Notes Before the Start of a New Theater Season

Get ready for the vast selection of upcoming local shows with some late-summer notes on theater etiquette.

Annually I’ve devoted a late-summer column to theater etiquette. My basic message has been, “Behave yourself.” To that I’d add, “Be thoughtful.”

The biggest offender continues to be mobile phones. They’re a continuous problem, despite clever and humorous warnings before a show begins and also sometimes during intermission for anyone who turned one back on to email, text or tweet. I now leave my phone at home when I go to a show — or at least turn it off altogether. Disconnect and enjoy the performance.

Although I’ve not seen this locally, eating in the theater has become a point of irritation in New York and London. Many Cincinnati theaters allow beverages to come into the theater, leading to slurping, ice shaking and rolling beer bottles. I hope the sticky floors that are routine in cineplexes and stadiums aren’t next. My advice: Enjoy a drink before the show or at intermission, but leave it outside — even if your seat has a cup holder.

One more thing that’s not rude, just uninformed: Don’t feel obligated to give every show you see a standing ovation. Save it for something that’s truly “outstanding.” 

My Golden Rule for theater attendance: “Behave the way you would have others behave — with courtesy and thoughtfulness.”

If you’re a passionate theatergoer, you should check out the recently established Theatre Ambassador program from the League of Cincinnati Theatres (LCT). For $75, you’ll receive a one-year membership offering backstage experiences at local professional and university theaters, as well as box office discounts. 

For example, Broadway in Cincinnati offers a 10 percent savings on tickets ordered online. The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park discounts selected Marx Theatre tickets by $5. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company trims ticket prices by 15 percent, and Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati reduces single adult tickets by 25 percent during the first two weeks of most of its productions. 

Ambassadors also are invited to PlayDates, monthly special events at the Playhouse, ETC, Cincy Shakes and others throughout the 2016-17 season. The first is from 5:30-7 p.m. on Sept. 14: a tour of the Playhouse’s shop where scenery is constructed for productions at Cincinnati’s two-time Tony Award-winning theater. From 7-8:30 p.m. on Oct. 17, Ambassadors will be treated to the “haunted history” of the Otto M. Budig Theatre at The Carnegie in Covington. 

A November program at Clifton Performance Theatre will explore “theater games to engage children and grandchildren.” Ambassadors with a passport who visit all 15 theaters participating in LCT’s program will be awarded a special pin signifying patronage of the Cincinnati theater scene. Memberships can be purchased through Know Theatre’s box office (513-300-5669) or at More details at

If the price of theater tickets has given you pause, you should pay attention to previews and “rush ticket” opportunities. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park opens shows on Thursdays; discounted ticket prices prevail for previews on both the Marx and Shelterhouse stages. Prices fluctuate, but for this fall’s first Marx production, A Prayer for Owen Meany, they start at $35 for performances at 8 p.m. on Saturday, 2 p.m. on Sunday and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Shelterhouse previews are at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays before the Thursday openings. The Playhouse offers Sunday College Night performances priced at $10 for students with valid IDs. Student tickets are $15 on the day of the show for other performances.

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati opens shows on Wednesdays — including The Legend of Georgia McBride on Sept. 7 — and Tuesday evening performances are previews, with tickets priced at $28, $16 less than routine adult admission. If tickets remain for regular performances during the run of a show, they are available two hours prior to a given performance as half-price rush tickets. 

Students with valid IDs can purchase one or two rush tickets for $15 each if seats are available two hours before show time.

Previews happen before a production is firmly set, so if something isn’t quite working, the show might stop momentarily for an adjustment. That doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible. Most of the time, you’ll see exactly what will be presented in the weeks ahead.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]

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