It’s Showtime! 10 Theater Etiquette Tips for Kids and Families

What to consider before you buy those tickets


Published:

Photo courtesy Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock.com

Ever been stuck on a flight next to a crying baby? This is also a fear of many theatergoers. More than a few dozen times in my career as an actor, technician and performing arts critic I’ve asked myself, “If the kid is screaming, why won’t her parents take her out?”

In my years as a special education teacher, I’ve wished more parents would explicitly teach their child theater etiquette before spending $250 on tickets. Etiquette is a learned behavior. If kids need to learn it, parents have to teach it.

Not every kid is the same. Age, life experience, developmental stages, disability and temperament must all be considered before deciding what kind of performance is appropriate for your family to attend. Here are 10 tips to consider before buying those tickets.

1. Know your kid. Does he wander while watching TV or he is glued to his tablet during a movie? Does she take lots of bathroom breaks or seem anxious in large crowds? Does your child even want to go to the show? If you can’t afford a sitter for a child who isn’t ready to sit through a theatrical performance, you can’t afford to see the show.

2. Choose the right show. If you wouldn’t take your child to an R-rated movie, don’t take him to an R-rated play. Not every musical is kid-friendly — even if it features puppets. Play to your child’s interests and research the performance extensively. If I want to see “The Phantom of the Opera” but my child is only 4 years old, I’m calling a sitter because it’s too long, too loud, too complex and too scary for a child that age.

3. Sit strategically. Think you might need to make a quick escape with your child(ren)? Choose an aisle seat near the back of the theater. Don’t trap yourself. Think ahead when choosing tickets for shows that require assigned seating.

4. Rehearse. Practice sitting still with your child for entire TV shows. Practice having quiet feet and staying off smartphones or tablets for a 90-minute movie. Sit through something boring with your child. Test your child’s ability to sit for long periods by attending a children’s theater show or church play before committing to a three-hour musical or dialogue-heavy work.

5. Be prepared. Have you used fidget toys or snacks to prevent interruptions during theater performances? Comfortable clothes for your child also help. If your child has a tantrum in the car, you might need to wait in the lobby until she is calm and ready to go in. Get there early so you can ease into the space. Rushing causes stress. If you’ll require a sign language interpreter, call ahead to confirm that this service is available at the theater.

6. Respect the space. Treat the theater as though you’re in someone’s house and you and your child are guests. Clean up messes, prevent your child from kicking other people’s seats, and remind your child to say “please” and “thank you” at the concession stand.

7. Hold all questions. If your child has an interesting observation or comment, or wants to ask a clarifying question, prepare him to hold that thought until intermission or during the walk back to the car.

8. Know when to leave. If you can hear your kid becoming fussy during the show, so can everybody else (including the actors on stage). This is not a teachable moment. You have to get out of there — especially if your child is crying, whining or, worse, screaming. Just take her out. Do not wait.

9. Preteach and debrief. Build anticipation for the show and discuss the expectations. If something you expect to see during the show might be confusing or upsetting to your child, talk about it beforehand. Afterward, revisit the topics you discussed. How did it go? What did your child think of the show? Engagement leads to enjoyment, which increases the positivity and pleasure of going to the theater.

10. Set a good example. Be prompt and enthusiastic. Don’t talk during the show, don’t check your phone and resist the temptation to get up for another glass of wine.


You have paid for your tickets, and so has everybody else. Follow these steps and you’ll all have a grand time at the theater.


 

Dustin K. Britt holds an M.A. in special education from East Carolina University. In addition to classroom teaching, he is the performing arts editor for Chatham Life & Style and his writing has been featured in IndyWeek and Triangle Arts & Entertainment.

 

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October 2018

North Carolina's signature event features live music, carnival rides, delicious food, kids' entertainment and more. See website for hours and ticket prices.  

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

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Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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2610 Cates Avenue
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4011 Cardinal at North Hills St.
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Telephone: 919-438-2210
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Chickadee Farms
980 McLemore Rd
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Raleigh, NC  27603
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JC Raulston Arboretum
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Cost: $9/member, $12/nonmember

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Park West Village
Village Market Place, corner of 54 and Cary Pkwy.
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Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
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Cost: Free

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120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Good Hope Farm
580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC  27519
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 3 and younger

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North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Telephone: 919-249-8404
Contact Name: Andrew Torlage
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Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Cost: $5-$15/person

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Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
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Cost: Train price varies; free festival

Where:
Raleigh Union Station
510 W. Martin St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 800-298-7246
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Enjoy enrichment classes for grades pre-K to 8th grade. Super Saturday is a bi-annual event organized by PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education) of Wake County.  To...

Cost: $20-$25 per class

Where:
Triangle Math and Science Academy
312 Gregson Drive
Cary, NC  27511
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Contact Name: Suzy Wang
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Live entertainment, a kids' zone, corn hole competition, food trucks, and arts and crafts vendors highlight this annual festival in Holly Springs.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Ave.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Explore magnet programs in the Durham Public School system.

Cost: Free

Where:
Southern High School
800 Clayton Rd.
Durham, NC  27703
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Cost: $3

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Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
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View map »


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Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Take the family for a grassroots outdoor music event

Cost: Free

Where:
River Park
106 E. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Enjoy food trucks, a petting zoo, costume contests for adults and pets, trick or treating at downtown businesses, a hay ride, children’s arts and crafts, balloon artistry,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary
South Academy Street
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: The Heart of Cary Association
Telephone: 919-561-3340
Contact Name: Nanette Mattox
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn about local bats and the wonderful things they do for humans. Wrap up the session by making a night creature luminary to use in fall celebrations. Appropriate for ages 5 and older....

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Man's best friend is featured in a family-friendly event that includes dog shows, a canine costume contest, parade, photo booth and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: $30/person

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Wendell Falls
320 Vintage Point Lane
Wendell, NC  27591
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Don a costume and experience the magic of Marbles after dark with family-friendly Halloween activities. Purchase tickets online; this event sells out quickly.

Cost: $12-$18/person

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Explore historical concepts of spiritualism, awe and wonder from the 19th century at Duke Homestead in this no-scare event. Wander the property to see what wonders you can find. All ages....

Cost: $10 plus tax per person in advance, $15 plus tax at the door.

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
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Raleigh Convention Center
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