11/13/2013 04:56 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Holiday Theatre Etiquette: Ten Mannerly Tips

Are you planning a trip to the theatre for the holidays? If so, it's time to brush up on your Holiday Theatre Etiquette. Here are ten timely tips before you enjoy your first performance of the season:

  1. Have a meal prior to the performance. There is no such thing as discretion when you sneak a snack, or an entire meal into a Broadway show (or local theatre). People around you can hear, see and smell what you are doing, not to mention you run the risk of that soda exploding after being tossed around in your handbag as you attempt to quietly enjoy it! Please be considerate of fellow guests.
  2. Dress to impress. While most theatre performances don't have a mandated dress code, it's a gesture of respect to dress appropriately. During the holiday season, "festive" attire dictates a clothing choice that is comparable to the venue. Err on the side of caution and select an outfit that looks as if you put some thought and planning into your wardrobe. If you would throw the outfit on to grab a gallon of milk at the grocer, it's probably not your best choice for the theatre. There are countless ways to dress up your favorite little black dress, search "Little black dress outfit ideas" on Pinterest for creative inspiration.
  3. Turn off your technology. As many times as we have been reminded, it remains a continued nuisance in theatres and other public places. Avoid the temptation to take a peek at your cell phone, or glance down for a quick text, as the light from your screen will illuminate around you. This includes posting to Facebook, Instagram or any other social media during a performance. Taking pictures is prohibited and any and all flashes should be turned completely off throughout the performance.
  4. Sit in the seat you paid for. Just because you scout an unattended seat in a better row, if you didn't pay to sit there, or if the ticket wasn't given to you, it's not yours for the evening. It would be terribly embarrassing if the person assigned to the seat arrived late, or an usher tapped you on the shoulder and kindly requested you move back to your own row.
  5. Face those you are annoying. When crawling over fellow theatre goers, face them as you cross, smile genuinely, and politely acknowledge the inconvenience by saying "Please excuse me". Be conscious of the opening and intermission call to make the cross over less arduous.
  6. Cough and sneeze politely. A cough or sneeze should be executed by covering your mouth with a tissue or handkerchief, preferably not your bare hand if you plan to greet anyone before or after the performance. If your coughing gets the best of you, excuse yourself and cough away in the privacy of the nearest restroom. A cough drop often helps and a small package of tissue can be a lifesaver in the midst of a performance.
  7. Keep your small purse and other personal items on your lap. If you place a large purse on the floor it can be a hazard to those who may trip on the handle or straps while maneuvering down the aisle. The same goes for your coat, but why would you want to put a coat on the floor in the first place? Most theatres will have a cloak room. Utilize it to keep your coat clean and out of the way of fellow theatre goers.
  8. Do not litter. Keep paper wrappers, tissue and programs with you until the end of the performance. Dispose of trash on your way out rather than leaving it in your seat and take advantage of program recycling if offered.
  9. Keep your elbows close. There is one armrest between you and your neighbor. Don't allow your arm, purse or any part of your body to drape over to your neighbor's personal space. Keep your head focused forward so you won't block the view of those sitting behind you.
  10. Stay until the curtain call and don't push on the way out. The show is not over until the actors have taken their bows. Leaving early to beat the rush is disrespectful and shortchanges those who deserve their due credit. As you exit, wait patiently to exit your row. Jumping in front of slower walkers and the elderly may cause someone to trip or stumble, perhaps even you.

What holiday performance are you looking forward to most this year? Share it with me on my Facebook page or tweet me @dianegottsman. For more holiday etiquette tips, visit my blog and "pin" with me on Pinterest.