off the flash so it does not distract the artists on stage or your fellow audience members.
      • Do not block egress, for safety.
      • Share your photos on social media and tag the Wisconsin Union Theater!

Classical Concerts:

Historically, classical concerts are a slightly more formal affair due to the style of music and how even the smallest noise or movement can interfere with listening. Here is some common audience etiquette to remember when attending a classical performance.

  • Grab a program to learn more details about the performance! There will typically be a digital version and a printed version available. By reading the program, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’ll be enjoying during the concert.
  • Don’t clap between movements. The program will include a list of specific movements, or smaller sections of a larger composition that an artist will be playing. It often sounds like the piece is over and it’s time to clap, but the applause is held until they finish performing the final movement. You can follow along in your program to know when the piece is over, or take cues from the musicians. If they stop playing but stay in their seats or do not look up to the audience, the piece is not yet over. They are concentrating and preparing for the next movement. If it is an ensemble, sometimes they will look at each other, but it isn’t until they look at the audience that they’re ready for applause!
  • Sometimes the artist offers an encore. If the audience applauds loudly at length, and if they give a standing ovation to show extra enthusiasm and appreciation for the performance, sometimes the artist will perform another short piece called an encore. On some occasions, the artist is so exceptional, that the audience continues to applaud, and the artist will offer more than one encore. If an audience member cannot stay past the final piece on the program, and has to leave before the encore, that is perfectly acceptable.

Jazz and Other Genres:

Some genres lend themselves to standing, dancing, clapping, or singing along. This tells the artist you are enjoying what you’re hearing and seeing and they feed off that energy; they love to have positive real-time feedback! Some artists will invite you to participate, but audience members should not feel obligated. We encourage you to have fun and move when it makes sense and you are able to.

If you have questions about our spaces or accommodations we can offer to make your theater experience more comfortable, please contact us at union@union.wisc.eduYou can also find accessibility information on our website. Click here

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